Emma Chichester Clark is already a well-known children’s book author, and illustrator so I imagine lots of you will have already heard of her and/or read some of her marvellous books. For Cape, however, she has created her first comic, Plumdog, based on the exciting life of her dog Plum. (It’s rly great by the way, so you should all totally get the book.)
What was the first comic you wrote?
Plumdog is the first – though it is more like a visual diary, illustrated by me and dictated by my dog, Plum. The other books I’ve done have mostly been picture books for children.
Who are your comic heroes and influences?
There are so many. I adored Charles Addams when I was a child. I had no idea what was funny about most of the jokes but I loved the drawing and the characters and composition. I love James Thurber and William Steig and many children’s illustrators, such as Ludwig Bemelmans, Quentin Blake, and Neal Layton. My heroes of the graphic novel are Posy Simmonds and Alison Bechdel and Bastien Vives.
What was the last comic you read?
It was Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. It is an extraordinary book that works on every level. The drawing is sublime and there is not a word out of place or a moment out of time. I need to read it again because it is so dense. It was like reading a complicated novel of many layers and I found it completely fascinating and absorbing.
What helps you write?
It used to be cigarettes, now it’s just anxiety. Knowing I have a long chunk of time stretching ahead with nothing else in it, other than being allowed to sit at my desk, is the greatest thing. That helps my brain unfold and then there’s a chance of having an idea. Big empty skies help too, and walking – plodding along without thinking. Sometimes the rhythm of the plod produces little sentences that repeat in my head. Other than those pleasures, it is all relentless dredging and sorting until something comes up.
Who is your favourite dog from literature?
I have two: One is Genevieve from Madeline’s Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans. She was beautiful and brave, only to be despatched, cruelly, by the trustees of the convent, leaving the little girls distraught. Her fate seems desperate, but thankfully, everything turns out well in the end, when she returns with a litter of puppies and ‘…there was enough hound to go all around.’
My other favourite dog is from a wordless book by Margery Sharp and Roy McKie, published in 1957. The heroine is Melisande, a poignant figure at the beginning, clothed – though wretchedly, and standing on two legs, selling violets outside the opera house. She is the only canine in an otherwise human world. When she is taken in by the famous and wealthy diva, Rosa bel Canto, Melisande becomes a lady’s maid and it is soon discovered that she has a perfect ear and perfect pitch, so when her employer gets a cold, Melisande has to perform. It’s a story of rags to riches and back to rags again and it’s a real tearjerker. The drawings race across double-page spreads in black brush strokes. Some pages are dense with delicious detail, others are calm and quiet, but throughout, it is Melisande’s gentle character, noble nature and honesty that make you really care.
Emma Chichester Clark is one of Britain’s best loved children’s authors and illustrators. She is the author of the immensely popular Blue Kangaroo series and many other books, and has illustrated books by Roald Dahl, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Peter Dickinson and Michael Morpurgo.
It’s really quite hard not to love Plum, Emma Chichester Clark’s canine chum. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t get enough of her, so thank god that Jonathan Cape have just published the diary Plum has been keeping over the last year.
Whether you’ve already heard of Plumdog or not (ughhh, where have you been), here’s a dandy little trailer to introduce this beauteous whoosell to you all, with an introduction by Plum below.
Hello. My name is Plum and I’m a whoosell – that’s whippet mixed with Jack Russell and poodle.
I especially like swimming, leaping, catching, and croissants, and my favourite fragrance is fox poo. I live with Emma, an illustrator, and Rupert. My sister, Liffey, lives nearby.
Over the last year I’ve been keeping a diary. Emma has helped with the pictures, but the words are all mine.
A few photos from the launch of Nick Hayes’ Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads, which took place in east London on Friday night.
Thanks to Nick for organising it, to the music-makers for being awesome and playing excellent music and to everyone who came along and danced the night away. It was an all-round, brilliant thigh-slapping night.