I will be doing a book signing event at my local bookstore, Waterstones, and for this I am going to need some promotional material. I asked my husband if he could sort out a poster for me. He was keen to help. As it turns out, a bit too keen!
He told me that he'd ordered the poster and was sure I'd be happy with it. Well, it arrived today. It wasn't quite the A3 poster I had in mind. I think he got a little over-excited!
I shouldn't really have been surprised. If he is ever tasked with the food shopping, he normally returns with donuts, exotic fruits that 'look interesting', and a whole basketful of assorted biscuits. And the items on the actual list? Well, a few make it into the shopping bag!
My new book, Captain Sillyvoice Takes to the Stage, is currently being featured in the Goodreads Giveaway competition. The winners will receive a signed copy. It is free and easy to enter and Goodreads is a fantastic site for anyone who enjoys reading and is looking for book recommendations.
The new Captain Sillyvoice adventure is now available to buy in paperback or e-book format. Hardback copies will be available shortly.
You can view sample pages here
The book is available on Amazon
I hope that those of you who have enjoyed my first Captain Sillyvoice adventure will find this second story equally entertaining. I would love to hear your feedback!
With thanks to Emma K.L Hunt, who has once again created a fantastic set of illustrations to accompany the story.
People often ask me about how I write my stories and what it involves to create a children’s picture book. To this end, I have attempted to summarise the process. I am sure that writers all work very differently and so this is simply an account of my own experience.
Stage 1) Putting ideas into words
When I wrote The Day My Teacher Came to Tea and Birthday Cake Disaster, the storyline ideas had already formed in my head before I put pen to paper. I had already developed the story frameworks, and had a good idea about the key events that needed to happen. That said, there was a lot of flexibility within these frameworks, as I am a great believer in letting the writing take you on a journey rather than the other way around.
Since I wanted to write in rhyming verse the biggest challenge with both these books was figuring out how to say what I wanted in simple language that rhymed. The one thing you soon discover when writing for young children is that the pool of vocabulary available to you is quite limited!
The process for writing My Crazy Purple Pen and Captain Sillyvoice and his Pirate Band, were different; more spontaneous. With the story about the pen, I simply asked myself one question and it was this, “What mischief could a cheeky, magical pen get up to?” I put (my own purple) pen to paper and began. The story evolved from there. I was always thinking in the back of my mind about characters and situations to which I thought children would most identify.
The Captain Sillyvoice story was developed in much the same way, in that I came up with the concept of a most unlikely, jolly Pirate Captain, by the name of Sillyvoice and asked the question, “How could a Pirate Captain, who is not mean or tough and who has a silly voice to boot, able to become successful in the pirate world?” I knew the answer would be his wonderful singing ability but it was only during the writing process that I worked out exactly how.
I have written two further Captain Sillyvoice adventures and a sequel to My Crazy Purple Pen. In the case of these stories I've had a firmer idea at the outset about what should happen but there was very little detail until I put pen to paper.
Stage 2) Draft, draft and draft again!
It has been known for me to write a first draft within one afternoon (although normally it takes a few days). I then leave it alone for while, come back and take a fresh look and edit. I do this at least 5 times. I always read the text out loud because it's super important in rhyming verse that it trips off the tongue easily. This is probably the most difficult thing to get right; for me anyway.
Once I think I've got the story into a reasonable shape, I ask close friends and family to read it through (out loud as though reading to a child). This is a really good way to find out which sentences cause them to stumble (indicating that the sentence structure is too awkward). The other thing this process can pick up is when the reader automatically says the sentence in a different order to the way it is written down (i.e. their brain may just switch a couple of words around because it is the way they anticipate that it will be).
Stage 3) Illustration Notes
Creating the illustration notes takes as long as writing the text. In some ways it is the most fun because this is when you really start to visualise how the book is going to look. I write very detailed notes for the illustrator about what the characters should look like and about what needs to be happening on each page, including details of any speech bubbles and also suggestions for objects or activities that should be featured.
Stage 4) Adding the illustrations
I work with a very talented artist, Emma K.L Hunt, and fortunately we seem to share the same vision for the stories. Emma has coped brilliantly with interpreting my ideas and has created a whole host of wonderful characters and scenes. How she comes up with so many different faces, outfits and so on, I really don't know! She adds in lots of her own lovely details, such as the brilliant little mice who appear throughout the Captain Sillyvoice books. Although we have never actually met, we email regularly to perfect each page. The final illustrations rarely end up exactly as first envisioned, much like the text - they evolve (as ideas spark other ideas) and this is how it should be!
So, there you have it! This is how my books are created.
If anyone has any questions or would like to make any comments then please do. I would love to hear from you, as always!
Up until recently only my first two titles have been available in hardback but this has now changed. All my titles are now available to order in paperback, hardback or eBook formats. The books can be found on most book websites and can also be ordered through bookshops.
The proof copy of the new Captain Sillyvoice book is winging its way to me for final approval. All very exciting!
To whet your appetite a little, here are a few sample pages. You will notice that this story features some new characters, including the big and mean Captain Scaryscar.
Ruth Whenham, children's book author