Tea, teamwork and pets of all kinds

Welcome to a new year and an interview with a difference. Penny Reeve and Cecily Anne Paterson write The Pet Sitters series together as Ella Shine and it was my pleasure to chat with them both about why they write, how they came up with the series and some of the challenges involved in their creative collaboration.

Ella Shine LOVES pets of all kinds. She lives in Sydney, Australia with her three cats, four bunnies, parakeet, bearded dragon and an imaginary ant farm for company. When she’s not writing stories for children she can be found dreaming up adventures and hunting for the unexpected with at least one of her pets in tow!

When she’s not writing as Ella Shine, Penny writes as Penny Reeve or Penny Jaye and is the author of more than 20 books for children and older readers. She’s an experienced writing workshop leader, conference presenter and writing coach with a particular interest in equipping children’s writers. You can learn more about Penny at www.pennyjaye.com and www.pennyreeve.com

Award-winning novelist Cecily Anne Paterson writes ‘braveheart’ fiction for girls aged 9-14. She grew up in Pakistan where she went to boarding school in the Himalayan mountains, and now lives with her family on Sydney’s beautiful Northern Beaches. She’s a freelance editor and writer, an engaging speaker and presenter, a reluctant housekeeper, and an aspiring, but average cellist. See www.cecilypaterson.com

AUTHOR INSIGHTS

Why do you write?

Penny: Writing is how I explore ideas and issues, but I also love the joy and power of story and finding ways to communicate to an audience through words.

Cecily: It’s annoying, but I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion I’ve had my whole life since I was eight and sat down and wrote newspapers about what was going on in our family. (They weren’t very interesting.)

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

Penny: I’d probably be doing what I already do when I’m not writing: being a stay-at-home mum trying to find ways to make a living with my creativity. Or I’d find myself in a teaching role of some sort, but probably not full-time classroom teaching. I love working with kids.

Cecily: I have very inferior skills, but I’d like to be a full-time musician. Failing that, I wouldn’t mind running a fancy op shop. Being realistic, I suppose I’d probably settle down to being a teacher or working in administration.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

Penny: When I first started out, I struggled to find a publisher who published the genre I wrote in. Plus, my writing wasn’t that great. So I needed to improve my craft while at the same time getting creative about finding the right publisher.

Cecily: Same as Penny. Craft, creativity and finding ways to get past rejection. I was encouraged early on by an editor from Penguin Books who liked my first novel and suggested ways to make it better, so I rewrote it with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, they didn’t take it in the end, but it gave me some assurance that I wasn’t simply a deluded, talentless hack.

The Pet Sitters junior fiction series is a collaborative project. How did that come about?

Cecily: We were talking about children’s books, as we are prone to do, and one, particular, massively successful series for eight-year olds. I think I may have uttered the words, ‘We could write those,’ and the vision grew legs.

Penny: It was also a great project to have on the go during 2020 as it required us to work together and have a sense of writing connection even when many other writing opportunities were slowing down.

Walk us through the process, please. How did that work? Were there specific challenges?

Penny: We decided early on that we wanted to write the books together with both of us having equal creative input. We began with a planning day where we sat and drank tea and plotted the stories. Then we took turns to write the first draft chapters, using our plan as a guide. It was immensely fun but was also quite challenging, especially at the beginning as we have very different natural writing styles.

Cecily: To be fair, we drank a lot of tea. And even before we started on the story plans, we did a lot of work on intended audience, the length of the books, and the different elements we wanted to include. We created the characters in detail before they even set foot in a story. We also created the author character of ‘Ella Shine’. It seemed too cumbersome to have both our names on the front cover, so we made up something far more memorable. You can read more about us here: https://puddledogpress.com/about

How involved have you both been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the cover and illustrations?

Penny: Because we decided to independently publish these books, we took ownership of the entire project. This meant we needed to source and contract an illustrator for the project. Thankfully, Lisa Flanagan was interested, and her style really complements the stories.

