SCBWI Bologna 2008 Author-Illustrator Interview: Babette Cole

Babette Cole is the author and illustrator of over 70 books, including the Princess Smartypants series, Dr. Dog, The Hairy Book, The Smelly Book, The Slimy Book and The Trouble With… series. She owns a stud farm in England and breeds Show Hunters, which she rides herself, and has won several horse-show competitions. She was interviewed in November 2007 by Anita Loughrey, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

What other jobs have you had (that led to being a writer and illustrator)?

BC: None, I have always been a writer and illustrator.

What are you working on at the moment?

BC: 4 projects:

o Doctor Dog Goes Green (picture book);
o Princess Smartypants Finishes Off (picture book);
o A set of pony novels;
o The Man Shortage Company (grown-ups’ novel)

If you could be a character from one of your books, who would it be and why this particular character?

BC: Princess Smartypants.

How has your childhood influenced what you write?

BC: All sunshine, ponies, books and pictures.

What was your favorite book as a child or adolescent?

BC: Alice in Wonderland.

Is there a book already published that you wish you had written? Why?

BC: All Harry Potter books because they have done so much for promoting children’s literacy.

How long does it take you to write a book?

BC: About half an hour for some and six months for others–it depends on the book.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

BC: Getting someone to look after my horses so I have time to work on my books.

Do you work with the television, radio, or stereo on? In cafés, nursing a half-cup of lukewarm tea or in isolation?

BC: I need to be completely isolated and very quiet with no interruptions.

How do you divide your time between working on your stud farm, competing in your side-saddle team, writing, illustrating and doing author/illustrator events and workshops?

BC: With great difficulty and little sleep.

Are any more of your books being made into films or adapted for television?

BC: Princess Smartypants and a further Doctor Dog series are in the offing.

Your fiction and illustrations have been described as quirky, goofy, zany and anarchic. How would you describe them?

BC: True to type.

What destinations have you traveled to, to research your books?

BC: Okavango Delta in Botswana, a lot of influence from the West Indies,Australia, and most importantly, the depths of my imagination.

How much do you think a writer needs to market his/herself/the work? What do you suggest?

BC: In the present climate of the times, it is most important that writers market themselves. A good website is essential.

Do you have a blog, and if so, how often do you blog? Do you get lots of feedback from readers?

BC: I don’t have a blog but I have a good website where people put forward questions that I answer.

Can you share your favorite fan mail, if you have one?

BC: My most favorite fan mail was from a lady whose daughter was suffering from cancer and had had chemotherapy, hence she had no hair. She wrote me a lovely letter saying how much the hairy book had helped her daughter. The last pages, reading:

“Hairy Big and Hairy Small, I’m glad I have no hair at all.”

I was so pleased that my book gave comfort to this little girl.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children’s non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers’ Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008’s Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries?