Showing posts with label Interview 2021. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interview 2021. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 November 2021

K. L. Kettle - The Boy I Am - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #11

Welcome to another fantastic interview. This time it is with debut author K.L. Kettle who had The Boy I Am published at the start of the year. This book really delivers a story that is both detailed and structured; producing an unusual story with high levels of realism that has some relevance in today's world. The book cover has been creatively illustrated by Thomas Truong. In fact, it was a strong contender in last year's book cover wars (please check out this year's competition if you haven't already). We hope you find this interview interesting and if you haven't already read this story then I recommend you purchase a copy today. Have a great day and stay safe. 
  • The Boy I Am is a dystopian fantasy Young Adult novel. What makes this book stand out from all the other books in this genre and why should we read it?

I love playing with genre and tropes, because ultimately, Iit’s a lot of fun to subvert the expectations we’ve been trained to expect as readers, and consumers of media in general. We don’t realise often how story literate we are, because we’re fed stories on a daily basis, until these expectations are twisted. YA Dystopia is a genre with a lot of tropes that are fun to play with. I’m hoping that this subversion of expectations makes The Boy I am stand out, particularly by gender-flipping a traditional feminist narrative. I hope that it’s enjoyable to read because it’ll catch you off guard, both with the big twists, and in the small moments. 

  • What are the main themes used in this book and how do you ensure they are balanced within the narrative?

When first drafting I always intended that gender equity would be a key theme in the story, but this certainly evolved over time in a way to cover social power dynamics in general, and the challenges of self-identification, self-understanding and definition when faced with social expectations. As these themes are so intertwined in the real world it didn’t feel hard to balance them in the narrative, but it was a challenge balancing them with other elements I wanted to build into the story (the thriller element for example.) 

  • Did you have a Eureka moment where everything came together or did you chop and change the story many times to become the version that you were happy with?

There was the early moment when I hit upon the idea to gender flip the narrative, having not seen it done before, it really unlocked the story. Though the story began as a dual narrative, the next eureka moment was at the point I committed to a single narrative, focussing on Jude. I was afraid of it at first, the idea of writing a feminist themed story with a biological male as the main protagonist felt foolish and wrong, but at the same time unavoidable given the voice of Jude was so Strong. The third Eureka moment came near the end, when the last few pages final fell into place, and were the result of my editor pushing me to a better ending, one I’m supremely proud of.  

  • Jude is the main character in the book, does he have any of your attributes/characteristics? Which traits do you think he could further develop or work on to make him a better person in the story?

It’s probably inevitable that all of the characters in The Boy I Am are are bound to carry some of my attributes, possibly a load I don’t even recognise. There are certainly traits Jude has, heightened for sure, that I drew on from myself, particularly his negative thinking, routed in his desperation to please and fear of failure. It would be nice if some of his positive traits come from me too, his loyalty and tenacity, for example. If I develop The Boy I Am into a series or write a sequel I really would love to develop his self-confidence as well as his activist side, which only really start to emerge in the last few chapters, as well as show the challenges that come when you develop those traits in a society that pushes such things down.

  • How do you start to write about a fantasy world that the readers can relate to and escape into? 

At University I studied Politics and Economics, so as the world in the novel developed I would constantly develop a sort of supporting ‘wiki’ covering the financial system, legal, governmental and social structures which provide the scaffolding. All of the systems are built on present day, evolutions of present day structures, or even historical ones. I felt it was really important to ground this world in ours, to make it as clear as I could (given it’s told through the eyes of someone who is taught about the world in a limited way) that the world in the story has our own present as a foundation. It made it easier for me to imagine the world, so I hope it works for the reader to. 

  • Reflecting on the writing process, is there anything that you disliked or would change if you could?

Probably just the time it took to reach the final story but I love the collaboration process and working with multiple editors, both before and after signing with Little Tiger, was a wonderful journey of discovery. 

  • Your book has been published for nearly a year now, do you think positive and/or any valid critical comments are useful to you as a writer? If so, in what ways?

