How would you describe your style in three words
Casual, Comfortable, Mine
You are a newly published author – congratulations! Tell us how you’ve found the process of writing your first book.
In all honesty, writing a children’s book was never something I’d even thought about! I’ve always thought that books for children are a very important part of their learning process and they’ve always been my go-to gift for friends or family with children – but it’s never something I ever imagined myself doing.
The process was so interesting to me, it took a lot longer than I imagined and was, for me, much harder than I realised. After being introduced to my editor at Walker Books UK, having confirmed that the wonderful Emily Sutton would do the illustrations, we started by laying the story out into spreads. You start working on the text but in a picture book, the illustrations convey 80% of the story so for that reason the words can be trimmed back where necessary. We worked on the text together; they guided me at each stage as I’m new to publishing. Emily sketched the whole thing in pencil and I made some comments about a few changes, for example Granny didn’t look quite as I wanted her to and the ‘monster’ wasn’t’ scary enough! Once the sketches were revised and approved, she created the colour illustrations. Once all that was done, we looked again at the text with the art in place and tweaked it a little, cutting the odd line and adjusting the layout.
After that the publishers did the cover and sent the whole thing across to Candlewick Press in the US, who also loved it, and the publication date was agreed! Since then, Candlewick have Americanised the spelling in their text and created a book jacket as we don’t have one in the UK but it is their usual practice.
This whole process was done over zoom as we were in lockdown at the time, but thankfully I’ve since been able to meet the wonderful team in person.
Talk us through the inspiration behind “Betty and the Mysterious Visitor”.
The story of the visiting badger is based on what happened in my garden a few years ago. They absolutely decimated my lawn while they were looking for chafer grubs under the soil... it ended up looking like a ploughed potato field! So, I had the lawn treated and resown and then I obviously wanted to try to keep them away … Badgers tend to follow the same routes that they make each time, back to their set so it was a case of making it as difficult as possible for them to follow that route. Badgers aren’t really scared of much – except humans, so I had the same idea as Betty, and made a scarecrow, who I called ‘Simon Scare-badger’ – plus a bit of extra fencing and it seemed to do the trick.
How has your style evolved over the years, what five pieces are a must-have in your wardrobe?
Over the years I’ve become more comfortable in my skin. When I worked full time before having children my work wear was very smart, dresses, heels (couldn’t do that now – heels are for occasions!) then switching into stay-at-home mum mode, it changed dramatically into comfortable and practical. When I went back to work when the children were young, it switched back to smart office wear, but without the heels! I think as everyone does, I go through phases of liking certain items more than others, sometimes I’ll go through a dress phase when that’s all I want to wear, sometimes its ‘leisure wear’ – (call that joggers !) but I generally would say that I must have a pair of jeans, a jumpsuit, a jacket, a skinny t-shirt/top and a dress.
Can you tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
I got my first cat aged 7…. I love cats … I think most people who know me would know I love cats – I have 6 (and a stray!)
Tell us your favourite DuoBoots style and why
My favourite Duo Boot is the Haltham; It’s just a beautiful, simple, everyday boot. I have quite a short calf length so I have the petite boots version which means it doesn’t cut me off at the knee. Obviously, I have my own calf measurement too, having a boot that actually fits so perfectly is a game changer.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I was never very kind to myself when I was younger. I would let my younger self know that other people’s opinions of me don’t matter, that I should have confidence in myself.
Earlier this year I wrote myself a love letter:
‘I haven’t always been your friend. I remember long ago hearing someone tell you; you were boring and stupid; to my shame I believed them and I treated you unkindly. For this I apologise.
Over the years you have been my constant. Your kindness, compassion and love have nurtured me. Your courage and determination have supported and guided me. I am a better person now. I am sorry it took me so many years to realise how amazing you are. You are worthy of love.
You deserve the same love you are prepared to give to others.
I promise to love and nurture you, to support and encourage you, as you have always done for me.
Here’s to our future adventures, my true friend’.