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Tom Percival - Author

About the Author

Tom Percival studied Graphic Design in South Wales. His illustration career has seen him design Halloween merchandise for a major supermarket, create the character 'Hector' for an Aardman-animated road safety campaign and his book illustration work includes the artwork for the phenomenally successful Skulduggery Pleasant series. As well as illustrating fiction covers, Tom has also written and illustrated three picture books: Tobias and the Super Spooky Ghost Book, A Home for Mr Tipps and Jack’s Amazing Shadow. Herman’s Letter is Tom’s first picture book for Bloomsbury..

He lives in Stroud with his partner and their two sons.


What are your 5 favourite books, and why?
The Magic Toyshop. Angela Carter.
The magical yet unsettling atmosphere that Angela Carter creates in this book is just incredible - so rich and involving. I love the way that the magical suggestions flit in and out of the everyday events of the story.

The Dark is Rising.  Susan Cooper.
Once again it’s the magical atmosphere that got me so excited about this book. It’s the first time that Will Stanton finds himself waking up in an empty house hundreds of years before his time that REALLY excites me about this book. I used to often go walking in the woods near my home hoping that when I got back it would be hundreds of years in to the past. Luckily it never happened, I’d probably have been accused of witchcraft and burnt at the stake.

The Devil on the Road.  Robert Westall
Guess what? This story has a bizarre time-slip in it and also features suggestions of magical occurrences that are not explicitly stated. As you can see I’m a bit of a one trick pony reading-wise! This is what would now be published as a Y/A book, but when I read it aged eight or nine, it was just published as a ‘children’s book’. I re-read it last year to see if it was as good as I had remembered, and luckily It was, but it’s funny how many things I hadn’t picked up on as a child!

Anything by Mary Wesley.
Perhaps an odd choice as a teenager, but I went through a stage of reading as many Mary Wesley books as I could get my hands on. She just seemed to be so skilled at portraying people of all ages and walks of life. As a teenager I marvelled at the fact that she could so clearly write about what it felt like to be that age, being as she had her first novel published aged 71. Of course now that I’m 35 and can still remember EXACTLY what it felt like to be 16 it doesn’t seem that unlikely anymore – ah, the follies of youth.

It was never really the ‘stories’ as such that engrossed me so much in her books as the portraits of her characters that were all so vivid and alive I would often think about something that one of them had done and think that it was someone I actually KNEW who had done it.

Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott.
I’ve never really been one for reading ‘how to write’ books, which is exactly why I love this book. It’s more like a series of essays on the sorts of thing that you might want to consider if you are trying to write any sort of long form fiction (as I am!). It doesn’t deal with any actual ‘step-by-step’ breakdowns of what to do, but reminds you of key principles, such as being emotionally honest. It’s also hugely entertaining and revealing in its own right.

Who are your 5 favourite authors/illustrators, and why?
Arthur Rackham. He was the first illustrator who’s work I feel in love with as a child. I won a copy of Rip-Van Winkle at primary school and used to love poring over the images – so detailed and rich, you could really BE there in this strange fairy tale world.

Mary Wesley. See above.

Jon Klassen. I have a huge amount of time for Jon Klassen’s hyper-minimal style, it’s SO stark and yet so full of character and humour. Very impressive.

Oliver Jeffers. For very similar reasons to Jon Klassen, I really admire Oliver Jeffers’ ability to communicate a huge amount of emotion or mood with the bare minimum of marks. I always seem to end up going with the illustrative equivalent of the ‘Wall of Sound’ in music production!

Dave McKean
Dave McKean was a huge inspiration on me and my development as an illustrator. I loved his ‘anything goes’ attitude. IN any one image he might paint on top of film negatives and then scan that in, print it out, paint on it again and then maybe scratch his drawing in to the resulting chaos. Utterly compelling work and a fantastic imagination as well.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?   Tim and Tobias is the first book in the ‘Flight Path to Reading’ reading scheme and was written by Sheila K. McCullagh. It was the first book that I remember loving and was (guess what) atmospheric, magical and slightly dark.

Who is your favourite hero in a book?  This might get a few eye rolls, because it’s from a series that I illustrate, but as far as Children’s book hero’s go, you can’t get much better than Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy. He’s just everything that you would want a hero to be, immensely powerful, over confident, full of humour, and immaculately dressed.

If you could be a character from a book who would you be?  Anyone who is lucky enough to live in a magical world and /or is enabled to travel back in time.

