Q. What comes first the story or the illustrations?
When an idea pops into my head for a book it usually develops in words and pictures, leaping from one to the other. I think I’m driven by pictures primarily. In any case I think of myself as an artist first and a writer second.
Q. Tell us a little about your writing journey. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?
I wrote my first story – ‘Old Tom’ published in 1994, as I had a strong feeling for this character and didn’t want anyone else trying to express what I had in my head. In any case I felt that the way I wanted to use words, that is, having the text saying something different from the meaning implied by the picture, was idiosyncratic and quite personal. My books are all primarily character studies and I have an intuitive feeling for each character.
Q. What’s the best thing about being a writer/illustrator?
The best thing about being an author/illustrator is creating and sustaining a personal ‘world’ for my own characters to inhabit and develop in.
Q. With many titles to your credit has your creative process changed since you first began?
No the creative process hasn’t changed even after writing and illustrating twenty books. However I don’t fret like I used to when there is a ‘blank patch’ because I know from experience this will pass. I still have a flash of inspiration and the inevitable hard slog. That’s a certainty.
Q. Do your characters wake you up at night with ideas?
My characters don’t wake me up at night with ideas but I do. I don’t sleep well as I have a rather speedy metabolism. Well maybe it’s a vivid imagination. In any case it doesn’t readily switch off.
Q. What tips would you give to an aspiring children’s author/illustrator?
Draw lots, write lots. Look at art books. Not just children’s books. You can never draw too well.
Q. What advice would you give writers in engaging with their audience?
Engaging with an audience and how you do it is a deeply personal thing connected with ones personality. So I wouldn’t presume to advise anyone about this. I think it’s intuitive. Each artist or writer has their own way of expressing themselves in words or pictures or both. And then mysteriously some people ‘get’ something from one’s work and some people don’t.
Q. Your Old Tom character was transformed into a highly successful TV series. How did that all come about?
Old Tom came to be a TV series because a friend of mine saw the first two books and liked them very much and he happened to be a director at Yoram Gross Film Studios in Sydney. They found a French financial and creative partner and made the TV show.
Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?
I wouldn’t want to be any of the characters I have created. I suspect I am an amalgam of them all.
Q. What’s next from Leigh Hobbs?
‘What’s next for Leigh Hobbs’ is a new Mr Chicken book called ‘Mr Chicken Lands on London’. It’ll be out in 2014. London is Mr Chicken’s favourite city in all the world. It also happens to be Leigh Hobbs’s favourite city. This book is very much a self portrait. Me in London. It’s a love story and it’s almost completed.