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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.

Q&A WITH TOM PERCIVAL

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 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

Meesha Makes Friends A Big Bright Feelings Book

Meesha Makes Friends A Big Bright Feelings Book

Author: Tom Percival Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 09/07/2020

Meesha loves making things ... but there's one thing she finds difficult to make - friends. She doesn't know quite what to do, what to say or when to say it, and she struggles reading and responding to social cues. But one day she discovers that she has a special talent that will help her to navigate challenging social situations and help her to make friends. A warm and affectionate look at the joys and difficulties of making and keeping friends, relating to others, and finding your place in the world. Wonderfully empowering and emotionally resonant, Tom Percival's Big Bright Feelings series is the perfect springboard for conversations about mental and emotional health, positive self-image, building self-confidence and managing feelings. Every child's bookshelf should contain his books.

National Trust: 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 3/4

National Trust: 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 3/4

Author: Tom Percival Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/04/2020

This is the ultimate guide to having fun outside for children aged 6-11! Coinciding with the National Trust's relaunch of the 50 Things to Do Before You're 11 3/4 campaign, this book is bursting with ideas to help children from any background discover the great outdoors and get closer to nature. The pocket-sized companion contains 50 fantastic activities, selected by children around the country. Splash in the waves, build a den in the woods, fly a kite and much more! Full of handy tips, nature facts and activity checklists, it's the perfect nature journal - with lots of space for notes, photos, leaves and doodles. And when it's just too wet to go outside, you can always turn to the rainy-day activities. This book is the perfect size for putting in your pocket or rucksack and taking on an outdoors adventure!

Ravi's Roar A Big Bright Feelings Book

Ravi's Roar A Big Bright Feelings Book

Author: Tom Percival Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 08/08/2019

Longlisted for the BookTrust StoryTime Prize 2020 Most of the time Ravi can control his temper but, one day, he lets out the tiger within ... Being a tiger is great fun at first - tigers can do ANYTHING they want! But who wants to play with a growling, roaring, noisy, wild tiger who won't share or play nicely? Ravi is about to discover something very important about expressing his feelings and making amends. A clever and engaging book about temper tantrums, dealing with emotions and learning to express and understand your feelings. From Tom Percival's bestselling Big Bright Feelings series, this is the perfect book for helping with bad days and noisy outbursts.

The Sea Saw

The Sea Saw

Author: Tom Percival Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/01/2019

A beautiful, emotionally satisfying look at how nothing is ever truly lost if you keep it in your heart... 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.

The Sea Saw

The Sea Saw

3+ readers 5+ readers

Author: 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.

Goat's Coat

Goat's Coat

Author: Tom Percival Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 05/04/2018

Alfonzo the goat couldn't be happier. He's just got himself a dashing new coat and he feels like a million dollars. But when he discovers some creatures in need of help, will Alfonzo be able to part with his treasured possession to save the day? Let me tell you the tale of Alfonzo the goat, Who was terribly fond of his lovely new coat ... The perfect picture-book pick-me-up showing that love, kindness and friendship make the best recipe for happiness.

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