Hugest welcome to debut picture book author, Julie Ballard. Her book, The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice illustrated by Francesca Gambatesa has just bounded on to the bookshelves. I really loved enjoying reading how it came to be, as I’m sure you will too…
Tell us about you in 25 words or less.
Feisty, feminist Mum of two, daydream believer, lover of words and winner of the X-Factor and Strictly (told you I was a daydream believer!)
Where is your favourite place to create?
I was inspired to write The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice following my youngest son’s struggle to overcome a severe speech disorder which saw him using MAKATON sign language to communicate.
At one point, thinking he may never speak, we, as a family, began focusing on all the things he could do.
It was this that sowed the seed of an idea for a picture book about a speechless lead character (dinosaur) who learns to triumph in the face of adversity.
Luckily for us, our youngest son did eventually acquire speech – though, strangely enough, he learned to hum and sing before he could speak. Such is the power of music!
Having written countless humorous rhyming stories, I always assumed one of my madcap, anarchic tales would be the first to be published since I never believed a publisher would back a story which didn’t have a traditional ‘Disney’ ending. How wrong I was.
The protagonist in my story, Milly Jo Brontosaurus, never recovers her marvellous singing voice or the power of speech after an accident in the forest where she lives. But she does learn to lead a fulfilled and happy life in a different way, where music plays an important part of her life.
While I’m thrilled to have a picture book published (with superb illustrations from the uber talented Francesca Gambatesa), I think I am doubly thrilled by the fact it has the potential to help children.
At its heart is a subtle message that whatever difficulties present themselves in life, there is always a way to surmount them with perseverance, hope, courage and, importantly, … friends!
What makes you happy?
Sunshine, smiles, hugs, the smell of freshly-mown grass, clean sheets, my three cats, chocolate, lazy summer evenings and dreaming up stories in my head.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have school age children so I’m normally up at 7 am, sorting out breakfast, cups of teas and school snacks.
At 8.30am it’s the daily school run often followed by food shopping at a well-known supermarket.
For the past week, before getting home to unpack, I have been driving to my elderly mother’s house to feed the birds and hedgehogs on her behalf while she is away on holiday.
At 10 am it’s usually time for my own breakfast, preparations for the evening meal and a spot of housework (snore!)
By 11, I am normally seated at my computer and ready to work. This might involve writing until 3pm or it may involve devising ways to market myself and my debut book.
Unless you are David Walliams, Julia Donaldson or a celebrity ‘author,’ few writers have the luxury of major marketing departments and big budgets behind them.
This morning I was talking to the manager of the supermarket where I shop to see if she would allow me to do an in-store book signing. Since the shop has previously stocked my books as part of a promotion, she kindly agreed.
Additionally, I viewed and copied videos of myself reading “The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice” to social media.
Towards the end of the school holidays I was invited to take part in a filmed interview discussing my book. The marketing officers from my county council were keen to promote the Summer Reading Challenge on behalf of the library service. After watching the footage provided, I shared the links to Facebook and Twitter.
If that weren’t enough excitement (and believe me, PR and marketing IS exciting), I was sent a list of questions to complete for the blog you are reading now.
Despite having an idea for another picture book which keeps whispering ‘write me’ and despite being 14,000 words into a middle grade novel which is shouting ‘finish me,’ some days it is harder to get words down than others.
This isn’t through lack of imagination but a lack of time.
‘Mum duties’ will necessitate I leave to collect my youngest from school at 3pm and then it’s often straight to clubs or collecting my eldest son from his after school activities.
Once indoors, it’s the usual round of cooking dinner before my husband arrives home.
Come 6.30pm, I will sometimes attempt more writing but, because I’m mainly a daytime writer, I find my best work is achieved while my mind is still alert.
What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?
Sneaky Beak (Tracey Corderoy & Tony Neal), The Lighthouse Keeper’s Rescue (Ronda and David Armitage), The Battle for Perfect (Helena Duggan), The Girl Who Speaks Bear (Sophie Anderson) and The Testaments (Margaret Atwood).
What’s your worst habit?
Impatience and nail biting.
Your favourite word(?
Diaphanous, iridescent, Machiavellian, nihilistic and curmudgeonly. The first two appeal to my sense of freedom, beauty and aesthetics. The latter appeal on a darker, more brooding level.
What are your top tips for budding children’s writers?
Learn your craft, persevere, develop a hide like a rhino for the rejections that will come, leave descriptions to illustrators, think about page turns to enhance suspense, consider your ending before you set off and never be afraid to cut and re-write – they’re only words. Additionally, try not to second guess what the market wants; write what pleases you. Writing should be as much about enjoyment and personal fulfilment as it is trying to secure a publishing deal.
Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake)
If I told you I would have to kill you!
Just for fun
Tea or coffee? Tea
Seaside or countryside? Real books with pages
Paper books or e-books? Real books with pages
Cake or chocolate? Chocolate any day
Write or type? Type
Hot or cold? In the words of Mrs Merton “SCORCHIO!”
Read MyBookCorner’s review of The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice, here.