Cecily: Penny and I are both honest enough to know where our talents and experience lie and there was a neat, natural division of labour in creating this series. It’s a great example of the  whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Working together, we’ve achieved more than we thought we could. (For example, Penny was smart enough to apply for government funding for audiobooks, which we received. Adding the amazing voice narration skills of Suzanne Ellis to the project has made it even better. Check out our audiobooks here. https://puddledogpress.com/pet-sitters-news/cot8kp5zvuay7fkq1m8ignczlzfeq5 )

What’s the best aspect of your writing life?

Penny: I love the creative stage of writing; the freedom of the first draft. But I also love the final product and being able to interact with students and readers when the book is finished. I suppose because audience is always my focus, I love seeing how people response to the books I write.

Cecily: Finishing. I get to the middle of a book and feel like poking my eyes out, it’s so hard. I like ending, and editing, and then later, reading what I wrote. (Also, I like fan mail. Especially the emails where they tell you that my books made them cry… in a good way.)

—the worst?

Penny: Rejections are never fun. One of my books (Our of the Cages) was rejected 11 times before it found a publisher, but it went on to win an award so the extra time and effort probably paid off.

Cecily: Yeah. Same as Penny. Rejection by publishers, and rejection by readers in the form of bad reviews. My skin is thickish, but it still hurts.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer?

Penny: I’d tell myself to relax and take my time, to learn as much as I could, but also to have realistic expectations. Being a writer in Australia is hard work and statistically doesn’t pay well. I’d probably also tell myself to go do a basic marketing course!

Cecily: I’d study genre, figure out what’s selling and write that! (Money to pay the bills does help in life…) Also, I’d work hard on my craft and join a critique group sooner than I did.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Penny: Don’t send your manuscript to all the publishers at the same time. Suzanne Gervay once said this to me after I admitted I admitted I’d sent my story to five publishers. She advised me to send out sparingly to allow time and space to rework in between. And she was right. I’ve been doing that ever since.

Cecily: I’m not sure if this was said to me, or if I made it up myself, but it’s this: you can’t expect most people around you to care about the books you write. Your audience is out there somewhere, but it probably isn’t your family or even your friends. If you live or die by the praise of the people immediately around you, you won’t keep living as a writer.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?

Penny: Learn, read and write. Never think you’ve learned or read everything you need to. We can always learn more both about our craft and the work of others. But at the same time, don’t stop writing!

Cecily: Start a blog. Write and publish something small every day. Read other people’s work and pull it apart. Why did they do it this way? What makes this good or bad? If you grew up reading anything written before the 1980s, know that writing has changed. You can’t write something in the style that you loved as a kid: it doesn’t work anymore. Get a handle on close third person point of view, or your work will never even get looked at.

How important is social media to you as an author?

Penny: Social media is probably quite important for authors, but I’ll admit it doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m active on Facebook but not on many other platforms as I find it too much to keep up with. For the Pet Sitters stories, we use Facebook quite a lot because it’s a useful took for interacting with our readers’ parents and teachers.  https://www.facebook.com/puddledogpress

Cecily:  Facebook = my alternate existence. Instagram = I do it because the cool kids are there. Linked In = boring, but I’m there because, you know… Twitter = runs screaming from the room. Everything else: I’m too old to know what it is or how to use it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it?

Penny: I very rarely experience the blank page writers block, but I do sometimes face the editing version of writers’ block where I don’t know what or how to improve my manuscript. If this happens I might go back to my planning stage, do some mind mapping on my characters or seek the advice of a trusted writing friend or writing ‘how-to’ book. I also try to get back to the fun, or the heart, of the project I’m working on as that seems to help break through the ‘stuck’ stage.

Cecily: Extremely rarely. If I’ve planned my story properly, I just write what’s in the plan. Occasionally I get scared of my characters and can’t write them. Sometimes I get discouraged and think, ‘this is rubbish, I’m rubbish, and no one is going to read it,’ but I force myself to write two thousand words anyway. I figure I can always fix it later. You can’t fix a blank page.

How do you deal with rejection?

Penny: I get really down, eat lots of chocolate, wonder why I’m writing and consider giving up altogether. But a couple of days later I pick myself up, remember how much I love the story I’ve been working on and get back to it!

Cecily: Chocolate.

In three words, how would you describe your writing?

Penny: I’d probably describe my writing as topical, relatable and fun. Ella Shine is possibly more playful and less serious than my other writing!

