Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Interview with two mums/children`s book authors

Recently, I visited a primary school to read my Hollie and Figgs story. I met a lovely young girl there called Annie. She was taken by my story because there`s a character called Annie in it.
She was very proud to tell me that her mum`s an author too. Then Annie`s teacher went on to tell me about Annie`s mum, Lindsay and the Hattie B and Doodle Girl series of books she has written. 
I just had to get in touch with Lindsay after I heard about her and her books. Like me, she is a mum and her books are inspired by her children.
I managed to make contact with Lindsay and she was more than happy to be interviewed.
I got together some questions for her and her writing partner and friend Suzanne. It sounds like they have a great friendship and working relationship and bounce ideas off each other.
I also wanted to ask these ladies about their achievements and how they managed to get where they are now. I love the illustrations, especially Doodle girl by their illustrator Marnie Maurri. Now, these inspirational mums are bringing out some adorable merchandise. How great is that!

Lindsay and Suzanne

How many books have you written? Had published?
Over the past eight years, Suzanne and I have written many stories. However, published so far, we have between us, eleven titles on the shelf which we are immensely proud of our achievements.
Hattie B Magical Vet was our first series of books. We were the creators of this series of six titles and is translated into nine different languages and recorded as an audio book for the libraries under the pseudonym, Claire Taylor-Smith.
Doodle Girl was our second series of books which we are the authors. We teamed up with the fabulous illustrator, Marnie Maurri and were snapped up for a four-book deal.
Suzanne is the author of two beautiful bedtime lullaby books illustrated by Charlotte Cooke. ‘Littlest Dreamer, A Bedtime Journey’ and ‘Littlest Dreamer, A Bedtime Adventure’ which are stunning books which include bedtime reward stickers for the little ones.

Where did you get the inspiration from to write the stories?
Our inspiration comes from everything around us. Mainly our children but we never close our eyes and ears to any opportunity. Hattie B came from a game that my daughter, Harriet, used to play as a little girl. She loved her soft animal toys, and especially her toy horses. As she was so horse-mad, we had lots of unicorn and Pegasus toys. Harriet was always keen and still today, on becoming a vet when she was older. She would play for hours with her toys, wrapping them in toilet paper as bandages and sprinkle talcum powder over them as a fairy dust to make them better. As this was such a sweet little game, Suzanne and I asked ‘Where do poorly mythical creatures go when they are feeling unwell?’ Obviously, a magical vet! Our ideas then went from there.
Doodle Girl was seeing Marnie’s wonderful work on Facebook of the Doodle Girl character. We approached Marnie and asked if we could write the stories for her to illustrate. Fortunately, Marnie jumped at the chance and we are so excited about her future.
Littlest Dreamer came from a very personal reason and a family bereavement making these stories incredibly special.
The ideas that seem to work better for us, is when we have a personal connection.
You jointly write the books with Suzanne Smith. How did you meet?
Suzanne and myself have been friends for years. Our husbands are childhood buddies who grew up in the same village. It was when we were on maternity leave with our second babies that we found we had a combined creative streak. Our publishing path has taken many different routes, but a journey that we are enjoying greatly.
How do you share the work?
We work brilliantly together as we have a relationship that is very supportive but open. We work on our own stories and together dependent upon the project. However, we will always seek each other’s approval and advice before any work is submitted. This could see us working at the same desk or working from our homes and just keeping in contact via email. Communication is key. Having Suzanne working alongside me, makes for an often lonely authors world so much more enjoyable.
Have you got a favourite story (yours) and why?
My favourite story as a little girl was ‘Chicken Licken’. I could retell this story off the top of my head, as I made my mother read it over and over again. As I was growing up, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis, quickly became my escapism. The magic, the new world and the characters just grabbed me and never left.
A favourite story of our own would have to be ‘Hattie B Magical Vet, A Dragon’s Song’. It was such a lengthy process from idea to an actual book in our hands, with plenty sweat and tears in-between, and being our first ever book published, will always be special. Each of our stories, as I mentioned, all have a personal connection and mean different things for different reasons. 

