Saturday, 28 March 2020

Author Interview with Joan Haig - Tiger Skin Rug - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books


Welcome to the amazing interview with debut author Joan Haig. Her book, Tiger Skin Rug, was published in January by (Pokey Hat Children's Books) Cranachan Publishing. It takes readers on a magical journey from a Scottish village to an Indian mountain and from the back streets of London to the palaces and sewers of Mumbai. The story brilliantly explores the power of legends whilst also focusing on themes such as families, friendship and forgiveness. 

The following interview considers the origins and the inspirations behind this incredible story. You'll also get an opportunity to find out more about the author's life. It is hoped that this will encourage you to read and purchase this wonderful book. If you would like to support an Independent Publisher and Debut Author then please follow this LINK

We hope you enjoy!
Fly into the night. What adventure can we expect when we start to read Tiger Skin Rug?
A wild one! The children – brothers Lal and Dilip and their new friend Jenny – set out to help keep an old promise. Their adventure features the London underground, Coventry backstreets and Mumbai rooftops. There’s also a riddle, a street fight, and a villain… and a magical tiger.
The book has a cultural feeling with settings in England, Scotland, and India. How did you make these different places work together to make the plot feel grounded and realistic?
The children visit the sites they do for reasons specific to the plot, but also because I wrote about places and cultures I know. I moved to Scotland from a warm climate when I was a young girl. Lal’s first impressions of the country (and of Coventry and London) are not dissimilar to my own. Similarly, I needed Lal to see things about India that he might not have noticed when he’d lived there – I drew on memories, letters and diaries from living in India as a teenager. In some ways, the different settings work together to show that you can find the familiar in unfamiliar places.
Is there a message in the book you would like readers to connect with?
Most of all, I would like readers to enjoy the adventure. If by the end they’ve gained a connection to one of the characters, paused to reflect on the tiger’s narrative, or are moved by the way the story resolves, I’d be tickled pink. I don’t expect all readers will connect with the same message, though; in my debut-author dreamworld, readers return and see something new each time.
What/who inspired you to write this book?
My Auntie Lilian, the best storyteller in all the lands. She was always going to write about a mysterious tiger skin rug. Her story was stolen by dementia before she told it to anyone. In 2015 after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, I retreated to Moniack Mhor for a creative writing course; I wanted to write something for my children, who inspire me every day. Auntie Lilian’s story (or its kernel) was stolen again – this time, by me.
What ingredients do you think makes a great book for children but will also be loved by adults?
Ooh, tricky Q. I don’t know if there are any set ingredients, but the right kind of humour is great if you have it to hand. There’s the humour that works on two different levels, but for me the best kind provokes genuine laughter on the same level for everyone. Another ingredient is relatability – in a good book, readers will relate to characters as they do to real-life people, and that isn’t always determined by age. Characters needn't even be the same species. (I’m thinking here of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, or my other five-star rodent read, The World According to Humphrey.) And, of course, sometimes the magic ingredient is... magic (1 tbsp or thereabouts, sprinkled lightly).
Do you think reading for pleasure helps you become the author you are?
I can only speak for myself, but yes. Reading for pleasure has made me the person I am. My childhood in Zambia included packages from Scotland of ‘Storyteller’ audio cassette tapes with read-along magazines; I boarded a flight to India after reading Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy as a teenager; Graham Greene and a posse of poets let me cry on their shoulders throughout university; and a friend who knows me well brought Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle to my hospital bedside. I like to read new books, and widely, but I think it’s been helpful to me as a writer to examine what it is that has made those old favourites stick.
We love the book cover for Tiger Skin Rug. Do you think the book cover plays an important part? 
Very much so – it makes the book stand out before anyone’s even opened it, and it looks awesome on the tables of well-known bookshops 😉 It won the 2019 #BookCoverWars against some seriously tough competition. What makes this contest extra special is that it is open to all. My small Scottish publisher got to compete with its top-notch cover work against some giants in the world of children’s literature. Small publishers are usually priced out of contests; we’re hugely grateful for the inclusivity of the #BookCoverWars. (P.S. The tiger's eyes shine!)
You are taking part in the WriteMentor summer program. Would you like to tell us a little more about that? 
Yes, please! It’s a fabulous scheme set up to support new and aspiring writers. Successful applicants are buddied with a published or agented author who works with them on their manuscript for a YA or children’s novel. The window for applications is 15-17 April. To learn more about my mentoring preferences and promises, please take a look at my website: Let’s shine this summer with #WriteMentor!
What role do you think books can have in helping adults and children through this current situation and beyond?
Such a positive one. Books give us comfort, reassurance, prompts for tricky topics, and opportunities to look at our situation in different ways and walk in other people’s shoes. You can travel and connect across spaces and cultures in books – EVEN during lockdown! Books are portals to other worlds: we need to make sure everyone can access them, and we need to keep them open. Always.
What are you working on at the moment? 
A children’s illustrated nonfiction book with author Joan Lennon for Templar/Bonnier (out in 2021). I can’t wait! I’m also chiselling away at my children’s fiction. At the moment it’s a giant writer’s block – but inside there’s an adventure story about island cats, a storm and a secret (shh!). 

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