I can’t remember now what first inspired me, about ten years ago, to write about a puffin. Perhaps it was a tin of oatcakes we had in the kitchen, with a charming image of two nuzzling puffins. Somehow a character emerged in my mind and a story started to develop. As it did, I decided to do some drawings so I could share the story with my children.
I imagined a puffin who was unhappy living by the sea, and who dreamed of doing something more exciting. What else might a puffin do for a living?
The puffin’s name was Lewis, and he came up with a few ideas. What about a football goalie?
Or a cowboy singing songs out on the range?
Lewis thought it would be fun to drive a bus. Or perhaps he could be an acrobat, or a mechanic, or a postman?
Lewis had a brother called Harris who was not very sympathetic. He was perfectly happy being a puffin on the open sea, and couldn’t understand why Lewis wanted a change. When Lewis thought up his best idea yet, Harris just laughed.
“A circus clown?” squawked Harris. “You’re right – you would be perfect! You’re always tripping on your big feet and everyone laughs at you already.”
It was true that the other puffins made fun of Lewis. He really didn’t belong. But when he finally got to the circus…
…he fit right in!
This was the kernel of my first puffin book, Lewis Clowns Around. If you know the book, you’ll know that a lot more happens to Lewis once he starts work as a circus clown. It was the first children’s story I wrote, and for that reason it took a good deal of honing and reworking before it could be shared with publishers. Even then, it was another four years before it finally found a home at Floris Books. That’s why the most important quality a children’s author must have is patience!
It was all worth it in the end, as Lewis has since inspired two sequels, Harris the Hero and Skye the Puffling. And this year Lewis Clowns Around is getting a lovely new cover. Although I enjoyed doing the original line drawings of Lewis and Harris, I am very pleased that Gabby Grant and Jon Mitchell were chosen to illustrate the finished books.
And now I think it’s time I rummaged in the kitchen for more inspiration…