Just Imagine

Q&A with Tracey Corderoy & Steven Lenton


What is your favourite thing about being an author?

I love the way that you can create something out of nothing at all. When you write you see a character come to life before your very eyes. You get to know them; what they like, what they find challenging, then you set them on their journey and watch them grow. When I’m writing, I’m in another world. Sometimes I’m so caught up in a story that I forget to eat! Hours pass and I’m away with my characters on amazing adventures. The world of the imagination has no boundaries. It allows you to be free.


You work with a number of different illustrators – do you have any input as to who illustrates each book & do you work closely with them to make sure the characters appear as you imagine them?

I am often inspired by illustrations I see on artists’ websites. When these pictures stimulate a story, I always show the illustration along with my submitted story and mention the name of the illustrator who inspired me. Experience has taught me, however, to let my publishers choose the illustrators for my stories. The publisher is more in tune with current trends and styles than I am. Often – and many find this really surprising – I don’t meet (or have any contact with) the illustrators of my stories, as me chipping in on what I see the characters looking like etc. would most probably muddy the waters, and certainly dumb down the creative interpretation of the illustrator. I don’t have their artistic skill after all! After all, picture books (and illustrated young fiction) are a partnership. The illustrator will add beautiful layers to the story and really bring it to life, but to achieve this they’ll need that same creative freedom that I have when first experimenting with a new story idea.

When I see character sketches for the first time, it’s like unwrapping a Christmas present; a little bit scary in case I’m shocked as, up until that point, how the characters have actually looked have been solely in my imagination. But that moment is incredibly thrilling too!


What advice would you give to anyone who is hoping to move into writing after starting a career elsewhere first?

I think it’s like starting anything new; really, really want it, and work and work and work at it because overnight successes, for the most part, don’t actually exist and are, I believe, a rather unhelpful illusion. Someone who has appeared to have come from nowhere and hit the big time running has actually probably been working away in the background for years, polishing and refining the craft. So be tenacious, and develop a thick skin fast. Be prepared to be wrong – a lot (and occasionally right), but hold onto the dream in the tough times, always learning and having fun with your characters and the wonderful adventures you take together.



What is your favourite thing to draw?

Fortunately I ADORE drawing dogs so the Shifty McGifty series and my Hundred and One Dalmatians Picture Book have been an absolute pleasure to design and illustrate. Although my very favourite thing to draw right now is Cruella….!


We’re big fans of Princess Daisy and the Nincompoop Knights! Did you enjoy the experience of both writing & illustrating a book?

I’m so pleased that Princess Daisy is still doing so well – a lot of people ask if I’m writing a sequel which I might do one day! I love writing and illustrating but, for the moment, illustration feels more natural for me.


Do you have any plans for more titles on your own?

I do indeed and am working on a top secret illustrated fiction series at the moment. I love to collaborate though and I have been very lucky to work with Tracey, Peter Bently, Steven Butler, Elli Woollard, Frank Cottrell Boyce and most recently David Baddiel. I’m a very lucky illustrator!


Can we hope to see more adventures from Shifty McGifty & Slippery Sam? (Please!)

Absolutely! We have noticed at our recent events that more and more children already know the original story and bring along their treasured copies which is lovely. There are lots of further adventures in the pawpline!


Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Missing Masterpiece by Tracey Corderoy & Steven Lenton was published on 5th July 2018 by Nosy Crow