If you could recommend just one book for everyone to read what would it be?  Bad Blood by Lorna Sage. It’s an incredibly vivid account of her past, and a great reminder that life doesn’t follow any set patterns - you just NEVER know where it’s going to go. I also love the way that the author deals with any negative or bleak aspects of her past with such humour and grace.  A valuable lesson for anyone to learn.
What book do you wish you had written?  ‘How I came up with the meaning of life – A true story’ by Tom Percival. Because then I’d have nothing to keep me up at night!

Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer? I just love making up stories and drawing pictures – it was inevitable. Not that I’d get published of course, but even if I hadn’t got published I’d still sit there coming up with ideas and writing them down. It’s just what I do.

What inspired you to write your latest book?  The book Herman’s Letter first popped into my head when my girlfriend gave me a limited edition screen print by an illustrator called Simon Tozer of a bear holding a letter. The picture is called ‘The Last Post’ and I just loved the bear’s melancholy expression and wondered what he was doing carrying the letter and who it was for. My brain set to work on it and eventually came up with Herman’s Letter. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without my brain sometimes - it really is remarkably useful.

What's the best thing you've ever written?   A poem I wrote about a badger when I was six. It included the phrase, ‘He dragged his lumbering frame across the leaves’ which I MUST have stolen from a book I’d read that day. Sadly it was never photocopied and is now lost FOREVER. I even drew a scratchy pen and ink picture of the said Badger – we learnt to write with italic metal nibbed pens at my frankly archaic primary school.

When did you start writing?  As soon as I could.

If someone wanted to be a writer what would be your number one tip for them?
Keep doing it and one day you might actually be as good as you think you are.

Is there any particular routine involved in your writing process?
Normally it involves a long train journey, because that’s the only time that I’m not having to do some of my other work, or look after the kids, or do the washing up, or tidying up the house, or chopping logs for the fire, or putting out the rubbish or any one of the myriad things I have to do in my actual house on a day-to-day basis

Do you have any abandoned stories in you ‘bottom drawer’ that you would like to revisit? Yes. I have a very well stocked bottom drawer that I look forward to plundering when I inevitably run out of new ideas and become crippled with writer’s block in a few years time.


Featured books by Tom Percival

The Sea Saw

The Sea Saw

3+ readers 5+ readers

Author: Tom Percival Illustrator: Tom Percival Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/01/2019

When Sofia loses her beloved teddy after a day at the beach, she is heartbroken. But the sea saw it all, and maybe, just maybe, it can bring Sofia and her teddy back together. However long it may take... Exquisite collage artwork is paired with an assured, moving text in this very special picture book.

Tobias and the Super Spooky Ghost Book

Tobias and the Super Spooky Ghost Book

3+ readers

Author: Tom Percival Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/09/2010

A lonely ghost finds an unexpected friend in this fantastically atmospheric story which marks the debut of an exciting new picture book talent.   A delightfully energetic book, full of fun! Percival's second picture book is A Home for Mr Tipps.

ebook of the month

Other books by Tom Percival

Milo's Monster A Big Bright Feelings Book

Milo's Monster A Big Bright Feelings Book

Author: Tom Percival Illustrator: Tom Percival Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/07/2022

Be open, be honest, be you! Big Bright Feelings for little people. Milo loves spending time with his best friend, Jay. But when a new girl called Suzi moves in next door, Milo starts to feel left out. The jealous feeling gets stronger and stronger - until suddenly, a GREEN-EYED MONSTER pops up beside him! Soon, the monster is poisoning Milo's thoughts. It won't leave him alone! Can Milo find a way to free himself from the monster and repair his friendship? Warm and uplifting, Milo's Monster is an inspiring story about dealing with feelings of jealousy. It's the ideal starting point for helping children to build strong friendships and say goodbye to jealous feelings. Tom Percival's Big Bright Feelings series is the perfect springboard for talking about mental and emotional health, positive self-image, building self-confidence and managing feelings. Every child's bookshelf should contain his books.

The River a powerful book about feelings

The River a powerful book about feelings

Author: Tom Percival Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/03/2022

An exquisite, thought-provoking book to help children understand the idea of ever-changing emotions. Rowan loves the river; it's just like he is. On some days, it's quiet and calm, on others it's light and playful, and then there are the days when it roars along, wild and angry. But when Rowan goes through a particularly difficult winter, the river freezes - just like Rowan. Can Rowan find a way to release his frozen feelings, and allow the river to flow freely once more? The wise and reassuring new picture book from the creator of The Invisible and Ruby's Worry. Other books by Tom Percival: The Sea Saw The Invisible

Darllen yn Well: Pryder Glain

Darllen yn Well: Pryder Glain

Author: Tom Percival Illustrator: Tom Percival Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 23/02/2021