1 What were you like as a kid?
I was pretty quiet, but if there was mischief, I was into it. I had a lot of freedom, and I remember doing crazy stuff with my 4 brothers. We would go out and ride our bicycles in the middle of the night in Richmond, Melbourne. I couldn’t touch the ground on the big bikes so I would lean against parked cars. We would build billy-carts and jump ditches. We taught ourselves to drive. We had a lot of fun. I have a really good relationship with my parents and my siblings.
2 What was your favourite book as a child?
Where the Wild Things Are. I carried it around everywhere. I still have the original copy.
3 How did you get into writing and illustrating?
I just love stories. When I was a kid, I loved story time. When we traveled as kids, I would just make up stories and tell my brothers.
I have always drawn pictures. There was an old lady in our neighborhood, and I used to mow her lawn. She used to do old oil style landscape paintings. We started painting together every other Sunday afternoon. That’s when I got into fine arts. I had a few solo exhibitions in Sydney.
When I was retraining in graphics design, I wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Bill the Fish. It became a really huge success. And that was it. They say, you come back to where you are meant to be, and for me I guess it was children’s books and illustrating for kids’ products.
4 What is it about children’s books that you like?
You get two kids of two different races together, and they will just play. Kids are a clean slate, an untouched landscape. They don’t see any nastiness, they are just possibilities. With the right nurturing, they can be anything. It’s all in front of them.
And it’s fun. Where else can I do octopus eating oranges or fish with spectacles? You can’t get that anywhere. I love all the whimsical stuff. I’m such a big kid myself. That dish needs a hat. I love to see it all come to life!
5 Tell us about how the personalised storybook The Adventures You’ll Have came together?
I’ve always thought about people’s names. If you have a good name, what does it mean? You could be LL Cool J or something common like John Smith. It doesn’t matter what your name is really, but it does matter what you do with the name you have been given. You can take your name to places! Whatever you do, whoever you are, be the best version of yourself. We tried hard to get this message across in the book, without being too preachy.
We also wanted it to work for boys and girls. The possibilities are not just for boys, for girls too. If they want to go to the moon, it’s all at their feet.
6 What are the hopes and dreams you have for your own children?
My hope for them is that they are people with empathy and kindness, that they see a person in need and offer them help. That’s a successful person in my eyes. You can tick off all the boxes – house, money, car… But if you are not a person that people want to be around, you will have no one to share them with. I hope that I will be good friends with my kids still when I’m 90.