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We love hearing from all kinds of children’s book authors here at Baby Book Club – picking their brains for insights and inspiration on what makes a great book for little readers.  This week we’ve been talking to new author to the scene, Nicola J Rowley, who followed her dream to publishing her own picture book…

Hi Nicola, thanks for speaking with us today.  As a new author in the world of children’s picture books we’d love to hear some insight about how you’ve gotten to where you are now, what inspires you to write for children, what you’re working on and just about everything in between!

So let’s start off with a little bit about you.  How did you come to publish your first chidren’s book, James and the Amazing Gift?

I had written the text for the book when I was on maternity leave from my job in 2015, and then put it to one side. Then when I was having a coaching session for my photography business, my coach said, “We keep coming back to the writing.” When I told her that it’s all I’d ever wanted to do and that I’d written a book she asked me what I was doing about it. It was a valid question and proved to be the wake up call that I needed. By this time I was back to working full time but on a contract basis, so in the very limited few hours a day that I had, I set about finding an illustrator, a self-publishing company, and with a lot of hard work, made my dream a reality. As I was on a contract I also had a deadline to work to, so that also helped concentrate my efforts.

Wow, congratulations! You’ve had praise for the book for it’s positive outlook – is positive thinking especially important to you?

Yes absolutely! If you have a positive attitude you achieve so much more. In order to get the book where it needed to be I would be up every morning at 5am and not back into bed until 11pm at night, with a full time job and looking after my son in between. It’s been a small price to pay to show him that with hard work, you really can achieve anything. I journal every day and am incredibly grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that have been coming my way. By thinking positively and taking consistent action, I have been able to achieve my goals and am so much happier for it too.

 

That’s great. Tell us a little bit about the illustrations in your book.  Did you illustrate yourself or choose your own illustrator?  How did you decide on the style for how your book looks?

I placed an advert for an illustrator on a website, already with an idea in mind of what I was after. The first person who applied for the role sent me through some drawings, which summed up exactly what I was after. I asked her to draw me how she thought the character of James would be, providing her with some guidance such as blonde hair, blue eyes. The end result is James in the book. I couldn’t be happier with how the illustrations have materialised. They’re exactly what I was after.

We notice you’re working on a couple more ideas – can we request a little taster as to what you’re currently putting together?  Will James feature again or are we exploring some new characters?

Funnily enough I’ve just finished the second book called James and the Birthday Balloon and will be revealing the cover for it soon. This time the story features James and his best friend Ruby at a birthday party. As you would expect, it is also really uplifting and there are lots of smiles in there too.

I have also written a couple more picture books and am currently writing my first Middle Grade story, which is incredibly special to me.

 

Keeping busy then! We see you’re working on poetry.  Do you think it is important to introduce poetry to children at a young age?

Yes it’s hugely important. I’m a big fan of Julia Donaldson and Giles Andreae and love seeing how much enjoyment my son gets out of rhyming texts. He particular enjoys being able to finish the sentences when I read to him.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved poetry. It’s incredibly special and should be something to be treasured.  As a little girl I loved making up my own poems, so it’s no surprise that rhyming texts are some of my all time favourites.

 

Where do you get your ideas from for your stories?  What inspires you?

James and the Amazing Gift was inspired by my son who reached out to a baby girl who was crying inconsolably after a swimming lesson. He instinctively held her hand and gave her a big gummy grin. She stopped crying and the pair of them just lay there laughing. He was about four months old at the time. Then whilst I was out running one day trying to shift the excess baby weight, I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if there was a character in a book who was always smiling or passing on happiness to others through small acts of kindness?”. It went from there.

My Middle Grade book that I’m currently working on, has been inspired by my late dad. He created the main character for my bedtime stories when I was nine. Unfortunately despite much pleading from me, he never wrote anything down.

I guess it helps that I’ve always loved stories and books and to this day have a very active imagination too!

Great. Now how do you juggle mum life with your writing passion?  Do you find it hard to find the time or energy to put pen to paper or does your little one’s antics spur you on?

 

At the moment, I’m also juggling mum life with a full time job, writing and running a successful photography business so there are precious few moments when I can get things done. I’ve had to be very focused about how I maximise my time. I’m currently writing this for instance in my lunch hour at work. Blog posts usually get written when my son’s tucked up in bed, as do any other admin tasks that I haven’t had chance to do that day. It helps that I’m an early riser too so that I have some time in the morning where I focus on what needs to get done that day.

I’m lucky in that writing comes naturally to me and there’s nothing I enjoy more than making the most of nap times at weekends and immersing myself into my stories once more.

 

Any words of wisdom for other mums looking to follow their dreams into the book industry?

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. If you have an idea for a book write it down. If a character idea comes to you, find a pen and a piece of paper and make notes whilst you can. You can always revisit it after bath time or bedtime.

I’d also say don’t be afraid of rejection. I know how hard it can be to find your sense of self after having a baby, but believe in yourself. You are incredible and you’re doing a great job. Think positive thoughts and dream big. The only limitations that we have are the ones that we place on ourselves.

Great advice! What do you think makes a great children’s book?

For picture books, I think it is about having a great text with colourful attention grabbing illustrations. For older children, I think any story that can take them on an adventure and make them smile.

 

And finally, what was your favourite book growing up?

It has to be Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. It was the best collection of poems based around traditional fairy tales that I’d ever heard. I still remember my Primary School teacher reading them to my class for the first time. It was like a light went on in my imagination. We didn’t use to have homework in those days, but I’d sit at home writing and illustrating my poems anyway. I was lost in a world of rhyme and it was by far my favourite place to be.

 

James and the Amazing Gift can be purchased from Amazon here and the latest news and freebies from Nicola J Rowley can be found over on her website: www.nicolajrowley.com