Cecily: Character-driven, dialogue-rich, lots of sub-text. Like Penny, Ella Shine is more light-hearted and fun than my usual middle grade and YA novels.

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?

Penny: I’d love to have a chat with Kate Dicamillo. I’d like to hear how she holds and weighs the hard parts of her writing with the lightness and hope of children’s literature. I’d be interested in it technically (her writing process) but also emotionally (how she processes the balance).

Cecily: I’d like to hang with a literary legend like Anne Tyler and find out if truly exceptional writing (the sort I get jealous of) can only happen for introverted, thoughtful, eccentric types who don’t have to keep ahead of the schedules of four children and who have someone else doing the washing and the cooking and the cleaning. Can you be a great writer/artist if you’re also a regular parent-at-home without long periods of reflection and solitude? It doesn’t seem to happen for me.

BOOK BYTE

Need a pet sitter? Cassie and Lina are the girls for the task… as long as Gus the talking cat can keep out of trouble!

Best friends Cassie and Lina would love to take a pet to the Pet Parade but it’s not possible… until they’re asked to pet sit Gus the cat next door. The girls might be ‘ready for anything’ but Gus isn’t quite the cat they were expecting.

Looking for an engaging, fun junior series with great values, gorgeous characters and hilarious action, with a sprinkling of the unexpected? Welcome to the Pet Sitters.

Pet Sitters Website: www.puddledogpress.com

Store site: https://puddledogpress.com/store

Meet the Creator: Adam Wallace

Today I get to know kids’ book creator Adam Wallace…and if there’s one word that describes him, it’s inspirational. Of course I could also add dynamic, energetic, funny, authentic, enthusiastic – no wonder he’s such a popular author guest at schools. Let’s find out a little about what makes this force for positivity tick.

Adam is a New York Times bestselling author who writes every single day, no exceptions. He plans to do that every day for the rest of his life, and he plans on living to 130! From self-publishing through to traditional publishing, Adam now has had over 80 books published, and has had his books read on the White House Lawn and in Kim and Kanye’s house!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? Being creative! I mean, we’re all creative, but it can easily get shut down amongst all the “life” stuff that goes on. I have been fortunate enough to carve a career out of being creative (ie making stuff up!), which means that the creativity I create gets to be seen by heaps of other people, which for me, is a main goal. I want to entertain and inspire as many people as I can, and my stories and videos can’t do that while sitting on my computer here in lovely Croydon!

—the worst? I am yet to experience that aspect of it, and hopefully never do. Just the words creative life, to me, speak of imagination and energy and aliveness, and I can’t think of a single thing that could be bad about a creative life. Seriously. When you’re living a creative life, you’re curious, and excited, and always looking for the next idea in all your experiences, so even something people (in general) may see as a bad thing, well, that could potentially be your next great story, so how can anything be bad?

Where do you draw the inspiration for your children’s books? Haha, oh boy, settle in and grab a cup of tea. Actually, don’t worry about it. It’s everywhere. I have had ideas for stories spring up from listening to a song, or seeing a kid play with their parents, or something someone has said, or a bird landing on a wire, or playing a game with my niece, or a publisher has said write about this thing, or I do or see or experience something.

Like, literally everywhere. Ideas are everywhere. This is the main reason I have never been scared of running out of ideas. How can we? We’re alive! There is always something happening, which means there is always something to write about!

Isn’t it awesome?

How has your childhood influenced you as an author/illustrator? In so many ways! Firstly, my grandmother was an amazing writer (and pianist and linguist), and we were always making up stories together.

Second, my step-dad was a teacher-librarian, and so our house was filled with books and he was always reading us stories in incredible voices and with amazing emotion.

Third, my mum ran her own business from the time I was one.

Fourth, I spent quite a good deal of time on my own, playing sports by myself, commentating, making up the games and results.

Fifth, I loved to read, and had so many incredible books influence me (although teachers weren’t always happy with the influence the horror books had on me … in primary school!)

Sixth, Dad took us to movies every second weekend, so I started to see, even if not consciously, how movies and stories worked, in terms of characters and structure.

Seventh, I nearly failed Year 12 English, and never thought I would write again, so a helluva lot of stories were bottled up inside me when I finally did sit down with pen and paper again.

