It’s always an occasion for celebration when a new book is sent out into the world and today it’s my pleasure to introduce Kate Simpson, whose picture book Finding Granny is set to touch the hearts of young readers and their families. Kate’s doing a Blog Tour this week and full details follow our chat…
Kate is a picture book author and co-host of the children’s book podcast One More Page. Kate’s debut picture book Finding Granny, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones, tells the story of a small girl whose world is turned on its head when her beloved grandmother suffers a stroke. As well as being an author, Kate is also one third of the children’s book podcast One More Page, which features guest interviews, book reviews and giveaways, as well as a kid-centric segment called Kids Capers. Find out more about Kate at www.katesimpsonbooks.com.
Why do you write? I write because I love it. I didn’t discover writing until I was in my thirties, but now that I’ve found it, I wouldn’t be without it. I’m going to go a little bit Jerry Maguire and say that it completes me.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Well, from a financial point of view, writing is definitely the smallest part of what I do. I trained as a chemical engineer and in my day job I supervise asset upgrade works at two water treatment plants and a water recycling plant south of Sydney.
I guess if I wasn’t a writer as well as an engineer, I’d watch a whole lot more TV, sleep more and perhaps find more time to catch up with friends. But it’s all worth it!
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was quite fortunate in that my first manuscript got picked up relatively quickly. By that, I don’t mean overnight, and I don’t mean the first manuscript I ever wrote, but within a few years of starting this writing gig, I was lucky enough to have Finding Granny selected for publication.
Aside from good luck, the main thing that I think takes the credit for this is my fantastic critique group, who not only helped me get my manuscripts into shape but also gave me great tips about how to work towards publication.
How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had a reasonable amount of involvement. This is my first published book and from talking to other writers, I had the impression that I would have virtually no input into the selection of illustrator and into the content of the illustrations, but in fact the publisher did consult me. I had an opportunity to provide my opinion on the choice of illustrator and to provide feedback on the roughs. I understand that illustrating is the illustrator’s job, not mine, so I hope Gwynne would agree that I wasn’t completely diva-ish about what I wanted to see in the illustrations.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I suppose the creative satisfaction. I just love the feeling when you’re trying to achieve something on the page and it just sort of clicks. As the A-Team would say: I love it when a plan comes together!
—the worst? Fitting it in. I’m finding it harder and harder to find time to write around the other commitments in my life. I would love to have just a day a week to dedicate to my writing, but alas, it’s not to be (at least at the moment).
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t think I’d do anything differently. The single best decision I made when I was starting out was to join my wonderful critique group at the NSW Writers’ Centre, and they have made everything easier and taught me a packet, as well as becoming my tribe.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told when I was seven years old that this was even possible. I’ve always loved books but I thought that I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t have any ideas. The thing I’ve learned is that for many of us, ideas don’t just fall from the sky. We need to go searching for them, cultivate them and sometimes just get out a bit of butcher’s paper and some permanent markers and brainstorm them! If anyone is struggling with story ideas, I’d strongly suggest trying Tara Lazar’s Storystorm, a month-long brainstorming challenge held in January, with the goal of coming up with 30 story ideas in 31 days. When you stop trying to find the perfect idea and just focus on coming up with as many ideas as you can, it’s amazing how the creative juices start flowing and how many of the ideas you have turn out to be real gems. There’s a wonderful quote from Linus Pauling that really sums this up: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”
What’s the best advice you were ever given? This is a long game. It’s unlikely to happen overnight and even if it does, it’s unlikely to make you a fortune or even allow you to quit your day job. You must be doing it because you love it. There is no other rational reason.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Well, I’ve probably made it clear already that my top tip is to join a critique group (preferably an awesome one, like the one I was fortunate enough to join). But since I’ve more or less covered that, I’ll add a second one: Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to other people. This is pretty basic life advice but it goes double for authors. Writing is not always a meritocracy. There is a lot of luck involved in whose work gets published and, once published, in whose work gets noticed. If news stories about overnight successes get you inspired, then by all means pay attention, but if you find yourself turning green with envy, it’s time to switch to another channel.
How important is social media to you as an author? I’m going to be honest and say I don’t know. Everyone advises you to have a strong social media presence and I do have a Twitter profile as an author and an author Facebook page, as well as a podcast, but as to how all that helps you to progress your career, I really don’t know. The one thing I do love is the wonderful writing community I’ve found through social media. Groups like Just Write for Kids and Jen Storer’s The Duck Pond are fantastic for creating a virtual tribe who understand what you’re doing and are interested in hearing you yabber on about kids’ books non-stop. Twitter can feel like a pretty negative place sometimes, but post a good news story about winning a writing competition or finishing a manuscript or having a book coming out, and watch how happy people are to celebrate with you.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I absolutely experience writer’s block. More often than not when I sit down to write I really struggle to get the words flowing. One thing that I find often works for me to overcome this is to sit down with a pile of books that I love and that are in a similar vein to what I’m trying to write and I read a whole bunch of them in a row so that I am filled with the emotion that I’m trying to create on the page. Reading books I love also reminds me of why I love to write and gets me excited about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
How do you deal with rejection? With difficulty. Look, nobody likes rejection, right? But to be honest, I actually find the fear of rejection often to be worse than the rejection itself. The fear is what puts me off submitting my manuscripts, or even showing them to people whose opinion I respect.
One thing that I find helpful in dealing with rejections is to go on Amazon or Goodreads, find one of my favourite books and read the one-star reviews for that book. Even awesome books are not for everyone.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? Varied, emotive, intimate.
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? It’s funny you should ask. I’m lucky enough to have this opportunity roughly once a month on my children’s book podcast One More Page. I started working on One More Page almost a year ago with friends and fellow kidlit lovers Nat Amoore and Liz Ledden and since then I’ve had the privilege of knocking on doors and asking people if they would be willing to be interviewed for the podcast. Mostly, this is just an excuse for me to sit down and chat to some really awesome people about their books, craft and all the side stuff that goes along with writing. We’ve been on air since February and in that time I’ve interviewed authors, illustrators, editors and publishers including Jess Walton, Leigh Hobbs, Sue Whiting, Nicky Johnston and Anna McFarlane. It’s a dream come true!
When Edie’s beloved Granny suffers a stroke, Edie feels as if she’s lost her – but the Granny she loves is still there. Finding Granny is a heart-warming story of changing relationships and the bond between children and grandparents. It’s also a sensitive exploration of coping with illness and disability that will offer children much-needed comfort.
You can purchase Finding Granny at https://www.booktopia.com.au/finding-granny-kate-simpson/prod9781925335699.html
Sunday July 1 – Saturday July 7 www.justkidslit.com/blog
Monday July 2 sharingyourstory.com.au
Tuesday July 3 intheirownwrite.wordpress.com
Wednesday July 4 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au
Thursday July 5 readingtime.com.au
Friday July 6 brydiewright.com
Saturday July 7 whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.com.au
For all enquiries to Books On Tour @ www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour.