“Animals can talk. Humans just weren't listening.” This captivating tale will take you on a journey through the mysterious world of a small amphibian who has many secrets and has lots to tell. Follow Toad as he navigates through challenges, overcomes fears, and helps a young boy named Eric discover the true power within and unravel the mystery of why all his friends are disappearing.

 

We spoke with Robert about his love of animals, what childhood experiences were incorporated into his book and the future of his creative writing journey.

 

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You have previously shared with us that your love of writing has been a lifelong passion. I was wondering if you would be willing to share with us your earliest memory of storytelling and how your past experiences have led to Toad.

 

I wrote when I was a small boy, and never stopped. My first book was called Space Pirates and was about sixty pages long. I was about 7 years old then. I’ve tried writing fantasy, horror science fiction and even dabbled in scripts for a while.

 

My imagination was always ridiculous at times and I struggled a lot to understand how other people think at times. So, I suppose initially I write for me as an 8-year-old boy and hope other people like it.

 

I love creating things, whether it’s writing, music, building lego or wargames miniatures.

 

 

Toad is a magical tale of talking animals, mystery worlds and hidden secrets. How did you go about creating your book’s enchanting habitat and its inhabitants?

 

I love animals. The idea came from thinking about my old cat Alan, who is EXACTLY how he is described in TOAD. He was enormous and ginger and white, and would go out and fight foxes. He died of cancer.

 

I feel that there’s so much that goes on in the animal world that we don’t know about, and giving animals human personalities and traits is a great way of introducing concepts that are human (such as eating cheese sandwiches and snails being some kind of mafia). It adds to the humour factor and because it’s talking animals you can get away with silliness.

 

I love a lot of television shows that aren’t on any more, such as Rising Damp, Bottom, Department S, Jason King, Jonathan Creek- I also love the Carry On films. In all of these you get that quick retort and innuendo that sounds much better coming from animals with human ideals.

 

Below I outline how the characters are all parts of me, so crafting them was actually quite straightforward.

 

The locations are a throwback to the days when we had traditional British stories written by authors such as Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie. There’s a church in Stretford where I’m from which provided the backdrop for the wood / grave scenes.

 

 

The young boy in your book is called Eric, who goes on to discover the true power of the animals and forest. How much of your childhood experiences are in Eric? Were you like Eric when you were younger?

 

Eric is slightly different to other children, and that’s how I was with Aspergers. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 17 though. I’ve always preferred animals to people. I think there’s a lot of frustration in the book that comes out in the story, especially in how each character is. Eric is the observant child who notices what others don’t - Toad is the comedy factor, a jester. Alan is the part of me that has a sense of honour and feels he needs to prove himself and always feels that he should be forgiven for something, regardless of how others see him. Spude is my love of oddness and weird facts. I suppose Shadow is my feelings of wanting to let the pain out.

 

I’ve felt alone a lot, and these characters in a way make my own company tolerable in their reflections of me.

 

 

Was there a direct inspiration that led to you writing stories for children? You have thanked Terry Pratchett and his young reader friendly books in your acknowledgements but is there a personal reason for your decision?

 

When I was young, reading was basically all I had. All the other kids have these trainers and I had books. I’m ashamed that there’s a lot of people who struggle to read and I wanted to get children into reading. That’s why Toad is relatively short.

 

I also think that animals and magic are topics that younger readers will relate to before their views of the world are fixed. That silliness that arises from a talking animal lecturing a boy about how to use eggs as a thrown weapon - that kind of thing.

 

 

After Toad, where do you see yourself heading in your creative writing journey?

 

I want this to continue. I’m already writing the follow up to TOAD - THE LAST BADGER (it actually starts with how Spude loses his body).

 

Obviously writing full time is the dream but I’ll still be going to work at the moment. It’s nice to dream.

 

Without writing I’ve got nothing - it’s what keeps me going. I’ve got loads more ideas for the ‘Toadiverse’ and want this to continue in a series.

 

 

 

Toad is available in paperback.