U.K.-based author and illustrator Vince Cleghorne has worked as a film director, cartoonist, playwright, screenwriter, and ghostwriter. His work has earned him praise from the likes of business magnate Richard Branson to the Prince of Wales. And his children’s books, published in the U.S. with Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream, have delighted children with their vivid illustrations and charming anthropomorphic animals.
Publishers Weekly caught up with Cleghorne to chat about his process, what inspires him, and where he gets his ideas.
When did you decide to start writing children's books and why?
I was sitting on a minibus on my way to a teaching job. The driver and a colleague were talking about a soccer game—a sport I don’t really follow—so my mind started to drift and form a wonderful story about a crack in the moon. Later, when I arrived home, I wrote the story down. From then on, I was hooked.
You have been a screenwriter, a ghostwriter, and a BBC playwright. Do any of these experiences inform your writing for children? If so, how?
Writing screenplays and radio plays has been a great help when it comes to writing books for children. Lots of children’s classics were tested on the stage long before they were made into books. In my mind’s eye, I see my books as animations, movies, and stage plays. I suppose it helps me hear the voices of my characters.
What was the inspiration behind I Want to Be a Dino-Kid?
My best friend growing up, Vernon, had huge orange hair. He was an amazing character, and anything he did had to be big and loud. When Vernon passed away, I knew that writing and illustrating Dino-Kid would be a fitting tribute to a friend who made every day of my youth absolutely hilarious.
Do you have a daily writing routine?
I write from late at night into the early hours. This is the time when I am less likely to be disturbed by a phone call or visitors to my home. I try to get an hour’s worth of ideas jotted down, and then I put another five hours into developing stories. Also, I love the silence of the street at night.
How long, on average, does it take for you to write a children’s book?
I wrote and illustrated one book in a single day—I won’t say which one—and I wrote and illustrated Mich & Moose over six months. On average, it takes me three months to complete a picture book.
Is there a through line that connects all of your children’s books?
There are some things that connect one or two of the picture books I’ve written. For instance, the bowl of bug soup that features on the last page in the Mich & Moose: Sticky Business book is also featured as the first bowl of soup in the Bug Soup book. That aside, my books come from random thoughts or dreams and are mostly unconnected.
What are you currently working on?
Bug Soup 2: You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bowl! I have wanted to do a follow-up to Bug Soup for some time, and now it is finally underway. Other books coming this fall from Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream include Grace Grumpy Face, Where’s Lucy Clementine?, and Cock-A-Doodle Chicken Noodle. Stay tuned...more to come about these titles soon!
Where did the idea for Bug Soup come from?
I had just finished writing and illustrating Mich & Moose: Sticky Business when a friend of mine saw the book’s final illustration, which I had posted on social media. The illustration featured a soup bowl full of cartoon bugs that I had labeled “bug soup.” My friend immediately messaged me and asked where he could buy my new bug soup book. His children had seen the illustration and really wanted the book. So, I thought I’d better write it before someone else did!