How old were you when you wrote your first story?
Robbie: I used to write a lot of poetry when I was in high school. I was a big fan of L.M. Montgomery at the time and so my poetry was very flowery and ran to very long descriptions of snowflakes and flowers and other natural beauties. I didn’t write much at all while I was at university studying to be a chartered accountant as I was also working part time and the course was fairly intense which didn’t leave much spare time at all. When I started working, I gradually got back into writing and have produced a number of non-fiction publications on listing equities and debt instruments on various African Stock Exchanges. I am currently working on a publication entitled “How does Africa feature in foreign direct investment to developing countries?” My son, Michael aged ten years, and I wrote and illustrated the twelve Sir Chocolate books over the past two years and the first one was published in August 2016.
What genre was my first story?
Robbie: Poetry was my first genre and I still write a lot of poetry. The Sir Chocolate books are all written in rhyming verse which I love and which is appealing to children. Rhyming verse is also good for learner readers as it helps teach them how language works and to make wording predictions when reading. The illustrations in the Sir Chocolate books are all made of fondant, cakes and biscuits and there are five simple recipes included in each book that children can bake under adult supervision. My publications are obviously non-fiction and involve a lot of research.
Do you have another series in mind? Where would it be located?
Robbie: Two books in the Sir Chocolate series are currently available and the third, Sir Chocolate and the sugar dough bees story and cookbook, will be available in March 2017. I am busy finalising another book entitled A holiday to Cape Town with my baby brother which is a chapter book and is written for an older age group, approximately 7 to 10 years old. This book is set in Cape Town, South Africa, and is an amusing anecdote, written from the point of view of an eight year old boy, about his holiday and his younger brother’s antics and mishaps. The illustrations for this book are also make from fondant and the book will include a selection of easy holiday recipes. This may become a series depending on my inspiration to write another book in this vein.
Do you enjoy any sports, crafts other
Robbie: I love to bake and to make people and creature models from fondant (sugar dough). I often combine both skills and all of my illustrations in my own and Mike and my combined books are made from cake, biscuits and fondant. I also like to write and think up a lot of poetry in the car. I quickly write it down when I arrive at my destination. I do a Pilates class once a week and try to walk over weekends but other than that I am not very sporty. Oh, and of course, I love to read. I try and schedule specific reading time during weekends so my own reading doesn’t fall by the wayside and I read with and to Michael every day.
Robbie: Mike and I write the Sir Chocolate books together. The story lines often originate from something we are doing or experiencing at the time. Sometimes we get the idea for a new cake, chocolate or fondant creation first and then build up a story from our new characters or artwork. The Sir Chocolate stories are fun and light hearted. My book, A holiday to Cape Town with my baby brother, is the funny side of travelling with children and illustrates the naughty rivalries and antics between siblings. This is also a fiction book combined with simple holiday recipes and fondant illustrations. I believe that I am fundamentally a happy person so I like to think that I see the lighter side of life and that is what I try to capture in my books. I write all over the place, in the car [when someone else is driving of course], in the kitchen and in my study.
My non-fiction publications I write at my place of work. I have colleagues who assist me with some of the research and inputs to the various graphs as I prefer the writing part to the excel spreadsheet part although I set up the spreadsheets the way I want the information to flow and be collated.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
I am only a part time writer. I also spend a lot of time blogging, baking and making fondant art. I also have two sons, and I spend time reading to and with them and we do other fun things together. Michael often bakes and does fondant art with me and Greg, my older son, assists me with the YouTube videos for the cakes and baking. I have tried to involve them and make the whole Sir Chocolate books theme a family endeavour. I also work full time as the team leader of my company’s Capital Markets service offering. I work with the listings requirements and other regulations relating to various stock markets, primarily the JSE Limited in Johannesburg, South Africa, but I have also worked with the London Stock Exchange, the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Australian Stock Exchange and a few others in Africa and elsewhere. I love both of my “jobs” so I wouldn’t change them.
How much support do you receive in relation to your writing and eventual publication of your books? From where and whom?
My mom has always been my number one fan as well as my two younger sisters. My mother reads my books and offers suggestions and edits them for me. I also have a lot of friends and work colleagues how have read and commented on my poems for a few years. My books are published by Anne Samson from TSL Publications. Anne has helped me hugely because I had very limited knowledge of the publishing world and she arranges everything regarding the release of the books. She is lovely to work with and gives great advice in a non-interfering way which I really appreciate. I started my blog, robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com, in late September 2016 and I have met so many amazing writers and poets who have all been very helpful and supportive and I have learned so much from them.
If you could only do one form of writing, would you write stories or keep a blog? Why
Robbie: Oooh, that is such a tough question. If I were forced to choose I would write stories and poems. I have been doing that on and off for years and I love my Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet characters and their little adventures. Poems literally “jump into my head” almost fully formed when I see something that triggers some sort of intense emotion. I would just have to write them down. I created my blog as a platform for my poetry, baking and Sir Chocolate books and I am delving into other things on my blog that interest me. I could live without the blog and find other ways of communicating my writing to the world if I had to.
How did you find your niche?
Robbie: I just wrote what interested and amused my boys and I. I did have the bright idea of making the illustrations out of fondant, cake and biscuits which makes the Sir Chocolate books different and unique. My brother-in-law suggested that I include some recipes and make it a story and cookbook as the topic and illustrations lent themselves so well to this idea. I did that and the Sir Chocolate book series was born.
How much research do you do for your books?
Robbie: The Sir Chocolate books haven’t really required research to date, other than maybe checking on the exact meaning of a word. The recipes included in the first four totally complete books have been old and much loved family recipes so I haven’t had to look for anything new. Sometimes I look up how to make a specific animal, bird or creature out of fondant and get some ideas on how to start but I usually amend the instructions for my own style and ideas.
My publications, on the other hand, require significant research and are fairly time consuming. I love investigating what makes developing economies, and particularly African economies, tick so it is very fulfilling for me.
What surprised you most about the publishing process?
Due to my involvement in the production of my work publications, I was prepared for the long process of editing, formatting and getting the books into a final “print ready” state. It was very helpful to have Anne helping me and giving advice on colours and layout. I can’t say there were really any surprises in the publishing process. The marketing of the books, well, that is another story.
What do you want your obituary to say? What do you want carved on your tombstone?
I haven’t considered these exact questions but I have thought about the songs I want played at my funeral. I would like Blackbird has spoken and My favourite things. I have written this down as I don’t want any mistakes [smile]. On reflection, I would like the following carved on my tombstone “Here lies Robbie Cheadle, she was a human doing and not a human being.”
About Robbie and Michael Cheadle
Robbie Cheadle 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.
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