How do you approach a new project? Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? I start writing. That’s it. I am not a planner at all at all, and especially if it is an idea that really strikes a chord with me and gets me excited, I sit and I write and I see what comes out. That is one of the most exciting times, those first words, seeing how the story starts (and that doesn’t mean the finished product will start that way), it’s started and the possibilities are endless from there.

Then I keep writing till either a first draft is done, or I realise it isn’t working. If the draft is done, well, then it’s time for read-throughs and edits.

If it isn’t working, it’s time to either get back and start again, using what I have already done but reconfiguring it. If that happens a few times, there are two choices.

One, I still have the energy and excitement around the idea/concept, and I will grind at it until it clicks and then I am away. This has happened with two stories I have in mind. For each of them, I struggled initially, doing four or five drafts of around 13,000 words, but it didn’t feel right to me. Then, suddenly, something clicked, and I was away, and I flew through it and now those are two of my all-time favourite books.

Two, I let it go. A story doesn’t have to be finished. We don’t need to cling to that idea, unless we are worried there won’t ever be another idea … and we know there will!

What are you working on at the moment? I am having so much fun at the moment! I am working on a picture book series that is currently 34 books long, with another to be written today.

I am also working on a new collection of short stories, Amazing Alien Adventures, which are being illustrated by the awesome Kat Rattray.

I just finished and sent off the first book in a new series, so edits will come in on that shortly, along with a couple of other stories with my editor.

I have revisited a picture book series I had done two books for, and I had ideas for another two, so I wrote down the titles of those yesterday and will start on those today as well.

And I am deciding on which course to film next for my online portal, Kid’s Book Creator Capital (thekbcc.com). It will be either creating a picture book, or self-publishing. Both will be done eventually, just deciding which one to do first. Picture book is currently winning!

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? What do you hope your audience will take away from your courses?

From my stories, I really hope people get entertained or inspired. And inspired can mean they are inspired to write their own story, or be inspired to be themselves, or go for a goal, whatever.

And just for them to feel joyous emotions, be that laughter, inspiration, connection, hope, possibility, whatever.

And for kids, as well as all those things, for them to be excited about books and reading and writing and drawing and creating. For them to be energised about themselves and what they are reading, and what is possible for them.

With the courses, I guess the main thing is for people to see that it’s possible. That things we think seem out of reach or that we are told can’t be done are possible! Whether that’s making an income doing something we love, or reaching goals, or moving past limits we have imposed on ourselves, it is possible!  If we break it down, if we see that someone else has done it, if we can use their blueprint, their framework, then we can make amazing things happen.

These courses are taking my 20 years and distilling it into three or four hours, so that people can get to where I am way faster than I did it.

And it’s breaking it down into little steps, which make it seem so much more achievable. It’s the same when I teach drawing to kids. People who never thought they could draw suddenly realise it’s way easier than they ever imagined. A line here. A circle there. A tweak here. A curve there, and we have a character … a character they can then expand on and develop, because now they have the confidence they are able to do it, so the walls are down. And now the only limit is their imagination and curiosity, because they aren’t working from a place of fear or lack that they can’t do it.

Is there any area of art or writing that you still find challenging? One of the main things is getting seen amongst all the noise, whether that be other books or just that whole life thing again!

But even in that is an opportunity! With so many books, and so much noise/social media/everything else, that means people are looking, always looking, and that means you can be seen!

Other than that, really, it’s deciding on which of the ideas is the one that is going to get me the most pumped, narrowing it down to that and then doing it.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Haha my writing probably sucked a bit … hence the 150 rejections over eight years!

In saying that though, I had a few books that were rejected well over 10 times each that went on to sell a lot and do really well, and kids loved them … so one of the obstacles is time and place. Maybe those books weren’t ready to be done right then, and maybe it took me seeing what I did in them to then self-publish them and get them out there with my passion.

So, in a way, it’s hard to say what the obstacle really was. I don’t know why most of those stories were rejected. I often didn’t get feedback on why. My guess is they either weren’t good enough, they weren’t to the publisher’s taste, or they didn’t fit the list at that time.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an author/illustrator? I would get out there more, and I don’t mean with my books, I mean with myself! As a rejected author, and then a self-published author, I didn’t feel like I belonged in the children’s book world. I felt like doing it the way I was doing it made me less worthy than those people who were being published by publishers.