I’ve reached the point where reading reviews is no longer helpful, both the kind and positive ones and those for whom the story, for whatever reason, has not resonated. All reviews have fuelled imposter syndrome as I work on my follow-up novel. In the early months they were great, as particularly during the pandemic it was so hard to connect with readers and understand what really connected and what didn’t.  

  • Do you think there are many similarities between the pandemic we are going through and the book you have written? 

The book was written pre-pandemic but I certainly think that entrenched social groupings, segregated living and the ‘othering’ that can occur in entrenched and trapped communities is present, and was fascinating to see happen in the real world during the pandemic. 

  • You describe yourself as a general nerd wrangler. What are your favourite nerdy things to wrangle with?

Nerds themselves, mostly. I love people who are passionate about what they do, particularly when it comes to technology. Coders and application builders are as creative and driven as any writer, and the way that the things we use on a daily basis are built are created with much the same way books are created. I have a very evenly split left/right brain, so can marry my logical and creative thinking in ways that some people can’t – I love bringing logical to the creative process and creativity to the logical. 

Monday, 25 October 2021

Michael Mann - Ghostcloud - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #11


We are coming to the end of our brilliant debut author interview series. I'd like to say a big thank you to all of the authors for the time they gave providing some really insightful answers. This week we are finishing with an amazing interview - it's a great contender for a good Halloween read. Ghostcloud is the debut book by Michael Mann and was recently published by Hodder Children's Books on 7th October 2021. It's a lovely hardback with a fantastic visual appeal. It could be a contender for this year's annual book cover wars, what do you think? 

Without further ado, let's find out more about the author and their book in this Q&A. Please support all our debut authors by buying their books. Here is a list of all the other INTERVIEWS we have covered which you can check out HERE. Thanks for reading and enjoy your day! 

  1. How would you promote or explain the story behind your book in just 50 words?
Ghostcloud is a magical adventure about 12-year-old Luke, who shovels coal beneath a power station in a reimagined London, hoping to earn his freedom. One day, Luke meets a mysterious ghost-girl, who offers him another way out, drawing him into a whirlwind adventure, featuring ghosts, the smog and the skies over London.
  1. What are you looking forward to most once your debut book has been published?

Celebrating with all my friends in a park with some bubbly (and, perhaps, taking a break from Twitter!)

  1. What inspired you to write Ghostcloud?

My grandad was a coal-miner in Yorkshire, called Luke, so that must have been a factor. The kids I teach constantly inspire me. But a big one, I suppose, has to be the sky, I hope that after reading the book kids do look at it a little differently. 

This is because a big idea in the book is that when you see a shape in the clouds– whether it’s a horse or skull or whatever – that it might just be watching you back. In the book, Luke visits this ‘Ghostcloud’ world and learns to do the things these ghosts can: he learns to ride the clouds, bend their shape to his will, fire lightning and make it rain. And I hope that’s exciting for kids – that there’s a whole new world, above our heads, waiting to be discovered.

  1. You won your first writing competition at school-aged ten. What have you learned since then that has helped you to write this book?

Some practical things like cutting back on adverbs. Some subtle things – like how to put a bit more of my heritage into my work. I’ve even had to unlearn some things – it turns out it is allowed (and fun) to start sentences with ‘But’!

Most of all I learned that you must write for yourself and not worry about others. Books are so subjective – what one person loves, another one hates – if you try to please everyone, it’s impossible. Start with enjoying it yourself, then anything else is a bonus. 

  1. How do you encourage aspiring young writers who would like to become published authors in the future?

I know lots of authors who got published on their third or fourth book, so my advice would be keep writing, and write to the end. You learn so much from finishing a story.

I’d also say, while you shouldn’t worry whether everyone will like it, feedback from the right people is definitely useful. I found courses invaluable for building up a network of writers and tutors who I trust, and who gave feedback sensitively and thoughtfully.  

  1. How important is getting children into reading for you? 

It’s everything to me. I usually teach 9-year-olds, and some kids are already going off books – and it breaks my heart! But I also believe that it’s never too late: the right book, at the right time, and you can get you back into it.

Books open up worlds. They’ve taught me so much about the human experience. They’re also an escape and a refuge when times are tough. Every child (and every adult) needs that from time to time.

