Robbie was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old and her mother immigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl”.
Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.
Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books. Robbie is also the author of the new Silly Willy series the first of which, Silly Willy goes to Cape Town, is now available.
Why did I publish the Sir Chocolate books?
I have always been a great reader. I learned how to read when I was four years old and that was the beginning of a wonderful voyage of discovery. I read everything I could get my hands on; Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis, L.M. Montgomery and a myriad of classical authors. I went on adventures up the Faraway Tree, anguished over the death of Beth in Little Woman, explored the prairies of America with Laura Ingalls Wilder, flew with Wendy and her brothers in Peter Pan and grew bigger and smaller with Alice in Alice in Wonderland.
By the time I was ten years old I had exhausted all the books in our local library and the school library. I had seven library cards, four were mine and three I pinched from my younger sister. I used to ride my bicycle to our local library twice a week and take out seven books at a time. I used to read, curled up in a chair in my room while snacking on Marie biscuits dipped in milk.
I was attending a convent in George in the Western Cape at this point in my life, one of the fourteen schools I attended, and I had a wonderful teacher, Sister Agatha. Sister Agatha started providing me with some very unusual and interesting books. The ones that I remember most notably were I am David, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Fattifpuffs and Thinifers, The Diary of Anne Frank, Child of Satan, Child of God (a personal account by Susan Atkins of life and death with the infamous Manson family), Mafeking Road: and other stories by Charles Bosman (a book that gives insight into Afrikaner life in the late 19th century) and, eventually, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
These books made a deep impression on me and I have never forgotten any of them. I have copies of these books in my adult home and have re-read all of them as an adult. My son, Gregory, a big reader in his own right now, has read some of these as well. I can still remember sitting and reading A Tale of Two Cities with a dictionary. I used to look up the words I didn’t know and write them down in a notebook. One word I have always remembered looking up was “countenance”. Who was to know that this interesting word meant face?
I developed a love of classical books and went on to read most of Dickens’ books, Great Expectations is my favourite, the creepy old lady in a wedding dress spending her days among the decaying cake and remnants of a wedding feast bored into my young mind. I also discovered my three favourite classics, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Journal of a Plague Year by Daniel De foe and Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
During my youth there seemed to be so many wonderful books to read and most of them were inspirational. They showed you people to be hard working, brave and adventurous and highlighted respect for faith, family and friends as being very important.
So, what has my reading journey as a child and young adult got to do with my own writing? Two things.
Firstly, I was inspired to start writing down my thoughts, little poems and other ideas because of reading L.M. Montgomery’s trilogy about Emily of New Moon. This book depicts a young girl who loses her mother at a very young age and then her father when she is ten years old. Emily loves to write and, although writing, and especially poetry, is considered to be a frivolous waste of time by the elderly maiden aunt relative who takes her into her home, she continues to write, expanding into poetry and short stories. The book is partly a journey of Emily’s development as a writer and poet and I found it very inspiring when I read it on entering high school when I was twelve years old. I recently acquired the audio book of Emily of New Moon and my younger son, Michael, was totally entranced by this story. He listened to all twelve hours of this book in a week and that is pretty impressive for an eleven-year-old boy.
If a book can make such a big impression on someone’s life, then surely books are very important items and deserve to be treated as such. The content of books must be such that it encourages the best in our impressionable children.
The second reason that I decided to publish Michael and my Sir Chocolate books was linked to the first reason in that I became very disillusioned with modern children’s books.
When I had my own children, it gave me great pleasure to read to them when they were small. We revisited all my old favourites and some of them we just about wore out with re-reading. A favourite of Michael’s was the Faraway Tree trilogy by Enid Blyton. I think I could recite those books for you. Gregory learned to read by himself very quickly, but Michael took a bit longer so when we had exhausted all the books I had read as a child, I set about trying to find some new books for us to read together and for me to continue to read to Michael.
I was disappointed and saddened by the content of many of the modern books I bought. A lot of these books seemed to poke fun at the things I deemed to be important like family. The youngsters were portrayed as being rude, precocious and devious to their parents and authority figures. They were also disloyal and deceitful to their friends and teachers. I did not like the concepts embedded in a lot of these books, and so I started writing little stories with Michael to read to him and his cousins who frequently visited. Over time, we started illustrating the stories with fondant creations as baking and fondant art was another hobby we used to do together, and I started reading these books to the children at my Church.
One of my friends knew a small publisher of books and she suggested that I submit my books to Anne Samson from TSL Publications to see if she was interested in them. She was and so Michael and my publishing journey began. Like all things in life, writing and illustrating a book for children seems to be about 10% talent and 90% hard work but we have persevered and are pleased to see some interest being generated in our books. We included five simple recipes in each of our books with the aim that our little story and cook books would encourage baking activities and other imaginary play between caregivers and their children. Our fondant artworks can be reproduced in plasticine or play dough and I have even seen on industrious little boy try to make a cake out of mud.
Of course, there are plenty of wonderful modern children’s books. I absolutely love the Winnie the Witch series of books. I have also discovered Indie books over the past few years and this has also opened a whole new reading world for me. I have found some marvelous book series to read with Michael which both of us enjoy and which have messaging that I am comfortable with. It is a great thing that there are so many wonderful children’s authors out there writing amazing books for children.
Thank you, Allan, for providing Michael and I will this opportunity to visit you at The Scribbler and share some of our thoughts on reading and writing.
It is our absolute pleasure having you as our guest this week Robbie. It's been fun to read about the development of your books and characters. We wish you continued success with your writing.
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Purchase Sir Chocolate and Silly Willy at:
http://tinyurl.com/zdokqjr (currently available at a discounted price)