A conversation with Tohby Riddle
Some authors ‘simmer’ in the shop for a long time. That is to say, we sell the odd copy here and there, but our sales don’t actually reflect the depth and quality of the author’s body of work. So it’s always exciting when an author reaches boiling point with a new title – and it’s not always the title you’d expect. (Just one of the many things that keeps bookselling eternally interesting).
We were especially pleased for talented Katoomba based picture book creator, Tohby Riddle, when he cracked it with his unusual but very accessible ‘Greatest Gatsby’, a visual guide to grammar for all ages. This came in at number three on our Megalong Books bestsellers list for 2015, no small feat, as it involved outselling the likes of Andy Griffiths, Bill Bryson, Tim Winton, Geraldine Brooks, and the authors of numerous adult colouring books!
In honour of this achievement, we decided to ask Tohby a few probing questions…
Were you aware of any precedents to this book or is this the first time a visual grammar book has been created?
What drove me was that I felt I was creating a book that didn’t exist – but should’ve! It was the book about English grammar that I wished I’d had when I was first learning about grammar – because I’m more a visual learner and I think we underestimate how much we all are, especially when it comes to remembering things.
As the format has worked so well, are there any plans afoot for it to be marketed overseas, or perhaps in other languages?
We’re definitely looking to find overseas publishers, but I think it would have to be as it is – in English – with the idea that the level of visual information would make it accessible to people for whom English is not the first language.
I’ve always wondered about the h in your name – is it about the numerology?
My mother, Jasmine, was one of the first yoga teachers in Australia, then pretty much the first to perform rebirthing in Australia, in the late 70s. I grew up in quite a household! Along with bhajan chanting and biofeedback machines, numeralogical spellings of anyone’s names were always on the cards.
Do your children share the surname of Riddle, and did this cause comment when it was revealed early on in the Harry Potter books to be Voldemort’s real surname? Do you have any concerns that he might in fact be a relation?
Actually, over the years I’ve done a bit of geneaology and it doesn’t appear that us Riddles are related to any fictional characters at all – not even The Riddler!
Finally, is there anything you would like to reveal about your forthcoming picture book, Milo, due to hit our bookshelves in April?
Milo is about a group of dogs on the fringe of a big city who are all good friends. It's kind of funny and dreamy and surprising. And it introduces a character, Carlos, a sneakers-wearing migratory bird that is one of my favourite creations.
Milo - A Moving Story will be available April 2016 from Megalong Books RRP $29.99