Pip Jones Interview

Winning the very first Greenhouse Funny Prize led to Pip Jones landing an agent and subsequently a publishing deal. We asked Pip about the highs and lows of her route to publication and how she reacted to news of her win.

What inspired you to create the invisible cat in your new series about Squishy McFluff? I can imagine many children will relate to the idea of an imaginary pet.
We had an imaginary cat in our house! A real one. He wasn’t called Squishy McFluff though, he was called Cat (my daughter named him. She had a great imagination at the time for someone aged two and a half – just not so much with, you know, names). Having Cat in the house – feeding him, losing him, accidentally sitting on him – was infuriating at times, but mostly very funny and sweet, which is why I went along with it with such gusto, just like Mum does in the book.

How would you describe winning the inaugural Greenhouse Funny Prize (and with it representation by agent Julia Churchill)?
Oh gosh. It was unbelievable, literally. The competition had been running for ages, but I’d spotted the ad for it just a couple of weeks before the deadline. So I quickly entered everything I had – then instantly told myself I wouldn’t win. No way José. So I put it out of my mind. When Julia rang me, well, it’s hard to describe the shock, and the delight and the excitement. I may have cried on the phone when Julia told me she would do all she could to get it into the hands of children. And after that phone call, I may have run up and down the garden screaming. And the neighbour may have popped his head over the fence to see if I was alright/dying.

Had you been writing for long before you submitted your entry?
Not all that long, no. I wrote the first draft of Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat! about five months beforehand, and in the time in between I wrote several more. I got the buzz for writing rhyme, and I’d fallen in love with Squishy. I couldn’t stop.

You chart the highs and lows of your route to publication on your blog, which makes interesting reading for any aspiring author. Which three words would you use to sum up that ‘journey’?
Exhilarating. Fulfilling. Fun.

As a writer of funny fiction for children, who were your own favourite humorous writers when you were growing up?
In terms of funny, it was Roald Dahl all the way for me. I loved every book I read.

What can we look forward to from you in the future? I believe there are more Squishy McFluff books in the pipeline…?
Yes, there’s lots more Squishy McFluff to come. The second book is almost done, the third book’s text is nearly there, the fourth book I’m about a third of the way through writing. There’s something else too, but it’s not public yet, so I can’t tell! In the mean time, children and parents should head to www.squishymcfluff.com for more fun!

Running festival/bookshop events for children can bring its own funny moments. Have you had any entertaining or embarrassing moments so far?
Children are just brilliantly hilarious aren’t they? In the event I’ve been doing, we all have fun  drawing the ultimate imaginary pet together, and there have been some interesting creations! The funniest thing though was when I asked if any children had questions. A little boy popped up his hand and asked me if I knew what his cat was called. Well, the truth was, I absolutely did not know what his cat was called (I guessed Sam, but I couldn’t have been more wrong). So I asked him to give me a clue by telling me what his cat’s name rhymed with. The word he came up with was a little on the blue side (his cat’s name was Ginge-y).

Which children’s book or character would you love to have created?
ONE?! Noo, that’s too hard to answer! I love so many children’s books and characters for different reasons. I love the hilarity and bonkers-ness of Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum. I love Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers for its beautiful take on friendship. Charlie & Lola, well, aside from their massive success, they’re such a sweet embodiment of the sibling dynamic. I adore the surreal and mischievous prose of Lemony Snicket. If I ever could imagine myself being so clever as to illustrate too, I’d have created Eric before Shaun Tan did. My younger daughter is a bit like Eric. She collects very, very tiny things.

To sum up, what’s been your highlight of the past couple of years, in terms of your writing career?
There have been so many high points, and being handed the first book (actual, proper book) was just awesome. Seeing people’s reaction to Squishy McFluff since publication – everything from it being featured inThe Times to receiving a tweet about a little boy who wouldn’t let go of his book even when he fell asleep – has been incredible. But overall, the best thing really has been the writing. Nailing a brilliant rhyme is so gratifying, but sometimes, I’ll sit down to write and an image of Squishy McFluff doing something, or his facial expression, will pop into my head and make me laugh for five minutes solid. How lucky am I to be able to call that work?

Click here to read about Pip Jones’ appearance at The Oxford Literary Festival.
Read all about Pip’s experiences as a newly-published author on her blog.
Visit the website of Pip’s publishers, Faber and Faber.

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