  1. Who did you share your book with prior to it being published and what kind of feedback did you get? 

My first draft I shared with my mum and she didn’t comment, which was clearly a bad sign, because she’s one of those people who is lovely about everything. A course tutor also queried the pace and voice. I didn’t take the hint, though, I thought it was well-written, so I sent it to an editor (at Lighthouse Literary) who gave invaluable specifics on what needed to change.

I then started again, with a completely different tone and plot, while on course at CityLit and then Curtis Brown – and this time it was working. I had feedback from the tutors and coursemates (some who kindly read the whole finished manuscript before submitting) and that was invaluable. 

  1. What is the key message you would like readers to take from your book and how important is that to you?
Can I pick two!? 

One is that you don’t have to feel brave, to do brave things. Often all you need to do is keep going, one step at a time. ‘It’s not over till it’s over’ as Ghostcloud’s hero Luke says.

Secondly, there’s a message that it’s ok to be halfway, to be a ‘work in progress’. I’m half-Indian, half-white, and as a kid, I often felt I wasn’t one thing properly. Luke feels the same. But through the course of the book, he and many of the other characters, who don’t fit the categories in some way or another, grow to accept the ‘in-between’ and see it’s strength.

  1. How many bookshelves do you have in your home and, more importantly, what are your most treasured or favourite books that we would find sitting on them?

My partner hates clutter so I don’t have half as many as I’d like, but at least twice as many as he’d like. My most treasured books, hmm, you’d have all the Roald Dahls, all the TinTins, John Wyndhams, Phillip K Dicks, Neil Gaimans, Jonathan Strouds, David Eddings, Julian Mays, Vikram Seths and at least two copies of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. (And a ton more children’s books – Holes by Louis Sachar, Wolves of Willhoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, and I could go on!)

10. If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing/writing process, or books what would they be?

I ask Piers Torday questions all the time – he’s been so wise and helpful to me on the process – as have many other authors, like Vashti Hardy, Ross Montgomery. 

But hmm, perhaps, I’d ask Roald Dahl about the Witches – it’s such a fun, terrifying, strange book, with these huge stretches of mesmerising monologues from the grandma about witches, all building up to that epic scene with the Grand High Witch. I love it, but don’t know how he did it.

Then I’d probably ask Tolstoy how he gets his characters are so real, and somehow (at least for me) to capture the whole human experience. Even a drop of that and I’d be happy.

Then I just finished The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud – and it transported me away – and was plotted ever so perfectly. So I’d just ask him if he wanted to go for a coffee, so I could tell him how much I loved it.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

James Harris - The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #8

Are you ready to both laugh and scream? Well, you can do both of these whilst reading our interview with James Harris. His debut book, The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory, was published in April 2021 by Hodder Children's Books. 
The book has been wonderfully illustrated by Loretta Schauer. It's a laugh-out read packed full of orange monsters and an exploding toilet! Okay, I lied about the exploding toilet. So, sit down and treat yourself to a biscuit (not a Fig roll though) and enjoy this interview. 

As a special treat, you can find a link to the first chapter to get more of a feel of the book HERE. You can also BUY a copy HERE. Thanks for reading and have a great orange fluffy monster day! 

There are so many biscuits and so many stories to choose from (both of which I love!). Why should we choose to read your book 'The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory'?

You should only choose the Unbelievable Biscuit Factory if you like big laughs, big monsters, big rabbits and big biscuits. Caution: although it says Biscuit on the front, do not try to dunk it in your tea.

What types of biscuits were harmed/eaten during the production of this book?

I wrote this book off and on over four years, so I would probably say ALL the biscuits were eaten at one time or another, apart from Fig Rolls because they are NOT biscuits, they are a damp pastry packet of disappointment. Gosh I don’t like Fig Rolls.

What do you think are the main ingredients to create a really funny book and do you believe laughter is important, particularly for children?

Laughter is very important! It’s the best thing! I used to do a bit of stand up comedy and there is no feeling in the world like making people laugh. It’s seriously addictive. As for the ingredients… eesh, it’s hard to say. You’d assume “jokes” would be the answer, but I don’t think it is. It’s like a lovely bourbon biscuit – you don’t really know how it’s made but you know it when you taste it. 

