A little panda looking for a big adventure takes centre stage in the first children’s book by C G Stewart.
The father of two wanted to write a tale that his sons would enjoy – and it was after they were tucked up in bed that he got to work on creating Braw.
When Chris got in touch about his story I knew I had to interview him for Behind The Book and luckily he was happy to take part.
As it’s our half-term this week I thought the timing was perfect.
The Lost Panda is your first book. Can you tell us what it’s about? What age is it for?
It’s a story aimed at 7-11 year old’s and set in an animal world that is unknown to humans. Braw, a little panda, yearns for a life outside the confines of the zoo, however, he is unaware of the potential he possesses and the danger this puts him in. What follows is a tale of adventure and excitement with our little panda getting a lot more than he bargained for, particularly when he falls into the clutches of the evil Mr. Yeung.
What made you want to write it?
My own children love reading and I wanted to write a story that they would enjoy. One that would excite them and take them on an adventure that we could share together. They both really enjoyed The Lost Panda.
You describe yourself as an ‘occasional writer’, would you like it to be more than occasional? What do you do for a day job?
My day job is marketing and I am also opening my new business venture, a children’s play café in the town that I live. I have two kids with a third due in February so I’m kept pretty busy. I always make time to write though and once everyone is in bed it’s my time to get to work on my next book.
Can we go right back to the beginning? When did your love of writing start? Have you always wanted to write a children’s book?
I was an avid reader as a child and would write short stories to share with my parents but I honestly never seen writing as something I would take up seriously. It was through sharing stories with my kids and revisiting my old favorite’s such as Roald Dahl that got me back into writing and creating The lost Panda.
Who were your favourite authors as a child?
Roald Dahl by a mile. I loved The Twits, The Witches, BFG and Matilda.
When it came to publishing your book, can you talk us through why you decided to go down the route you did? Did you submit to agents/publishers first?
I had initially looked at the ‘traditional’ methods and sent my manuscript off to a few agents and publishers, however, I have never been very patient and the thought of waiting months, potentially to receive a no, didn’t really appeal to me. Amazon publishing was an easy choice for me – quick and easy! I then just had to put my marketing experience to good use.
Did you learn anything from the experience?
Investing in a good editor and cover designer is essential. It’s sometimes hard to see the errors when your immersed in your own story so pay someone with the skills to do it for you. Freelance editors and graphic designers are always looking for new customers. Use an online platform to connect and pay attention to their reviews.
What did you love most about writing your book?
The excitement of the story coming together. I loved the unexpected twists and turns that I hadn’t planned. As clichéd as it sounds, sometimes the story writes itself as the action unfolds.
Any plans for a second children’s book? Or maybe adult fiction? Are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes I’m currently working on a young adult sci-fi novel that should be my next release. It’s a story that has been knocking about in my head for a while that I’m really excited about. I also have a few ideas for some adult fiction which I will start working on at some point. Watch this space!
Can you share a top tip for anyone wanting to write for children?
Tell the story. Don’t try and water it down to the level you think children may be at.
Thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer my questions. Best wishes for your second book baby and your third actual baby next year. We’ve been reading to Freya since she was tiny (and now she’s starting to read to us) so I’m looking forward to sharing The Lost Panda with her in a few years.
Have you ever thought about writing for children? I know it’s much harder than it looks.