Tohby Riddle is a genius. Well, he’s really smart. I mean, he knows everything about stories and publishing. He should. He’s done it all. After art school he started out in the proverbial mailroom, was cartoonist for The Good Weekend for nearly ten years, he has edited The School Magazine, written and illustrated award-winning picture books and published a YA novel. He also has a spectacular space in which to create. Here, he shares it with us and gives insight into his process.
Where did you create your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write and illustrate?
I created my latest book in my studio – which is a fancy-sounding word for a small attic space with skylights. My studio is important for my creative process in that all my books and equipment are there – and it’s my personal space – but I also do good thinking work in cafes and on trains and other such places – and also while walking. Basically anywhere where I have some time to get going on a thought and that is relatively peaceful.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you ‘get into character’ at all?
No, the only transformation, which is actually very important, is a big clean up that leaves no signs of the previous project. Then I can fully focus on the next book. Occasionally I might have an image or object out on my desk or nearby that is relevant to the project or just fun and pleasing at the time – like for My Uncle’s Donkey I had a little brass donkey on my desk which was kicking its back legs up. Currently I’ve got an old iron clown money box that you can feed coins to.
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
Since my family commitments arose, I’m much less of a night owl and more a diurnal kind of bird like a pigeon or a galah. That means I more or less keep to business hours (9–5), though I often do an hour or two in the evenings after the kids are asleep (and before I get tired). That’s not to say that I’m not thinking and problem solving at any hour of the day or night – for me, creating a book is often completely preoccupying.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
I often go to a cafe to start the day (after dropping the kids off at school) – and after a skim of the newspaper, start scribbling thoughts in my notebook. Then I return to my studio, choose music which will create the right emotional space to work within, and get to work.
Next week, another author in The Writer’s Studio. In the meantime, you can sneak inside the creative spaces of previous guests here.