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March 4, 2024

Member Spotlight: Peter Cheong

We are thrilled to share our March Member Spotlight features Peter Cheong! Peter was recently recognised on the 2024 CBCA Notables list for his book Every Night at Midnight!

Peter Cheong is the illustrator of I’m a Hero Too, Nothing Alike and the Pow Pow Pig series. Every Night at Midnight is his first book as both author and illustrator. Peter unfortunately cannot turn into a wolf himself but is still trying.

Peter lives in Perth (Whadjuk Region), Western Australia, with his very understanding wife and son and less understanding cat.

He is currently working on his second author/illustrated book, Where We Can Hear the Giants Sing, which will be released later this year.

What inspired you to begin an illustrating and writing career?

As I’m sure many others would say, other people’s books! When I was younger my mum would take me to Riverton library every other week. I’d rush over to the kid’s section and methodically examine the aisles, any new Animorphs books or Andy Griffiths titles would go into my pile. Once I had maxed out my library card limit, I’d take my stack of various books, audiobooks and graphic novels, and go sit in one of the big soft chairs that looked like giant hands. With my treasure pile safely secured beside me, I would try to read as many more books off the shelves as I could before we had to go. These library visits make up some of the core memories of my childhood.

Having been an avid drawer all through my youth, I thought being an illustrator would be the coolest job ever. But I, and my parents (mostly my parents), didn’t think that it was a viable career option. So, after I finished school, I applied for what I thought would be the second coolest job ever, and joined the Australian Army as a Rifleman.

While I was in the Army I did a seven month tour in Afghanistan. After that, I realised I wanted a job that I actually enjoyed. So after my four years were up, I left, and went to UniSA and got a communication design degree, with a focus in illustration. So you could probably say ‘the Army’ was another factor for actually pursuing this career.

I knew I wanted to focus on children’s books. But my skill level straight out of University was not there yet. I had been getting rejection after rejection (with a lot of no-responses in-between). But I kept grinding away, getting odd illustration jobs, helpful critiques (thanks Sarah Davis) and improving my portfolio… until! Publishers started getting back to me saying they would keep me in mind for a book!

The first book I got to illustrate was I’m a Hero Too by Jamila Rizvi. Which led to the Pow Pow Pig series by Anh Do, which I’m still illustrating now. I’ve also been lucky enough illustrate: Nothing Alike by Zewlan Moor and ‘other books’ which haven’t been announced yet.

As for my author journey, I had been writing and making my own picture book dummies well before my first illustration offer. The first one I made was Every Night at Midnight. After I workshopped it with my agent (The incredible Paige Terlip) and we went out on submission, we got a ‘Revise and Resubmit’ which turned into an offer. It was one of the happiest days of my life. My second author-illustrated book, Where We Can Hear the Giants Sing, will be released at the end of this year.

I am so grateful for all the people who have allowed me to make books and keep making books. If you told my younger self what he would be doing now, he would have fallen out of his giant hand chair.

What does it mean for you to have your book, Every Night at Midnight, recognised on the 2024 CBCA Notables list?

Awards aren’t everything, but they do carry weight. And this one in particular is quite Thicc. When I saw a CBCA sticker on books in the library aisle, I knew that I was guaranteed a quality read. I knew Every Night at Midnight would be eligible this year. The book has a lot of meaning to me and, with it also being my debut, I really really hoped it would make it. I didn’t actually expect it to make the list though. When my title came on screen I screamed.

It’s kind of crazy to me that my book has been acknowledged as one of the most outstanding Picture Books this year. And not just for illustration, but for writing as well! I’m still riding that high. Every Night at Midnight is about a little boy just trying to find out a place where he belongs until, finally, he finds it right in front of him. The book community is where that place is for me. I will be forever grateful to the CBCA judges for giving me this honour. 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I wish I knew how to draw! I wish I had started writing and drawing seriously sooner. Learning how to draw takes so long, and there’s always so much more to learn. 

I’m still very early in my career so there’s nothing else major that comes to mind. Ask me again in 15 years and I’ll probably have a list several pages long.

Something I’m glad I didn’t know was how very hard it is to succeed in the book industry. I knew it was difficult, of course, but this career is an absolute marathon of hurdles.

Which Australian authors/illustrators have been influential for you?

Early influences include: Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton and Paul Jennings. There’s many more, but these three jump to mind first. I love the way they use humour and portray character. There is a delicious way they tell stories that I’m still trying to grasp and use in my own work.

For creators that have influenced me more recently: I really admire Shaun Tan and Rovina Cai’s work. They are also Asian-Australian, so that gave me hope that I could do it too. Also shout out to Anton Emdin who was my art director for the Pow Pow Pig series. His critiques and draw overs of my work has been invaluable. And lastly, of course, all of my friends in SCBWI! They are a constant source of inspiration and influence to me.

Why do you think it’s important to be a member of the ASA?

So it was actually because of SCBWI that I found out about (and joined) the ASA (Thanks Frané Lessac). The ASA is so important! They advocate for our rights! I personally really appreciate the Rates of Pay for school and library visits. It’s so convenient to say ‘I charge ASA rates’ and, because it’s the ASA, all the schools and libraries are familiar with it. Hassle free! 

There’s a whole lot more that you can do with a membership which I haven’t even made use of yet. But I’m always down to support Australian Author and Illustrator rights. It’s hard enough as it is. I really appreciate what the ASA does for us.

Also, if you’re lucky you get free books! I won an Affirm Press Prize pack when I renewed my membership last year .


Find out more about Peter Cheong at