Andy Shepherd has just launched her debut middle grade novel – the very exciting The Boy Who Grew Dragons – illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie. Now this is a very lovely middle grade novel – Tomas gets a little more than he bargained for when he takes the fruit from Grandad’s tree back to his bedroom. Cue exploding dragon poo, and plenty more dragons. Plus! This is just the start of the series…
Super excited that she’s popping in to My Book Corner to answer our questions…
Tell us about yourself in 25 words or less
Quietly sociable, annoyingly organised, frustrated daredevil, big on love.
Oh, and possibly part fish, as I love being in, near, or on water.
Describe your debut novel, The Boy Who Grew Dragons, in 20 words or less.
Tomas finds a strange tree in his grandad’s garden and discovers cucumbers are a lot easier to grow than dragons!
What makes you happy?
Being with my family, walking on the beach, wild swimming in the sea and in the creek at my parent’s, (and playing in the mud), sailing and mucking about in boats. Happy for me usually involves water!
Sitting in my garden reading and being still enough for dragonflies to land on my toes, playing silly games with my friends and laughing like we’re nine.
Very recently it was seeing my youngest son curled up in bed reading my book.
Where is your favourite place to write?
At home – lots of people like going to cafes, but I like to be in my own space. I can wear comfy clothes and slippers and wander into the kitchen for a cuppa or make some soup or jam if I’m stuck.
I have a quirky bookshelf with a big bottom shelf perfect for picture books and the rest is crammed with my favourite books and memorabilia – photos, little random keepsakes and things my boys have made.
There are lots of photos of my family as well as a couple of paintings of the sea. I miss the sea!
I’ve recently had the front covers of my books framed and I have that on my windowsill, so I glance across at it while I’m working – or to make a change from staring out of the window. I love Sara Ogilvie’s covers.
I also have a heart shaped stone with ‘Believe’ written on it, which I bought after a horrible rejection, when I was very close to giving up on trying to get published. A month later I got the deal with Piccadilly.
What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?
These are all out soon and I can’t wait to read them – The Secret Deep by Lindsay Galvin, Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll, Pony on the Twelfth Floor by Polly Faber.
What’s your worst habit?
Eating nutella from the jar with my finger – my son always tells me off when he catches me. Which isn’t often because I have learned to do it in secret.
Your favourite word and why?
Serendipity – this is one of those words that is just lovely to say. It makes me smile every time, which in itself is a wonderful and powerful thing. But I also love the meaning of it, ‘the occurrence of events by chance in a happy and beneficial way.’ Julia Cameron talks about ‘serendipity’ in the creative process and the idea of turning up and doing your part, the hard graft part, but being open and alert and ready to welcome those unexpected moments of inspiration and clarity. Those little moments of magic.
Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication
It was long and I’ve definitely learned a lot along the way! I’ve written many picture books and two other middle grade books – the first of those got me my agent. Like most writers I hope one day they might all find a home too.
What are your top tips for budding childrens’ writers
Write the story that you want to read. If you love it, then chances are someone else will too.
Don’t submit too soon – however tempting it is. (learned through bitter experience!)
Welcome constructive criticism and be prepared to rewrite – a lot! That can actually turn into one of the most satisfying parts of the process as you develop your ideas. But also feel confident about sticking to your guns if it doesn’t ring true to you or the story.
The most important thing, I think, is just to keep turning up and keep writing. I find it helps to set small achievable goals, and celebrate every little success even if it’s just turning up and writing 50 words – because you still turned up.
Be kind to yourself – because I think we often aren’t. And lastly, I’d say don’t start when you feel inspired, just start.
Can you give us a glimpse/hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake!)
I’m afraid I’m terribly cagey about new ideas – I have this awful fear that if I start talking about them too soon they might get all huffy and stomp off.
Did we forget anything?
I don’t think so, but now I’m wondering if I did… checks wallet/keys/oven…
Just For Fun
TEA OR COFFEE?
PAPER BOOKS OR E-BOOKS?
I love to read and own paperbacks and they would definitely be my first choice. There is something about curling up with an actual book that just transports me back to being kid and feels comforting. But because of a bad back I listen to a lot on audio and read a lot on kindle. Kindle has actually revolutionised reading for me for this reason, so I don’t knock it!
CAKE OR CHOCOLATE?
WRITE OR TYPE?
Write when brainstorming. Type for everything else.
POETRY OR PROSE?
GRYFFINDOR, RAVENCLAW, HUFFLEPUFF OR SLYTHERIN?
HOT OR COLD?
Hot. I am part lizard.