Once upon a time I was a primary school teacher! After 28 years in a wonderful school in Hong Kong, I retired in 2004 and ‘migrated’ with my husband to Italy. This set me thinking about migration and animals that cover huge distances every year. With the help of my good friend Google I discovered lots of interesting facts about migration: which animals go where, how they find their way and which routes they take. Suddenly, BING! an idea popped into my head! What if an animal wanted to send a message to a relative thousands of miles away? Perhaps he could ask for help from the migrating animals. That was how it all began. My first book was Patrick’s Birthday Message and since publishing it, I have learned many more amazing facts about animals that have inspired me to write six more books!
As well as writing, illustrating and publishing my books I love visiting schools, talking to children, and sharing my stories with them. I now spend my time in Italy, Phuket and England, but most years I also travel to Hong Kong and Kenya to see my family of four children and six grandchildren. Everywhere I go my favourite hobby is visiting schools whether they are huge international campuses with thousands of children in Hong Kong, Phuket and Bangkok, or tiny village schools in Kenya and England. Patrick the Parrot loves to travel too and these days his friends Cosmos the Whale, Chameleon, Jed the Hammerhead Shark and of course Great-Grandpa Gilbert all come along with him.
Where do your ideas come from?
Sometimes they just pop into my head! Sometimes they come from an article or book I’ve read, and sometimes when I’m researching facts for a story I discover a fact that’s so incredible that I think, “I’ll have to write a story about that!”
How long does it take to write a book?
Well, once I have an idea I can write the story in a couple of weeks – sometimes even faster but then I have to do the illustrations and that takes a lot longer!
Why do the pictures take such long time?
First I have to make hundreds of drawings. I hand draw all the individual animals, plants etc that appear on each page. Then I use Photoshop (another of my vey good friends!) to colour them. When that’s all done I start to build up the pages. First the background, then the scenery, then the animals.
Why do you usually write in rhyme?
I love rhyme and I love to make up funny or silly rhymes. My mum did too and so do my grandchildren so I think it runs in the family! Rhyme keeps the story really ‘tight’ and I can’t waffle too much!
Is rhyming difficult?
Not really! First I write and outline for the story so that I have an idea of where it’s going. Then I change the writing into rhyme. If I get a bit stuck I sometimes use a rhyming dictionary! (Sssssh… don’t tell anyone!)
How old are you?
This one always makes me laugh! My granny used to say, “I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth!” That’s the answer I give!
Are you famous?
No, but when I visit schools the children are so welcoming and I have such a fabulous time that I feel famous!
What’s your favourite children’s book?
I have lots of favourites but when I was a child I loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Many children these days find it a bit old-fashioned but I love the mad hatter’s tea party, the white rabbit who’s always worried about being late, the Queen of Hearts with the baby who turns into a pig, and of course all the clever and funny rhymes.
I really want to become a writer when I grow up. Can you give me some advice?
Keep writing! One fine day you’ll have great idea and perhaps you’ll be lucky and someone will want to publish it.
Is it easy to get a book published? Does your publisher want to change lots of things in your books?
No, it isn’t easy, you just have to keep trying. And these days, you can self-publish books very easily through companies such as Amazon. If you do get a publisher, they might want to change things, and often their ideas are often really good. Sometimes they say something I’m sure you’ve heard your teachers say at school, “This is quite good but… we think you could do better!”