You claim to be a wizard and an exaggerator. What is your biggest exaggeration to date?

Probably the wizard thing if I’m honest, although I do have a wizard’s hat. They say you should dress for the job you want rather than the job you have so I wear a wizard’s hat and occasionally shout bits of latin just in case I can suddenly do magic but it hasn’t worked so far. INUTILIS! Darn, still nothing.

What are the processes involved in developing and creating believable and unique monsters?

I don’t know! Luckily my monsters are totally unbelievable, and when you’re creating an unbelievable monster there are no rules!

Did you enjoy reading as a child?

I loved reading. Books, comics, the back of the cornflakes packet. I grew up in a house full of books, and we had a second hand bookshop nearby so I would buy Narnia books, photonovels, Monty Python books, Mad Magazine paperbacks, Molesworth, sci-fi, Famous Five, Snoopy, Garfield, Beano and Batman annuals. Just stuff I loved, and it’s all in my brain now, slooshing around and leaking all over the page when I come to write my own stuff.

How do you use social media as an author? 

I use it to try out jokes, to keep in touch with what other authors are up to, to keep in touch with bookshops, to waste time when I should be writing… the usual, I guess.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

Writing is rewriting. The first draft of anything is absolutely supposed to be terrible! But you need to write it so you can start rewriting, chipping away at it, making it better, making it funnier. You can get it wrong loads of times, because you only need to get it right once and it’s right forever.

Do you have a favourite biscuit joke you could share with us?

Well the fig roll is definitely some kind of sick joke if that’s what you mean?

Will you be writing another book and, if so, is there anything that you would do differently next time?

I am! I’ve nearly finished it and this time instead of biscuits it’s got a lot of ice cream in it. And aliens. Lots of aliens. And no rabbits. So it’s very different to the first one I think. Still bonkers though, I hope.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Kate Wilkinson - Edie and the Box of Flits - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #6


Here on Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books we have another fantastic interview for you to get your fantasy teeth into. We've been given the brilliant opportunity to ask Kate Wilkinson some questions about Edie and the Box Flits. This is an amazing magical debut book which has been illustrated by Joe Berger. The book was published this year by Piccadilly Press (22 July 2021) and will delight both young and old readers - especially those who love brilliant stories like the classic The Borrowers. If this sounds like your kind of book then you can order a copy HERE. 

  • Edie and the Box of Flits is your first children's book. Can you tell us something about it and what inspired you to write it?

It’s about a girl called Edie Winter who lives in London and her dad runs the Lost Property Office for the London Underground. Edie has just started secondary school, but she’s not finding it easy as her old primary school friends have abandoned her and she feels very lonely.

So Edie decides to spend the first half term helping Dad to collect missing items. She finds an abandoned box on the Piccadilly Line and as she picks it up, she feels something fluttering inside. And so begins an adventure that takes her into a thumb-sized world deep in the tunnels under London. 

As a Londoner, I spend a lot of time waiting for trains and buses especially at Highbury and Islington station which is on my route home. There is a family of sooty mice that live on the platform and I often sit on a bench watching them gathering up discarded crumbs and crisps. They gave me the idea of a ‘parallel’ world of small creatures foraging on the Underground. 

  • Part of the story is set on the London Underground. Why did you choose this as a setting?

I have lived in London most of my adult life and so the London Underground has found its way into my DNA. I love the maze of tunnels, the platforms and the whoosh of air as the trains rush into the station. It also runs overground through many of the suburbs so you rattle along in the dark and then suddenly you are out in the daylight often at rooftop level as you pass between the houses.  

When I was researching my book I took a couple of Hidden London tours that the London Transport Museum organises and saw the ghost stations and abandoned passageways that still exist down under London’s pavements.  That’s when I decided to set the scene when the Flits are freed in a ghost station at Wilde Street. 

  • What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

Yes there will hopefully next year and the adventure will be set on another great Underground system in a different city! Edie will discover the secret of the eyeglass and meet more Flits, but she will also be approaching her thirteenth birthday and once you are thirteen the Flits become invisible. Will this happen to Edie? 

