Donovan Bixley has a tuft of wayward blonde hair that's standing vertical, and he's dressed in a T-shirt that he designed, with a black-and-white pussycat's face sewn on it.
But it's not just any old tom, it's Claude D'Bonair, the scarf-wearing Parisian pilot in the cat air corps, from his adventure book series Flying Furballs.
Bixley's flashed up on to our shared Zoom screen, sitting in his office.
Behind him are his piano, saxophone and a canvas of his own artwork.
Outside his windows are a camellia tree and a rhododendron, and a view of Lake Taupō and the mountains.
"Not that I look at them very often," he says with a boyish grin.
Daydreaming is a prerequisite for a children's author and illustrator, and Bixley, who turns 50 this year, has been doing a lot of it lately.
He's got some big news brewing and it's shaping up to change his life.
"I'm doing some work for Hollywood at the moment," he shares.
"Hoping to get one of my books turned into a movie or something."
He's hesitant to say which book, or share too much, but in short, he's been approached to have one of his chapter book series turned into an international, animated children's film.
On top of this, he's contributing artwork for two separate Hollywood productions but can't talk about them.
"When I was growing up, we were sort of brought up not to go on about stuff until it was absolutely certain."
His dad was a geothermal engineer, and, well, caution is important.
What he can say, is that he received an email at the end of last year from a "high powered Hollywood guy" who'd seen some of his books, thought they were cool and wanted to work on a film with him.
But believing it too far-fetched to be true, Bixley mistook the email for spam and pressed delete.
A couple of weeks later, the Hollywood big-timer sent a second email querying whether Bixley had got his first.
"I thought 'Oh, I better check out this guy', and it turns out he was really, well regarded."
Bixley, who's lived in Taupō most of his life, and has never been to the United States, says it was mind-boggling a Hollywood dream he'd had for years was being realised.
"I've been working with two of these incredible writers that have been working on Hollywood shows all over the place for decades.
"To have this high-powered team talk about your work like a really, serious thing (is amazing).
"It's just really rewarding to have such an intellectual and passionate discussion about children's books, which on the surface, or on the outside, can be considered a bit silly and meaningless."
He says this because he's modest.
The reality is he is one of very few children's writers and illustrators in New Zealand able to make a fulltime living off his work, and he's been achieving that for 11 years now.
Over 20 years, he's written and illustrated 120 books, which have been published in 18 languages in 31 countries.
He is the winner of numerous national and international awards, including being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in December.
The key to his success is not just that he is good, but that he is diverse, producing everything from books like The Wheels on the Bus to comics, and adult picture books on classical music composers.
More recent developments have been working in te reo Māori with a series on Māui.
Hollywood executives have commented they like the "themes and messages" he weaves into his work.
"That's what all good children's book writers want to do," says Bixley.
"You want to be, by stealth, putting through all these important messages hidden underneath a really, fun kind of story."
The dad of three girls visits hundreds of schools up and down the country inspiring children and says it helps that he spends a lot of time "being in the mindset of a kid".
"It's sort of being a professional 10-year-old with all the skills of an adult," he jokes, sharing that he recently had to "cut off" his dyed blue hair because he's playing conservative banker Harry Bright in the local Centre Stage Taupō production of Mamma Mia.
He also plays the saxophone and sings in three local jazz bands.
He's cut back on his day job significantly this year, saying the amount of work he's had to do to get to this point in his career, almost "broke me".
He recalls one year in which he produced 12 books.
"That was just mental.
"I'm sort of feeling like I'm almost on holiday after nearly 20 years of really, really knuckling down and working super-duper hard, and this year I'm only doing five books."
He's just finished one of them - The Great Kiwi Bedtime Book, for babies and toddlers, which will be released on June 10.
"(It's) something that I've wanted to do for about five or six years. I just had so much other work that it just never got done.
"And a baby book was ridiculously hard to write. It took me weeks to write it, even though it's only 150 words."
In December he released his third puzzle book The Good Old Looky Book, which takes a "looky" back in time to Aotearoa's past.
Two of the pages depict the Bay of Plenty's Pink and White Terraces, which were buried in a volcanic eruption more than 130 years ago.
Everything Bixley does is meticulous, and he often thinks in 3D, imagining how a scene would look if he came at it from all angles.
Wife Jo calls him a "perfectionist".
"(That pink terraces page) is a really great example, because you have to know the layout of the lake, and where the Pink Terraces were, even though it's only a picture book, and 0.01 per cent of people would know."
For The Great Kiwi Bedtime Book, he imagined taking a drone over New Zealand.
"The whole book is just a big continuous shot where you fly back over the hills, over the (Southern) Alps, come down the other side, and there are some whales in a Bay.
"Then you dive under the water, come back out, and there are some seals on the beach; and then you almost come back where you started the book.
"I think most of the time, I want to create a world that seems like it exists beyond the edge of the page, and it's a place that they're going to want to go back to again."
I think most of the time, I want to create a world that seems like it exists beyond the edge of the page, and it's a place that they're going to want to go back to again.
The book will also be released in te reo.
On top of that, he's writing a full-colour comic - a standalone, bonus edition to his Flying Furballs series; revisiting his award-winning Monkey Book, which has just gone out of print; and working on an adult picture book on Leonardo da Vinci, which will be completed this year.
It will be the culmination of a vision he had right at the very start of his career: picture biographies on Mozart, Shakespeare and Leonardo.
"I can't get enough of Leonardo. I've been working on this book for literally 20 years absorbing enough information to write it. You just feel like you'd never get to the point where you're qualified enough."
He never takes it for granted that his readers and publishers trust him with so much variety.
"No one says: 'You did The Wheels on the Bus. You're not allowed to do a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci'. People just let me do what I want to do."
Originally writing for the international market, the New Zealand aspect of his work is the majority of his bread and butter now, and he's grateful there's a demand.
"Even Australians aren't interested in books with a really strong New Zealand flavour.
"They're not going to take books about tūīs and pōhutukawa trees, even though we take all their books about kangaroos and koalas.
"It doesn't flow back the other way. So, if you want to get on the international market, you have to do something that will appeal to them."
And it seems Bixley has finally done that by default, with a Hollywood movie in the pipeline.
"It's just absolutely amazing, considering I live in Taupō ... I've always dreamed that someone would randomly ring me out of the blue.
"For someone to do a Zoom session with you from Hollywood, and say: 'Yeah, cool, we want to work with you', takes so many bits of luck and chance."
It seems eminently fitting that after so many years of imagining up crazy dreams for others, he finally gets to live his own.
• To see more of Donovan Bixley's work go to his website.