How have you found the publishing process?
Very long….! It is a rollercoaster of emotions, from the excitement of a new idea, to getting the story right then comes the inevitable criticisms and often rejections to the jubilation of a yes. However, this is only the start of the journey. We have found it frustrating but very rewarding in the long run and the desire to publish more becomes very infectious.
Having our books published and on the shelves, was definitely not the end of the process. It is arduous work trying to drum up the interest of readers, schools and libraries. It was almost quite a shock that we still had most of the hard work to do once the books were out. The marketing budgets of even the largest of publishers are only really reserved for those books that will inevitably sell well as this makes good business sense. This could be for many reasons, a well-established author or illustrator or more recently, a celebrity! So, for people like Suzanne and myself, the promotions are very much down to us. However, our publishers are always on hand should we need any advice or support. Having a good relationship with your publisher makes the process so much more of an enjoyable process. 
Any advice to give to a new writer?
My advice to any writer is, stay true to your style and write what you believe in. Even though, some would look at our number of books and think we are very successful – it never seems to feel that way. I still struggle to acknowledge myself as a writer and always strive to do and be better. It’s a very long journey to publication, but a fabulous feeling. Never, ever give up! If it’s what you believe in, go for it!
Any pitfalls/ surprises you have experienced on your writing journey?
Pitfalls would have to be the timescales. It took three years from contract to a physical book on the shelf. This was after a delay in publication for twelve months – we were quite shocked when we were told of the delay – understood the reasons why – but it didn’t make it any easier to swallow.
Do you do your own marketing/promoting? If so how do you find it?
Yes, we do all of our own marketing which is a long and constant commitment. Schools are always the best arena to promote our books, but even trying to get into schools can be tricky. They have their own busy agendas and curriculums to fulfill and having an author in, albeit invaluable, can take up time from other subjects. However, a day in school is just amazing, seeing the children ignite their imaginations is always exciting. So often, we hear ‘I don’t have an imagination.’ Or, ‘I can’t write.’ Just offering a spark of creativity sees many of the children instilled with a love of reading, writing and the whole idea of using their imagination – just wonderful!
Our best social media forum for promotion is Facebook. We have a lovely following on our Mums Creative Content page but also an incredible fanbase on our Doodle Girl Adventures page. Our followers are incredibly supportive.
What are the best aspects of writing children`s storybooks?
The best aspect of writing for children, is the research. So, plenty of reading children’s books, watching Kids TV and films, playing the games on the consoles that are popular at the time. But more so, the escapism. Leaving reality behind to dance with fairies or grapple with a dragon, has to beat any job, right?!
Suzanne and I use our own children to test our new ideas, they are definitely our biggest critics and supporters. We love nothing more than challenging them with our ideas and seeing how they can interpret the thoughts. We have some very random conversations over the dinner table – but so much fun!
Where do you see yourself/ your books in 5 years time?
We have just begun a new approach with Doodle Girl and starting to add her to products. Our vision is for our designs and catchphrases to become licensed merchandise. We always saw Doodle Girl (as her name suggests) as doodling materials, like pencil cases, art boxes but also as her character has a very classy design and lends herself very beautifully for greetings cards, stationery and gifts for an older audience. Recently, we have just launched a few products on our Facebook page which have been in high demand and literally flying out the door which is fabulous.
Over the next five years, who knows what will happen. But it is our hope that Doodle Girl will become a brand in her own right with an agent to manage the license agreements. We have everything crossed!
How did you find the publishers you are with?
With Hattie B, we were attending the Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield (A huge recommendation for anyone in the children’s media business). There were various seminars taking place throughout the three-day conference, but one was ‘Meet the Commissioners’ for publishing. We thought we would go along and hear what they had to say. There were representatives from Walker Books, Nosey Crow and Penguin. The Publishing Director of Penguin ran out of time and invited people to speak in the cafĂ© bar after the session. The queue was huge, and we were right at the back. Anyhow, we waited patiently and was greeted by the lovely Eric Huang. We said, ‘We are working on this thing called ‘Harriet, the Mythical Vet’…’ and he stopped us, told us he loved it and was to send it to him by the end of the week. Being a Puffin author was something that we had only dreamed of, and this meeting was the gateway to making it a reality. It wasn’t quite as easy as just a two-minute conversation, but that’s where it started.

Off the back of Hattie B Magical Vet, we managed to secure an agent who then represented ‘Doodle Girl’ with Simon and Schuster on a four-title deal and ‘Littlest Dreamer’ for two books. We feel incredibly lucky, honoured that we are working with such high-profile publishers but moreover humbled to be amongst such fabulous authors.

Thank you to Lindsay and Suzanne for sharing their creative journey and publishing experiences with me. I wish them well and luck in their future plans.


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