1. How did you get involved in Thomas & Friends?
One of my friends as a teenager went to work at Marvel Comics, who had an office in Kentish Town, North London at the time. When my first son was born I got a break through here to start writing stories and comic strips on a freelance basis. That started to go well for me and I was given the job of adapting the original Thomas The Tank Engine TV series into comic book form. When the TV episodes ran out I began writing new stories using the same characters. My first chance to write for television came directly from my comic writing experience.
2. Are you familiar with the original book series that the show is based off, "The Railway Series?"
I am familiar with those books now, though I must admit that I really don’t know them as well as I do the TV series. It was the TV series that was my first proper introduction to Thomas, both through adapting it into comics and watching it with my eldest son, who quickly became a huge fan of the show.
3. We've heard that you worked on the show in one of the earlier series, which episodes did you write?
Everybody asks me about this, and I have to admit that after 20 years of writing for children’s TV and comics, I can’t remember all the stories I have written. Somewhere there is a box of comics containing the answer to this question. I do know that 7 episodes of the third season were fully or partly adapted from stories I had written for the comics. The only one I definitely remember being mine now is Henry’s Forest. I’ll have to locate that box of comics so I can answer this question fully.
4. We've heard that there will be a change in the writing style of the series, what can you tell us about that?
I am working to try to bring back some of the flavour of the original series that I think may have been lost over the years. I am hoping to put more emphasis back on the engines, rather than so much about individual passengers, and to bring back a bit more about the workings of the railway. I loved the original series, but even in the early days I always felt the strongest stories were those that felt like they might really happen on a railway, but seen through the eyes and motivations of the engines as characters.
5. What are your duties of the head writer?
As head writer I am part of the team that looks after Thomas and thinks about how the show could develop and sustain. I have been commissioned to write the one-hour specials that will launch next two seasons of Thomas and to develop ideas for new characters and locations that we might introduce. I also help make decisions about characters we want to bring back from earlier seasons and reintroduce in CGI. When the series writing begins I brief the writing team and support them throughout the writing process by giving feedback and passing on notes from producers, directors, etc. And I always write some episodes too.
6. What is the best thing about writing for Thomas & Friends?
I love writing for this show, because I love the show and have a long history with it. It reminds me of when my children were small and we played with trains on the floor and it also reminds me of when I used to play with my own train set as a child. What I enjoy the most is discovering a new story that feels like it brings the world to life.
7. Do you have a favorite Thomas & Friends character?
This is a difficult question to answer. There are a number of characters that are favourites for me. Back when I was writing comics I always loved the humour of Bill and Ben and if I had to pick one, I’d probably pick the two of them (which is cheeky, I know). Toby was another favourite of mine and I used to love the way James scrunched up his face when he was cross about something. Gordon is a great character to write for as he has such a strong attitude he usually makes for a strong story. I am also excited about some of the new characters we have been working on, but I am afraid they are all surprises yet to be revealed and you’ll just have to wait.
8. Do you have a favorite Thomas & Friends episode?
This is another difficult question. I am very ‘old school’ Thomas, and trying to see which are my favourites takes me right back to the early series, which I still enjoying rewatching. One of my favourite stories was ‘Thomas Comes to Breakfast’ and another was ‘Percy Takes the Plunge’. I loved the naive way in which the engines were portrayed and how they viewed the causes of their accidents. But I think my favourite story is probably ‘The Diseasel’. I’ve got some new favourite stories from the ones we’ve been working on recently too, but they are yet to be released…