Paul Collins, author of The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler started writing at “age fourteen or thereabouts” and has penned around 130 books.
Paul is visiting Kids’ Book Capers this week to talk about both his writing and publishing journeys. He agreed to answer some “slightly skewed” questions.

Were you a bookworm as a kid?

“Believe it or not I’d only ever read comics – there was never a book in our house. Well . . . one did surface every now and then, a green-spined Penguin mystery. Whenever I stumbled across it I’d idly wonder how it got there.”

So, how did you become a writer?

Obviously not through a passion for reading lol. Paradoxically, I was always reasonably good at spelling and “English Expression” as it was called. My father loved telling stories and jokes. And I was always into comics, notably Ironman, Captain America and Spiderman.

You mostly write fantasy and the occasional science fiction. What inspired you to write
this book?

I loved the idea of writing about a character who muddled his proverbs. I came across malapropisms, which I must confess I was unaware of. On researching the term, I discovered alas I wasn’t going to be the first author to have such a character in a book. How to do it “differently” was the key.

Can you tell us some favourite malapropisms?

Their neighbours are very effluent; the town was flooded and had to be evaporated; decapitated coffee (which a friend reckons is a flat white lol).

What’s The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler about?

A kid who has Asperger’s, although that’s not mentioned in the book. Toby runs blindly from pillar to post in a series of improbable situations. There’s mystery, humour, action, and a host of weird characters. Part of it’s based on my childhood – that is, a mother who left the family. I was nine at the time. One reviewer wondered how a mother could leave her child, but hey, it happens!

What age group is it for?

8+ – this age question is subjective. I know 10 year-olds who have read Lord of the Rings.

How have kids responded to it?

A young Gold Creek reviewer said: “My favourite character is Toby because he is so unpredictable. As an easy reading paperback I recommend this book to kids aged 10+.  I just loved the whole book”.

Tell us about Toby?

There’s no deceit about him. If he makes a promise, he sticks to it – a guy you’d trust because he’s incapable of lying.  Toby is a mix of lightning-quick memory and naïve inability to work out what people mean … he is totally oblivious to body language and expression.  I desperately wanted him to sort things out and be happy.

To find out more about Toby’s story, see the book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lclytl3DB-4

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

There was no deadline. I wrote in between publishing other authors’ books. And like I said before, I wanted to work with a character using malapropisms, so that was fun. Other minor characters just happened along and I feel they worked out pretty well, too.

What was the hardest thing about writing it?

It has a deceivingly simple plot. But when you dissect it, there are a lot of interwoven intricacies. Even I got confused for a while! There was also a fair bit cut by the editor. I trusted that she made the right decisions. I think that’s the hard bit – writing what you think are good scenes, only to be told by an editor that they have to go.

Thanks for sharing Toby’s fascinating journey with us Paul. Paul will be back on Wednesday wearing his publisher’s hat. Hope you can join us then.


Teachers notes are available at www.celapenepress.com.au

ReadPlus: http://www.readplus.com.au/blog_detail.php?id=961

GetAheadKids: http://tinyurl.com/yauynvr

The Reading Stack: http://thereadingstack.blogspot.com/

Gold Creek:


The Book Chook: http://www.thebookchook.com/2010/03/book-review-slightly-skewed-life-of.html

Published by

Dee White

Dee White lives with her husband and two sons in a small rural country town which has more kangaroos than people. She has worked as an advertising copywriter and journalist and has had numerous career changes because until recently, writing wasn’t considered to be a proper job. Letters to Leonardo, her first novel with Walker Books Australia, was published in 2009 to great critical acclaim.


  1. I bet Toby is a fascinating character! And made all the better by Paul’s excellent sense of humour. Thank you, Dee and Paul. Look forward to the next blog. 🙂

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