I also was determined to prove I could do it on my own.

Then when I finally got the guts to get into the community, I discovered a world of the most amazing, supportive, encouraging people ever. And that is from the very, very top down. I had some of the most famous authors and illustrators in Australia talk with me for hours, discussing books and passing on advice and ideas.

I was made to feel welcome immediately, I was made to feel worthy, and from that moment on both my writing and my career went to a new level.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become a children’s book creator? Well, following on from the previous question, to get out there. Go to book launches and conferences and retreats and talks and festivals and mingle and play and meet these amazing people who do what I love to do, and do it at a level I want to be at.

It’s interesting, my first instinct was to say I wish I’d been told it was possible, that we can make a living out of children’s books, and that is definitely something I want to pass on to kids’ book creators … but at the same time, being told I couldn’t do it, that it wasn’t possible, made me so incredibly determined to prove it was that it is one of the main reasons I have made it to where I am today.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Two things.

  1. Get your work as good as you possibly can. Everything else will flow from that. Work and work and work and work on your craft, so that when the opportunities arise, you will be ready.
  2. Get the schools, teachers and children onside, and everything else will flow from that. Focus on them, not on the bookstores. Not that bookstores aren’t important, they are, incredibly so, but if you have kids and teachers raving about you and your books, and if you can get in front of those kids face to face so they love you as well as your books, then you are on a winner.
  3. Actually, there’s three. When I had started going well, I was told, “This is when you have to lift your game even more. This is when you have to get even better.” It was great advice a), so I didn’t rest on my laurels and get comfortable and slacken off, and b) because I had an audience and I had expectations, and that is both from readers and publishers. And you always have to keep growing, as a creator and as a person, because if you aren’t growing and flowing, you’re stagnant. And stagnant water stinks.

What’s your top tip for aspiring author/illustrators? Those three things are huge, but I think the working on your craft is the biggest thing. Getting out there and meeting the community and kids and all of that means nothing if your work doesn’t follow through on the promise you as a person, a personality, are putting out there.

Second top tip is write what you love. Don’t worry about what’s hot in the industry, or what people tell you to write. Write what you love, that is how you will find your authentic voice, and that is what kids (especially) will respond to most of all.

And, if you are writing for kids, write for kids! They are the most amazing human beings. They are open and willing to go on a journey with you, but only if what you write connects with them on their level or above. Find out what kids love, what they respond to, what energises them. Sometimes there are beautiful, amazing picture books, like, just incredible … but are they for kids? Will they give kids an incredible sense of enjoyment and excitement around reading, and make them want to read more? When you can connect with that, when you can find that magic pill, that’s when you will soar.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why? Oh boy … definitely someone who smelled amazing! Okay, so I am going to go for someone I have never met, although some of them do smell amazing.

So, if Drew Barrymore wasn’t available to be stuck in the lift with me, I would go for Will Smith or Tony Robbins. Definitely. Drew Barrymore not only as an actor, but also as someone who has such determination and skill and ability to reinvent and be awesome. Will Smith because he inspires me with his philosophies on life, and also his incredible energy. And Tony Robbins because I just find him fascinating, and would want to draw out as much knowledge from him as I possibly could, and go deeper than I have been able to so far, from the conferences and videos I have been to and watched.

Can I have all three? We would all fit, for sure!

Of course, Adam. It would make for the most interesting conversation. I’ll have to join you and listen in!

You can find out more about Adam on the following links:

Website: http://www.adam-wallace-books.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adamwallacebooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wallysbooks

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/adamwallace2016/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/awallace100

COURSE REVIEW

 

 

Kid’s Book Creator Capital

School Visits 101

School Visits 101 promised to tell me everything I need to know about inspiring kids in schools and I wasn’t disappointed. Even after many years of presenting author talks and workshops to all age groups from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, there was much for me to take away from this comprehensive video course presented by a master of inspiration. It will be invaluable for anyone just starting out as a kidlit creator keen to spark children’s imaginations via school visits.