  • Joe Berger has illustrated elements of the book. What process did you both use and did you see the illustrations as you were writing the book?

Publishers don’t tend to put illustrators and writers in touch with each other as you both work via an art director, but I was sent roughs for all the illustrations and love Joe Berger’s work. I particularly like the drawings he did of the wilderness station and Edie, Benedict and Charlie walking through the deserted Underground tunnels late at night. As we will be working together on a sequel, I did get in touch with Joe and we met in Bristol where he lives and had a lovely chat. 

  • You started out as a children's writer for BBC Radio creating audio stories. What are the main differences in writing a book as opposed to writing an audio story?

I did! It feels like a long time ago, but I wrote two long running series about The Boot Family who lived on a farm and Walter Crumpton who was trusted with looking after all sorts of unruly animals. The stories were for pre-schoolers in a slot called The Listening Corner and the joy of writing for audio is that you can really be playful with the different voices and use lots of music and sound effects to tell the story. The narrators were always brilliant at dialogue and often very funny. My favourite was the voice of a particularly grumpy donkey. 

  • What do you particularly love about writing for or listening to audiobooks?

My day job is producing readings and short stories for the BBC and audiobooks for publishers like Penguin and Bloomsbury, although they all tend to be for adults. As the audiobooks are unabridged, I can be in the studio with an actor for five or six days working our way through a particularly long novel. If the actor reads well, it’s an absolute joy and a privilege just to sit there and listen to a brilliant story unfold.  

  • At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

I’m afraid I was a bit annoying as a child and full of myself and my earliest memories are bouncing up and down on my mother’s bed, dictating stories to her about a walrus that could fly and insisting that she wrote them down. The walrus as you can imagine came to a sticky end! 

  • If you could hold imagination in your hands, what do you think it would look like?

A wardrobe with a hundred tiny doors and drawers. As you pull each one open you are never quite sure what you will find. 

  • How do you relax and switch off from the world?

I love to escape London and go for a walk in the woods with my dog or go swimming. Cold water doesn’t put me off so I try to swim right through the winter. Plunging into a river in March is a brilliant way to shake off all the wordly grumbles. 

  • Is there anything you wish you'd known sooner as a writer that you would be happy to share with any aspiring authors reading this?

It can take a very long time to find a publisher and for your book to move through the cogs and wheels, but just keep going and you will get there in the end. 

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Melissa Welliver - The Undying Tower (The Undying Trilogy) - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #5

Hello Everybody. It's time to talk YA fiction on Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books with the debut book by Melissa Welliver. The Undying Tower is the first book in an action-packed dystopian trilogy that will be published in October 2021 by Agora Books. In this interview, we get a fantastic insight into the story, the characters, and the author's road to being published. We hope you enjoy this post. 

If you fancy finding out more or you just want to get ahead then please preorder HERE. There is a possibility that you might be able to get a signed copy and some special extras. Enjoy your week. 
  1.   Can you share something with us about the story that isn’t in the blurb?

Great question! I think something major that is in there from the beginning is that Sadie is a Synaesthete – someone who has a particular cross-wiring of her brain so she associates smells and colours with certain emotions. She is an artist, and her synaesthesia informs her art just as much as her other senses. For the most part, the colour match-ups with the emotions are based on my own synaesthesia.


2.    Why do you think we should read this book?

If you’re missing the dystopian YA of the 2010s, but want something with a bit of a reboot, then you should absolutely read The Undying Tower! If that doesn’t persuade you, don’t listen to me, listen to Michael Grant, author of the Gone series: “In the spirit of The Hunger Games but deeper, more heartfelt, even profound in its examination of the downsides of eternal life. I loved The Undying Tower. Melissa Welliver has arrived on the scene and attention should be paid.” (I know, I’m still star-struck!)

3.    The book is set in a dystopian world. What does the future look like for the characters in the book? 

The future is bleak, I’m sad to say! The world has been ravaged by nuclear war, climate change disaster, and an over-population crisis. Throw into the mix that 5% of the population will never die from old age, and these issues only get worse. That said, the young heroes of the novel have good intensions and a will to do better than their forefathers, so I’m hopeful that things could get better one day (look out book 3!)

