The Story Behind The Baddie Book
A couple of years ago I was reading a book from the library to Harrison. The story itself hadn’t really grabbed his attention, but there was one page that had him captivated. “Go back to the baddie page mummy!” he kept saying, so we did, many times. The baddie page was a picture of a figure-of-eight road with a balaclava-clad baddie in a van with swag falling out the back and a police car in hot pursuit.
Once I’d kissed him good night I jumped on to my laptop thinking, I’m going to write a story about a Baddie, and There’s a Baddie Running Through This Book came to life in about 30 minutes flat. It had some subsequent tweaks, but always stayed fairly close to its very first version.
Vivienne To brought the book to life with her amazing illustrations, with the cheeky baddie becoming a raccoon (which had never occurred to me, Id envisioned him as a human) and leaving in his wake a host of victims – all awesome and engaging animal characters. I LOVE how this book came together and the way the illustrations enhance the story so beautifully. It has also lead to some wonderful dress up events!
The Story Behind Blast Off!
Blast Off! was another story that was inspired by Harrison. At three, Harrison LOVED space, he talked about it all the time. So dutifully I would pick up stacks of non-fiction Space books from the library and bring them home to feed his thirst for space knowledge. However after a page of facts he would invariably wander off and come back with a story book.
I realised that what he needed was a story book about Space that had the fun facts he wanted to know about interwoven in the story, rather than as stand alone facts. I knew at this point that I was going to write a book about Space, however I wasn’t sure what that story was.
Fast forward three months and into my head popped the line “Mercury is mega hot and closest to the sun, you couldn’t visit mercury – the heat would burn your bum!”
From there the idea for the type of story it was going to be and the structure of the rhyme was set, I just had the challenging job of fitting facts about all the other seven planets into rhyming stanza’s which sounded authentic and conveyed the information that would most engage young space lovers without sounding forced. It took a fair few attempts to nail it, and lots of support and feedback from my amazing writing critique group.
Ben Wood was then brought on board by Penguin Random House to illustrate the story and I thought what he produced was exceptional. He managed to add a whole new level of humour to the book and his use of bright colours and hidden aliens was just perfect to partner the text.
The Story Behind The You’re Five! Series
It’s my daughter Katie’s turn. Katie had just turned five when I wrote You’re Five! which was the first book that I wrote in the series. Katie loved being five and telling people how old she was, like it was an accomplishment (it is!)
The story idea itself came to me in the middle of the night. I suddenly sat bolt up-right in bed and said “I’ve got it!” I woke my husband up, who agreed it was an exciting idea, and then I proceeded to put ideas for the story into my phone.
I was super charged with adrenalin and so eager to get the story along to my next critique group meeting to see if they thought the idea was as commercial and viable as I did. They did! Yey! It was only on my way back home from that meeting that I suddenly realised that ‘of course’ it needed to be a series. So for the next few weeks I worked backwards writing You’re Four!, You’re Three!, You’re Two! and then You’re One!
Allen & Unwin suggested Katherine Battersby for the illustrations and one look at her amazing book Squish Rabbit and I was on board. Katherine’s story boards brought tears of joy to my eyes. I loved the little characters she had created for each of the books and how she wove those characters in to each story.
The Early Days
Long before I received my publishing contract I loved educating myself. I went on as many courses relevant to picture books that I could find.
I met Kathy O’Shannessy during an illustration workshop at Willoughby Art Centre and she was delightful. Having read my story Our Trip into Town, Kathy was keen to use it as her inspiration for the two day workshop. These are two of the wonderful illustrations she created. They support the text:
We then saw a lady with lots of dry cleaning,
her fingers where white and must have lost feeling.
We saw school boys looking sharp in their ties,
if only their hair wasn’t covering their eyes.
It was a huge buzz at the time that someone would want to draw to my text!!