Liz Pichon may have sold a staggering 14 million copies of her Tom Gates books worldwide, but her job satisfaction springs from inspiring reluctant readers to love stories.

The 60-year-old author and illustrator vividly recalls being bullied at secondary school, and growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia feeling "not very good".

"I loved poems and funny stories, and making things up. My parents said I was always enthusiastic and sparky, I had a go at everything, but it never translated into being good at anything," says Pichon, who only realised she was dyslexic when her son was diagnosed.

"I didn't know that I could write books, I thought that world was closed to me."

This Is Local London: The Tom Gates books are full of doodles and drawings and fun fontsThe Tom Gates books are full of doodles and drawings and fun fonts

It's no accident that her mischievous hero prefers dooding and biscuits to schoolwork in stories that leap off the page, with cartoon doodles, stick drawings, funny dialogue, and garish fonts.

Her immersive stories - told as if we are reading Tom's diaries - extend to downloadable playlists of songs she pens herself for Tom's band Dog Zombies, and even a live show, the 'Brilliant Band and Doodle Tour'.

She loves nothing better than to see a fan hurrying towards her with their sketchbook of stories, her website is packed with activities inspiring kids to draw, read or make music, and she has helped bring her fictional world to life in Sky Kids TV show The Brilliant World of Tom Gates.

"Children love a physical object, you can't beat a book," she says.

"I used to love Asterix, Beanos and comics, and wanted to make books that had all the things in them that I would love at that age, like music and how to make things. I use fonts and illustrations to help tell the story, they add an extra layer so children get an awful lot of information, not just from the words."

Tom’s trials and tribulations are a relatable world of class assemblies, PE lessons, dog shows, and an annoying older sister.

She added: "I don't write about technology, one of the reasons they are translated into so many languages is I write about things that don't date, like friends, school and sibling relationships."

Like fellow children's author Julia Donaldson, Pichon grew up in Hampstead, visiting local libraries and roaming the Heath. While at Brookfield Primary and living near Parliament Hill, she recalls happy times swimming at the lido "in the days when it was free".This Is Local London: Tom Gates Five Star Stories is the 21st book in the popular series and is published by Scholastic.Tom Gates Five Star Stories is the 21st book in the popular series and is published by Scholastic. (Image: Scholastic)

"It was lovely to have the Heath and lido, I would pack my stuff and head off on my own at 7am even when I was at primary school," she said. "When I told people where I lived, they said 'that's very posh,' but my parents rented and never bought and it was actually quite ordinary. There's a sliding doors moment when it came up for sale, but they never did it."

Although her three older siblings attended Parliament Hill and William Ellis, she "ended up" at St Augustines in Kilburn.

She added: "I didn't get the grades to go to Camden School for Girls. There was talk of Greycoats, which would have been a disaster, I would have hated it. I was excited about the fact that it was brand new and had metalwork and woodwork, but in the end I had such an awful time fitting in that I would have been the only girl doing it and I didn't want to bring attention to myself.

"Art was my saviour, my happy place, like it is for a lot of creative children who are not brilliant academically. Bits of my secondary school I absolutely loved, I laughed a lot and had good friendships, but bits were really miserable, being picked on and put down, not being academic, and not enjoying the subjects."

Pichon left at 15 to study art and design at Kingsway College in King's Cross, where she found creative soul mates, then studied graphic design at Camberwell College before designing album covers at Jive Records in Willesden.

By 2004 she started illustrating other people's books, then decided to write her own. They have won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Blue Peter Book Award for Best Story and Waterstones Children's Book Prize and she's still inspired by "a funny picture or story in a newspaper" to write more.

Her 21st book; Tom Gates: Five Star Stories sees Tom and his schoolmates vying to write a funny story for a book. Inspiration strikes when he looks at his box of odd objects and remembers the stories behind each, and Pichon has launched a prize for readers to submit their own "nonsense poem, or joke or something that has happened to them".

"I get very involved in the design of every single page, the drawings and fonts," she says.

"It's unusual for a series to go on this long but I wouldn't still be writing them if I didn't enjoy it. It doesn't work if you are just churning them out."

Tom Gates: Five Star Stories is out now published by Scholastic.