WHEN children’s author and illustrator Liz Pichon talks about her “dream come true”, one would presume she’s referring to selling over four million books worldwide. While she quotes that astronomical figure with pride, though, it was a specific recent experience that left her bedazzled.

“I was on Blue Peter the other day – they dedicated the whole show to a doodleathon, with all the kids drawing around me,” she laughs, evidently still overawed.

The unusual thing about Pichon’s wonder under the studio spotlights is that public appearances are hardly a rarity for the Brighton-based writer these days. A few days before our interview she went on BBC Breakfast and her Tom Gates series was the recipient of a string of compliments from David Walliams when the pair met backstage at a literary festival.

Now 11 Tom Gates books in, the latest being Tom Gates: DogZombies Rule (For Now), Pichon is arguably the UK’s biggest children’s author who doesn’t have any links with television. “If you look at all the people at the top of the book charts, they’re all very well established,” she says. “The other day I was called the ‘dark horse’ of children’s literature by the Bookseller.”

The key to Tom’s appeal, says his creator, is realism; Pichon tried to remember as much as possible about herself as a young girl to inject into her character. “I always think, ‘what would have I liked as a kid?’. Tom’s very similar to me at that age. He’s endlessly enthusiastic and wants to do very well all the time but is quite easily distracted. Kids jump from one subject to another all the time.”

Tom’s latest adventure sees him attempt to make his band DogZombies the biggest rock group in the world. This is a difficult task, obviously, and all the more so because his favourite ever band, Dude3, currently hold that mantle in Pichon’s universe.

The latter group will be performing at The Old Market on Sunday. Made up of professional, hired adult performers, Dude3 “don’t know what they’ve got themselves into” says Pichon. “Ever since I started writing these books I wanted to put a lot of creative things in it – hence why Tom is in a band and does art,” adds the author.

Having previously worked in the music industry designing record covers, Pichon enjoys making up lyrics and designing styles for the music collectives in her novels.

Her husband, Mark Flannery, is a producer and engineer who works at BIMM and has been in his fair share of bands over the years.

The logical thing to do with this shared interest in music, thought Pichon, was to channel it into the Tom Gates franchise. The book launch for DogZombies Rule was held at Abbey Road Studios – with Dude3 performing – and there is a Tom Gates album available for sale, along with an app. Flannery is somewhat of a tech wizard and designed software to help students break down and learn different parts of songs.

Tom Gates readers can do the same now and Pichon is thrilled by the idea that young people may learn music through her character. Musical highlights at The Old Market will include School Dinner Blues, a song Tom wrote about the pitfalls of canteen grub and Got to Let You Go, a Dude3 song about sacking their drummer.

Pichon is dyslexic and never dreamed that she would be able to make it as a writer. “Initially I worked an illustrator, doing lots of picture books which took long time to do. You have to be so meticulous about every single page, there is so much detail.

“Eventually I thought, ‘if I wrote my own books I could illustrate them too’. It was a good revelation to have had.”

The author moved to Brighton 17 years ago from London after growing tired of hearing glowing reports from friends based in the city. Going back further, though, she has a deeper connection to the region.

“I spent my childhood visiting Brighton, as my dad used to tour around the country selling sweets,” she says. “I’ve got really happy memories of swimming in the sea. When my kids were young, we then started to take them down here on days out. It got to the point where I felt sad whenever I left so I thought I should probably move.”

All the better for Brighton that she made that decision – not many cities can boast a multi-million-selling buzz author.

Liz Pichon: Brilliant Bands and Doodles Tour, The Old Market, Hove, Sunday, October 23, 5pm, £12, family of four £40, 01273 201801