4.    Is there an underlying message you would like readers to take from this story as they read the book?

The major message is that if you have a voice, use it. The book really champions fighting for what’s right, especially when the world is against you.

5.    The Undying Tower is the first book of a trilogy. Do you know how the story is going to develop across the other two books?

While books 2 and 3 are yet to be written, I do have a plot outline for each, plus one for the overall arc of the trilogy as a whole. I’m learning a lot about myself as a writer throughout the publishing process, and those lessons are bound to affect those outlines a little! But on the whole, I know where the story ultimately needs to end up.

6.    Do you have a favourite character in the book? If so, who is it and what makes them so special to you?

I really want to be best friends with Rivers. She is the feisty right-hand-woman of our main character, Sadie, and she totally kicks butt. She also has a softer side that we see the edges of in book 1 and that I want to explore further in other books. Rivers always has your back, plus she’s pretty handy with a knife, so I definitely want her on my survival team!

7.    If your book was to be made into a movie, which celebrities would you like to star in it?

A film deal – the dream! The Undying Tower is set in the UK, so I’d love to see some British stalwarts like Patterson Joseph or Benedict Cumberbatch in there, perhaps as members of the resistance. That said, the Avalonia Zone (the new name for the British Isles) does own some overseas colonies, so there’s certainly room for some wonderful American or European actors. I’d like the younger roles to go to younger actors, perhaps even to an as-yet-unknown person – to give someone a big break like Agora Books has given me would be another dream come true!

8.    Please could you tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer?

I’m Melissa and I live in the North of England. Like most writers, I’ve always wanted to write, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. The publishing industry can be very opaque and that can make it difficult for new writers. In the end, I did a fair few courses for creative writing and slowly the idea for The Undying Tower came together. It’s been nine years of perseverance, rejections, ups and downs, but I’m finally here. Never give up!

9.    If you had a soundtrack for this book, what would it be and why?

I listened to a lot of film soundtracks when writing The Undying Tower, funnily enough. I think a big, dramatic score by John Williams is a perfect accompaniment to the story’s punchy themes and action scenes.

10. What do you think is the main thing you have to get right when writing a book for Young Adults?

Voice. With any age group this is important, but especially so with YA. We’re competing against video games, TikTok, Netflix – a whole array of distractions that seem bigger and better than reading. If you don’t nail that voice, your teen audience won’t want to follow your character for 300 pages on their adventure. Voice helps any story come alive.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Gattaldo - Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #4

I'm delighted to welcome you to an interview with the debut author and illustrator Gattaldo. The book is based on a true-life story that is both brilliantly written and compassionately illustrated as a picture book. The author has brought the story to life so that children and adults will be inspired by it and completely absorb the storyline. It's a story about a female investigative journalist called Daphne Caruana Galizia who discovers the truth against all odds. The book was published by Otter-Barry Books last year (October 2020). 

We hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as we enjoyed asking the questions. You can BUY the book HERE. You will not be disappointed as this is a great book to both read and discuss with others. 

  • Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia. What is the book actually about? Is it based on a true story?
It’s the life story of a European investigative journalist who took on the mafia. She uncovered wrongdoing and she did it on her own, with little or no help, a “one-woman WikiLeaks”. The book takes us from Daphne’s childhood with her parents who taught her the importance of always doing what’s right, through her teens where she understood the meaning of protest, her early years as a journalist where she flourished in a largely male-dominated field, to her fight for justice and against corruption. It’s about the courage of ones convictions, about the quest for truth.   
  • What inspired you to tell this story and why?
Daphne’s assassination in 2017 left a big hole in the hearts of many Maltese who valued her investigative journalism. To me, Daphne was also a personal friend and I found it extremely difficult to deal with her absence. My 7-year-old niece wanted to know more about Daphne, so I decided to turn my grief into something positive and share Daphne’s life and the importance of journalism with children through a picture book.  
  • What emotions do you want the reader to feel once they have finished reading the book?
The book is a celebration of its protagonist, but it’s also an appreciation of journalism, a message to not be afraid of going against the grain, to fight for your convictions. Daphne Caruana Galizia was often alone in her quest. We’ve spoken at times about this and how it made her feel. It took nerve to continue uncovering wrongdoing after some of the attacks on her person and her family.  

