We are delighted to host an interview with debut author
When Erica Perkins wakes up on the morning of her tenth birthday, the last thing she expects is to find a very confused elephant sitting on her doorstep. So begins an unlikely friendship. But can a small girl and a rather large elephant learn to live together in a tiny terraced house? And when the dastardly owner of the local zoo plots to steal the elephant, will Erica be able to outsmart him?
Erica’s Elephant is such an adorable and charming story, how did the idea for the story come to you?
Thank you! The initial idea came from a friend texting me to say thanks for something-or-other, and promising to send an ‘elephant festooned with tea’. The idea of an elephant turning up on my narrow residential road made me laugh, and that was that. Some later ideas came from facts I later read about elephants, like their amazing long-distance communication. For the most part though, it was a matter of curating ideas I’ve accumulated over Life In General. For example, I’ve always been obsessed with ants, and Miss Pritchett’s ant collection wasn’t so much a new idea as a well-worn dream.
When writing, do you have any particular habits that you do? (i.e. sitting in the dark, listening to music, etc)
Ideally, I will work sit and Think in my favourite armchair first thing in the morning, with tea and porridge, and write my first pages for the day; then turn on the anglepoise lamp on my desk last thing in the evening, and write some more there. But the rest of my life has a bad habit of getting in the way. I wrote a lot of Erica on the bus between Oxford and London: it’s hard to cultivate any habits that are bus-friendly.
Before you wrote the book, did you do a lot of research into Elephants?
I did it as I went along, really, as I was only ever a chapter or two ahead of myself in terms of figuring out the plot. Researching elephants gave me some crucial breakthroughs. It showed me how to get the Elephant into trouble, and how to get him back out again.
Are Elephants your favourite animal? And if they’re not, what is?
Actually, my favourite animal has always been the Noble Rhinoceros. But books and documents about rhinos by themselves are hard to come by: they are always the support act to elephants. So as a child I ended up learning about elephants, whether or not I wanted to!
What advice would you give to a child who wants a pet Elephant?
When I wanted a rhino, I adopted one that was being looked after in a sanctuary. They sent me a video (mostly featuring elephants), a soft toy, a certificate and regular letters. That was really great.
Or maybe you could attach the nozzle of your hoover to a cat.
(Don’t do that).
When it comes to writing, do you plan your books in advance or just pen to paper and see where it takes you?
With Erica, I was generally sketching out plans a chapter or two ahead of my writing. In general I like to know what the ‘problem’ will be, and find out as I go how it will escalate and resolve.
If you had to describe your book in a tweet (140 characters) how would you do it?
Girl gets elephant, or he gets her.
Do you have any plans for another book?
My second book will be coming out with Scholastic in 2017 (hurray!). I have a couple more ideas simmering along – I find it helpful to have more than one, so that one can brew a bit for a while I’m writing some of the other.
Information about the Book
Sylvia Bishop is 23 years old and has recently graduated from Oxford. She is one half of the brilliant improvised comedy duo Peablossom Cabaret (www.peablossomcabaret.com). ERICA’S ELEPHANT is her first book, and she intends it to be the first of many quirky stories for young readers.You can learn more about Sylvia and her work by visiting her website (here), her Instagram account (here), or on Twitter