What a privilege to interview the brilliant Dara McAnulty and kick off the blog tour for his brilliant new book – A Wild Child’s Book of Birds. Dara has blown us away his thought-provoking answers and we hope his new book flies for him, and wish him all the best as he fledges his own nest for university and new adventures!
- If you had to write a profile of yourself, what would it say?
I honestly find writing profiles about myself really embarrassing! I struggle so much with telling people who and what I am, which is strange, I guess? If I had to do it, it would say that I’ve spent my teenage years caring, campaigning and writing for and about, the natural world. I never set out to be an author and I’ve been incredibly lucky. It would say that I am so grateful for the incredible opportunities that have changed my life. To be a young person writing for young people is such a privilege.
- Your illustrated non-fiction book, Wild Child: A Book of Birds, is out this week. Can you tell us a little bit about how it came to be?
A Wild Child’s Book of Birds explores my passion and fascination for our brilliant birds, when I was writing my previous book Wild Child: A Journey Through Nature, I had to really stop myself from writing solely about birds as they excite me so much. I discussed with my editor, the brilliant Gaby Morgan at Macmillan Children’s about the possibility of writing a book entirely about the avian world, and she was as excited as I was! We decided this even before Wild Child was released, so it was such an exciting period. I really delved deeper into learning about birds, their behaviour, lives and characteristics. I also expressed in prose how I felt about each season and how birds fly into our lives at each turn, which is something that I always like to do in my writing. Facts are amazing of course, but I also want to conjure wonder with words. When I saw Barry Falls’ illustrations, that’s when it truly felt like the world which I had conjured in my head was real. The deep feelings of love I felt for the natural world and how birds are central to that love, for me had been magically reimagined. It was an exhilarating process and now that it is fledging the nest, I feel such pride in what we have created.
- What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?
At the moment, I am preparing for university! As I write, it’s just two weeks until I travel across the sea to begin my undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. I am so nervous and excited! I also walk (armed with my binoculars), read and write every day. Hang out with my friends, play computer games (normal teenage behaviour) and at the moment, prepare for the release of A Wild Child’s Book of Birds by doing publicity work. It’s very strange to have no school at the moment, but I am filling my days with the things I love. I tend not to stick to a schedule, especially now as I know life is going to be really intense in a few weeks. I’m a sporadic writer, notebooks everywhere. I wish I could say that I sit diligently at my desk and write every day at a set time, but it’s a lot more chaotic than that!
- What’s top of your TBR pile at the moment?
I read many books at the same time! Tyger by S.F. Said, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, but most of my reading right now is related to biology in preparation for university.
- What are your top tips for budding writers and naturalists?
Write what you know, love and imagine. Write the book you really want to read yourself, but with your heart as the central beat. Be patient when wildlife watching, it can be such a rewarding experience when we slow down, pay attention and just…wait. Exciting things will happen if you give a little extra time. Don’t worry about ticking off species lists, being in nature has so many benefits to our physical and mental health, just enjoy being outside, stay curious and always, be kind.