I want my readers to appreciate that there is no free choice without information. Journalism is one of the most important if not the most important component of democracy. I want children to be inspired by Daphne. Journalists like her are our heroes. They are role models we should emulate if we are to build a better world.  
  • How do you try and balance the writing with the images?
This was my first picture book. Pictures and words must work together, complimenting rather than mirroring each other. I started writing while at the same time searching for the character’s appearance. It’s important to work with rough sketches while writing. Only once you’re happy with the way visuals and words work together, should you start to work up the illustration. Even then, you can expect the book to go through various modifications. In film, each scene is drawn in rudimentary sketches on loose cards so their order can be changed. It’s a good practice to use with picture books as well.   
  • Do you think it is important for an illustrator to have their own unique style?
I certainly see advantages marketing-wise with having a unique style that’s unchanging, like a brand, so that readers familiar with your first book feel immediately at home with your second offering. There are however benefits to having a flexible hand, a style that fits each of the stories you animate. My publisher requested that I keep to the same style in my next books and it makes sense because they should feel like part of the same series. I don’t think that means they have to be absolutely identical though. I think each book benefits from having its own identity while still fitting in with the series.  
  • How much research did you do before you started the project? Did you find any surprises along the way?
Although I knew my subject on a personal level, I knew very little about Daphne’s childhood. Her early years weren’t something I could research online or in libraries so the only way was to Interview family and friends. This required great sensitivity. Interviewing people who are grieving can be difficult and awkward. It was a journey that led to a closer relationship with Daphne’s family. I can’t think of having come across any surprises as such, but I do feel I got to know her better. I could see what made Daphne the strong person she was.  
  • What author/illustrator do you wish could be your mentor and why?
My mentor for Fearless was the journalist and children’s author Juliet Rix (Travels With My Granny - Otter Barry Books) who was very generous with her time and advice. We’re currently collaborating on another children’s book. As a wish list, there are a couple of illustrators I would love to have as mentors. My first would be M. Sasek, but of course he died in 1980 so perhaps, French illustrator Thomas Baas would be a more feasible choice.  
  • What is the best way to use social media and illustration to create increased awareness?
Every book is different and its promotion has to be tailor-made. Daphne’s story is real and still current and raw so I couldn’t promote it in the same way you’d do for another book. Amnesty and Reporters Without Borders’ endorsement was a great boost for the book. Regardless of whether Fearless was worthy of Daphne’s story, activists and people who hold Daphne and journalism to heart, were eager to promote the book on social media. But I also had to contend with a small amount of trolling, something I guess most children’s authors wouldn’t face. 

I think most children’s authors realise very soon that publishers have very little time or money to do much for their book so they must work hard at it themselves. I found Twitter introduced me to reviewers, bookshop owners and journalists. Like any conversation it can’t be just about promoting the book though. 

I’m not sure Facebook was much use. As to Instagram, I think I missed a trick by not making use of it. 

When promoting the book online, an author must offer something useful rather than to simply repeat the the book’s USPs. My book’s website was also a vehicle to get children and their educators interested in journalism through informative articles aimed at children. I also wrote and designed a supplement which was taken up and published by a local newspaper. I’d love to develop the latter into a regular feature, but as with everything, I’d need to find the time and the finance for it. 
  • What other projects are you working on at the moment?
When I first presented Fearless to publishers, the proposal was to have a series of similar non-fiction books, so I’m working on the next two. I’m also planning on writing something completely different - a children’s book that is funny and playful. That would give me the opportunity to experiment with a different style of illustration. Now that the Covid-19 restrictions are slowly lifting, Im also preparing for school visits and also looking forward to the publication of Fearless by Candlewick in the US in September. 
  • Do you prefer to write or illustrate?
My background is in fine arts and illustration but I’ve discovered writing can be great fun too. I love the control that comes with doing both. I’ve still got a lot to learn in both idioms, and I’m not confident I’ve yet found my definitive style. I’ve started writing for children rather late in life and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to get my work published.