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New book and a new baby! Busy times for Dermot O’Leary

We catch up with Dermot about his new book in the Toto The Ninja Cat series

This is Dermot’s fourth book in the Toto the Ninja Cat series and as ever it is packed with adventure, drama and humour.

Here in his own words Dermot gives SN members the scoop on his latest book.



Where did the inspiration come from for the new Toto book?
I’m a big history buff and I love my hometown of London – in a way the series is a love letter to London – so I wanted Toto’s next adventure to feature some iconic London settings, like The Tower of London. I used the story of Dick Whittington as a jumping off point with the legend of Old Tom’s Collar which becomes sacred in the animal world. Toto is on diplomatic duty giving the French cat ambassador a sightseeing tour of The Tower but when they get to the highlight of the visit, the animal world’s crown jewels (Tom’s collar), they discover its gone and Toto’s boss, Larry the 10 Downing Street cat, gets the blame. It’s a high stakes crime thriller!

I went on a tour of Hampstead with a great guide called Simon who told me all these little-known snippets of history which made it into the book. Don’t worry, I’ve thanked him in the acknowledgments!

I’m a big history buff and I love my hometown of London – in a way the series is a love letter to London

Can we expect more from Toto in the future?
I love writing books for children. I’m always having ideas for the adventures Toto and her sidekick Silver could have. I’m plotting the next adventure at the moment and will almost certainly set it outside of London and bring back my favourite baddie – Archduke Ferdicat…




Might a Toto movie be on the cards?
I hope so! Movie or a TV show. I can imagine exactly how it would look on screen, and I’d love to lend a hand in selecting the actors to voice. Stephen Fry would have to do Catface.


How did you come across Nick East?
I had a very particular idea of how Toto should look but I knew Nick was the right illustrator for the series as soon as the team at Hodder Children’s showed me his work. We met for lunch, and hit it off which was important to me. Nick spent a lot of time sketching the street where I live for the first book (which got the neighbours curtains’ twitching) as well as the cats. He’s just fantastic and has really brought the characters and settings to life. We get on really well and swap a lot of cat photos while we’re working on a new book!


What do your cats think of little Kasper?
When we brought Kasper home in his Moses basket, the cats just stared at him as if to say, ‘he’s ours now, right?’!

What have you learnt and discovered during lockdown?
I’ve learned to appreciate the little things in life – a walk in the park or a cup of coffee in the morning, reconnecting with nature. The world is not going to fall apart if you don’t get through your daily list. It’s important to just ‘be’ sometimes. I’ve always been into physical exercise but I’ve really appreciated how important it is during this period, especially for mental health.

I’ve learned to appreciate the little things in life – a walk in the park or a cup of coffee in the morning, reconnecting with nature.

Has being at home allowed you more time to write?
Not really because I’ve been carrying on with my Radio 2 show in a socially distanced studio so there’s been all the preparation to go with that. I was writing and editing a lot of the new book during the early part of lockdown and had to be disciplined to get down to it. I always write in the morning, 2 or 3 days a week, and then I set it aside and look again in the afternoon to see what I need to focus on the next morning.


Might X Factor still go ahead but without an audience?
It’s actually having a rest this year so we don’t need to worry about that problem.

Plans for the future?
Continuing my broadcast work and writing the Toto the Ninja Cat books.

Motto for life?
I like Toto’s moto, ‘Purrs, Paws and Claws’.

Illustrations (C) Nick East

Toto the Ninja Cat and the Mystery Jewel Thief by Dermot O’Leary (illustrated By Nick East) is out now in hardback from Hodder Children’s Books (Published 17th Sept)

Toto and her friends are due to be looking after the French ambassador on a day of sightseeing, finishing at the Tower of London to see the animal world’s crown jewels: a sacred diamond cat collar.

But when they arrive, the collar has disappeared – and what’s worse, it looks like Toto’s boss Larry is responsible, with Toto as his accomplice! Toto is almost arrested, but she escapes to try and get to the bottom of the mystery and clear her name.

She and her friends will have to follow some strange clues that will take them to a secret bookshop, Buckingham Palace and the rats’ underground city in the sewers… Can they defeat an unexpected villain and bring the thief to justice?

£9.99 Amazon

Dermot started his career on T4 for Channel 4 and has presented shows for both ITV and the BBC. His best-known work includes The X Factor, Big Brother’s Little Brother, Unicef’s Soccer Aid, BBC3’s First Time Voters Question Time, the RTS Award winning ‘Live from Space’ season and the Brit Awards.

Dermot presents a Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2, ‘Saturday Breakfast with Dermot O’Leary’. Previously in the Saturday afternoon slot, ‘The Dermot O’Leary Show’ won three Sony Radio Awards. The show is produced by Ora Et Labora, the production company Dermot co-founded in 2008.

Ora Et Labora also produces Rylan’s BBC Radio 2 show, a number of podcasts and the TV show ‘Reel Stories’, a BBC2 show looking back at iconic singers’ lives on screen. Dermot has interviewed Kylie Minogue, Noel Gallagher and Rod Stewart on the show so far, with more episodes planned.

A huge Ernest Shackleton fan, in 2019 he presented the ‘Explorers’ episode of the BBC’s ‘Icons: The Greatest Person of the 20th Century’. His interview-based podcast, ‘People, Just People’, launched with Audible in 2019 and featured interviews with guests including Stephen Graham, Ed Miliband and Eni Aluko.

Toto the Ninja Cat and the Mystery Jewel Thief is Dermot’s fourth children’s book. He lives in London with his wife Dee and son Kasper, their cats Socks and, of course, Toto.

You can find Dermot on Twitter and Instagram: @radioleary

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