There are many routes to publication and Debut Journeys aims to celebrate them all. This month Mario Ambrosi talks to Carrie Sellon, whose Pizza Pete and the Perilous Potions, illustrated by Sarah Horne, was published in June 2023 by Guppy Books.


Where are you now and where did you write your book?


I live in Hampshire with my husband, three children and various animals. Our house is so old and draughty – in certain spots you can feel the wind whistling through your hair – that for most of the year I have to wrap myself up in blankets and dogs before I can even consider sitting down to write.


What’s it all about? (Your book, that is!)


Pizza Pete and the Perilous Potions is about a 12-year-old boy who loves living above the pizza shop with his dad, and is terrified of the outside world. But when a new restaurant steals all their customers, Pete and his friend Anna have to come up with an ingenious plan to sell more pizzas, otherwise he’ll be forced to move. When they stumble upon a mysterious briefcase of magical potions hidden in the attic, Pete thinks he might have found a way of making enough money to save his home. Everyone wants to eat magical pizzas that can make them fly or turn into different animals. But little do they know what chaos and mayhem will ensue...


Tell us about your route to publication


Most writers will say they’ve wanted to write a book since they were five years old. That wasn’t me. It seemed like an awful lot of effort, and there were so many brilliant books out there. How would I ever be able to write anything as good? So I studied Zoology, not English, and got my dream job at the BBC Natural History Unit making wildlife films. I loved travelling around the world, but I particularly enjoyed writing scripts for the presenters, including David Attenborough. My passion for writing was ignited.


But then three babies came along, and you can’t dash off filming polar bears if you’re changing nappies, so I took some time off. I sat in cafés, pushing a buggy with my foot, and wrote little stories, including one about dancing dogs, but I didn’t have any plans to pursue my writing any further.


Until... the arrival of a certain virus. I found myself, like the rest of the world, stuck at home. We built a pizza oven in the garden and started making a LOT of pizzas. The kids got bored with the usual mozzarella and pepperoni, so we started experimenting. We tried fried bananas, marshmallows, cashew nuts, anchovies, pringles – and it got me thinking. What if different toppings could give you different superpowers? What if a chilli could make you breathe fire? What if a prawn could turn you into a mermaid? I scribbled down some ideas for a picture book, then wrote a few lines, and suddenly I’d written ten thousand words and couldn’t get two characters out of my head – anxious Pete and his stick-two-fingers-up-at-anyone neighbour Anna.


Around this time, tragically, my brother died, age 39. A switch flicked in my brain, and I became determined to turn my ramblings into a book. I enrolled on a three-month Curtis Brown Creative course, where I met a wonderfully supportive critique group. An early version of Pizza Pete was longlisted in a Mslexia competition, then, in 2021, I was runner-up in a Guppy Books Open Submission Competition. I’ll never forget the day I got an email from Bella Pearson, who runs Guppy, telling me how much she enjoyed Pizza Pete, and that she’d love to work with me editorially with a view to publishing it in due course. Her comments were invaluable in shaping Pizza Pete into the book it is today, and I’ll be forever grateful to her for seeing potential in me.



What do you do when you’re not writing?


When I’m not writing, I’m herding small children from one place to another, beekeeping, going on muddy dog walks, and searching for small animal jugs to add to my collection.


What was the biggest bump in the road when it came to getting your book out into the world and how did you overcome it?


Like Pete, I suffer from panic attacks, but mine come at night. So my biggest bump is being in a permanent state of exhaustion, but that’s what coffee and chocolate digestives are for, right? (And hypnotherapy has helped with the panic attacks).


Spring 2020 was a tricky time, as it was for many of us. The first day of my Curtis Brown course coincided with the first day of homeschooling. At one point the school called me up to ask if we still had internet problems, as our son, unbeknownst to us, hadn’t been attending lessons. A scroll through his search history showed he’d been watching YouTube fishing videos solidly for two weeks . On the upside, he’s pretty handy with a fishing rod.


Any tips for budding writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?


Enter competitions! There are hundreds, for all types of writing. They’re a brilliant source of motivation and a great way to get your work and name out there. If you get listed, it provides a huge confidence boost. And you never know where it might lead...


What’s next for you?


Guppy Books has asked for a trilogy, so I’m currently writing the second Pizza Pete book – same characters, new adventure. And I’ve got a few other little writing projects on the go, including a couple of picture books and a twisty horror.




Author's photo by Claire Barlow

Carrie Sellon was born in Bristol and now lives in Hampshire with her husband, three children, dog friend (Mabel), tortoise friend (Sid), chicken friends (Bluebell and Snowy) and 30,000 bee friends (Andy, Pamela, Ellie, get the idea). She used to travel the world making wildlife films for the BBC, but now, much like Pizza Pete, prefers hanging out at home, eating too much pizza.
Instagram: carriesellon


If you would like to feature in a future Debut Journeys, please email Mario Ambrosi at


No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.