Best-selling author and experienced presenter Adam Wallace delivers the course in imitable style. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious so it’s no surprise he is such a popular visitor to schools. Students exposed to such a dynamic creative boost can’t help but respond. Authors and illustrators who complete this course are sure to be similarly inspired as Wallace walks participants through the series of units in the course.

Drawing on his experience gained during more than 15 years and 500+ school visits, he shares advice on how to get bookings, what to charge, how many sessions to run per day, using technology, session content, keeping kids in line and organising book sales. A step by step guide to creating your own school visit is a highlight of the course, which also includes homework and downloadable resources. Throughout, Adam emphasises the importance of authenticity when presenting in schools. His essential message is “Be you” because everyone has something unique to offer.

Four courses are currently available on the Kid’s Book Creator Capital website, with more on the way. Check them out at https://thekbcc.com

Review by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

 

 

Meet the Creators: Bedtime Daddy

It takes a team to create a picture book and today it’s my pleasure to introduce the author and illustrator of Bedtime, Daddy! This quirky look at the nightly bedtime routine is sure to become a family favourite. First, a little about author Sharon Giltrow and illustrator Katrin Dreiling…

Sharon grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. When not writing, Sharon works with children with Developmental Language Disorder. Sharon was awarded the Paper Bird Fellowship in 2019. Her debut PB Bedtime, Daddy! was released in May 2020 through EK Books.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/sharon_giltrow

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sharongiltrow1/?hl=en

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sharongiltrowwriter/

Katrin is a German-born language teacher but moved to Australia with her husband and three children and became an illustrator.

Katrin creates quirky illustrations that feature different media. Her first picture book The World’s Worst Pirate by Michelle Worthington has been awarded Notable Book 2018 by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and she also delivered illustrations for a highly successful video animation production on YouTube.

Katrin was awarded the Harper Collins Illustrators Showcase Award 2019 at the biannual SCBWI conference in Sydney. She is represented by Essie White at Storm Literary Agency.

Katrin also teaches art to children twice a week and conducts illustration workshops for both adults and children. She also loves to spend time with her family, writing quirky stories and walking her Golden Retriever Loki.

https://www.katrindreiling.com/

https://www.instagram.com/katrinartworks/

Congratulations to you both on the release of this fun story about bedtime. Sharon, I’m guessing the story was inspired by your own parenting experiences. Tell us a little about your writing process and how the story came to be published.

My story Bedtime, Daddy! is based on my real-life parenting experiences and my inspiration for writing came from my family. All the excuses that little bear uses are excuses my children have used to postpone bedtime over the past 13 years.

My writing process starts with me brainstorming the idea, researching the idea, mapping out the narrative ARC then writing the first draft. After I am happy with the first draft, I send it off to my critique group. Once everyone has critiqued the story, I take everyone’s suggestions, go through them page by page and comment by comment and then incorporate the ones that ring true. Then I let the story sit for a couple of months, then re-visit, revise it again, work out page turns and when I am happy submit it to publishers.

For Bedtime, Daddy! I wrote the first draft in June 2017. After numerous revisions I submitted the story to EK Books in June 2018. I received an email from two weeks later and signed the publishing deal two months later. EK Books asked Katrin Dreiling to illustrate the book.

Katrin, what was your response on first reading Sharon’s manuscript? Did the story immediately conjure images for you? Please share a little about your process in illustrating the book. How collaborative was it?

Thank you for having me, Teena! When I first read Sharon’s manuscript I had so much fun and straight away the feeling this would be a great project. I am a mum of three teenagers who never enjoyed and never will enjoy going to bed and still find every excuse in the book to avoid it so the theme definitely hit home. Hence I put a lot of my children’s face expressions and body language when they were little into the illustrating process.

Sharon, has the book been illustrated the way you envisioned it would be when you wrote it?

That is a very interesting question. When I wrote my book, I pictured the characters as people. A daddy and a child, although I hadn’t pictured the child as a boy or a girl. EK Books asked Katrin to illustrate people as well as bears for the characters and they shared Katrin’s illustrations with me. I was still picturing the characters as people, however the very wise Anouska Jones, EK Books editor, suggested that we go with the bear characters as they would have more worldwide appeal. I trusted Anouska as she had a lot more publishing experience than me. So, the characters are bears and they are perfect and I love them dearly.

Do you have a favourite part of Bedtime Daddy?

S. This is a very hard question as I have many favourite parts, but if I had to choose just one it would be the part where Daddy bear is wearing his favourite dinosaur pyjamas on his head.

K. I think I like the part where Little Bear puts Daddy to bed the first time and gives him a kiss best because to me it symbolises little children’s sweet determination and innocence when they copy grown up behavior and try to be responsible parents. It’s a beautiful age.

What do you hope readers will take away from the experience of reading this book?

S. That children and parents will enjoy the book as they laugh together over the antics of cheeky daddy bear going to bed.

K. For parents it will be nice to be reaffirmed that this bedtime pattern is universal and maybe something to embrace rather than dreaded? Kids grow up so quickly but that’s easy to forget when you are busy and tired. For kids it will be pure fun to see Daddy being put in a child’s position – what can be better? 😊

Where do you find your creative inspiration?

S. My creative inspiration comes from real life and reading picture books.

K. I work a lot with children when I give art classes or spend time with my own kids and I am always amazed at their own unique creativity. Other than that I love to look at other illustrators’ work and find inspiration.

 How has your childhood influenced you as a children’s books creator?

S. My love of books as a child influenced my love of writing.

K. Growing up in Germany, you spend a lot of time indoors especially during the colder months. I listened to many audio plays during that time and would just draw and paint whatever and however I wanted. There were no rules and I felt free in mind and on paper.

 What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

S. Finding a publisher that loved Bedtime, Daddy! and believed in the story as much as I did.

K. Probably realising that I need to be more patient and that these things rarely happen overnight.

What’s the best aspect of your creative life?

S. Creating something out of an idea. Taking an idea and making it into a story. Turning a blank page into a story. Sharing that story with other writers and readers.

K. I work from home in a lovely, small studio guarded by my massive dog and I can schedule my day exactly like I want it. I also love to be able to express myself creatively and hopefully touch children’s lives with my work.

 —the worst?

S. Wondering if publishers are going to publish it and then if readers are going to enjoy it.

K. An increasingly high chocolate consumption…

 What would you do differently if you were starting out now in this industry? What do you wish you’d known?

S. Try and picture how the story is going to look and read as a book.

K. I’d definitely be more patient. I think…I hope…

 What’s the best advice you were ever given?

S. Just write! Get that first draft down on paper. Also read lots of books.

K. A good friend of mine who also happens to be a very successful illustrator once told me to keep busy and not to think about the getting published aspect too much. It will happen – that is ultimately true because you are honing your craft this way minus the worrying.

 What’s your top tip for aspiring children’s books creators?

S. Make time to write. Even if it is just for 15 minutes at a time. Use what time you have and write.

K. Keep busy 😊

How important is social media to you?

S. Social media is very important to me. It has allowed me to reach out to readers and other writers from all around the world.

K. It is very important and resulted in several contracts for me. It can be a bit distracting or just plain “too much” sometimes and that’s usually when I take a break or keep a bit more quiet. I try to keep it always running in the background, though.

 Is there a favourite childhood book that has influenced you creatively?

S. Are You My Mother? By PD Eastman I read and re-read it as a child over and over again.

K. Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking with the fabulous ink illustrations by Rolf Rettich in the 1987 edition.

BOOK BYTE

Bedtime, Daddy!

Written by Sharon Giltrow

Illustrated by Katrin Dreiling

Putting Daddy to bed can be hard work. Especially when he starts crying! This story will show you how to wrestle your daddy into his pyjamas and read just one more bedtime story. ‘I’m thirrrrrrrrssssssty,’ says Daddy. ‘I need to poop … I’m hungry … But I’ll miss you,’ he says, while he looks at you with cutie eyes. You’ll have to battle the bedtime excuses and use go-away monster spray until Daddy finally goes to sleep. Bedtime can be a mission for many, but with these gorgeous illustrations of a little bear and his dad, this is the perfect role-reversal bedtime story to help put any fussy child to bed in a fun and positive way. Full of heart and humour, Bedtime, Daddy! is for anyone who wants to try and put a grown-up to bed.

Buy the book here.