A Look Behind The Book With A Bogie.

_RD90748You would be hard-pressed to come up with a better name for an author of children’s books than A Bogie but is it a nom de plume?

In my latest Behind The Book interview, I quiz Anna about her surname and discover more about her popular series of Happy Hooves picture books – the most recent of which, Yuk!, was published last year.

The busy mum of three is fascinated by how children learn to read and is convinced that rhyming and poetry are a huge help in aiding language and reading skills. I love rhymes – although, having attempted to write a rhyming poem once, I know it is not as easy as it might seem.

Anna also offers a couple of great tips at the end, which I am sure are important for all authors.

Here we go.

First things first, A Bogie is surely the most perfect name for the writer of children’s books?

A Bogie is a brilliant name for a children’s author – unbelievably it is my actual (married) name and not just a nom de plume. It isn’t the easiest name in the world to have but at least this career makes the most of it.

Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

I was born and grew up in Norwich and I now live in Gibraltar.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to write for children? 

I have always wanted to write but my career post university was actually in marketing. Having decided that I wanted a change from corporate life, I tried my hand at writing for children. It’s my favourite kind of writing because it’s so much fun and a real break from everyday life.

Your debut picture book series, Happy Hooves, was inspired by your life in Spain. How much impact does your location (and other aspects of your life) have on the subject matter of your books?

Location does have an impact because the area you are in sits on your conscience. I used to live in natural parkland outside of a beautiful place called Tarifa, in the south of Spain. It is very rustic and the animals roam freely, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the area and so location played a big part in Happy Hooves. Another big aspect of my life is that I am a mum to three gorgeous kiddiwinks – Reuben, Amabel and Lachie, and they provide constant inspiration with their general chatter.

 

How did you find out it had been accepted for publication? What was that like?

I had two very small children when I found out Happy Hooves, Ta Dah! was going to be published, it was very exciting but also slightly overwhelming as I hadn’t expected it to happen at that time. A picture book takes a long time to come together and it all felt quite unreal until I actually held the book in my hands. Fat Fox Books is a brilliant publishers and they’re very supportive – I call Holly, the managing director of Fat Fox Books, my Fairy Godmother because she made my wish come true.

How much say do you have over the illustrations? Is it a team effort? What was it like seeing your characters as someone else sees them? Were they as you imagined?

The publishers had full control over the illustrations for Happy Hooves and I was absolutely thrilled that they chose Rebecca Elliott. She is incredibly talented and made Happy Hooves more beautiful than I could ever have hoped. If you ever visit Tarifa, you’ll see how well she has caught the essence of the place, even though she hasn’t been there.

During a creative writing course, years ago, we had an exercise to come up with a children’s tale (or the start of one). I remember people muttering about how “easy” it would be but the majority of the class really struggled. Have you come across this attitude before? If so, is it frustrating?

Writing a children’s book is very intense, every word has to be perfect because you are working with so few, there is absolutely no room for unnecessary details. Children are very harsh critics and won’t read a book unless it keeps them captivated and so there is a huge amount of work to make sure the story will not lose the child, even for a second. People may think writing a children’s story is easy but the writing is actually only one part of being an children’s author – it is hugely competitive and most writers have to go through a lot of rejections before anything is published so it’s all about the long haul struggle to be honest and whether you can stay in it for the long run.

How does it feel to know you’re engaging a younger audience? That your books could be among the first they have ever read? Do you feel any pressure? 

Now I do…! I love writing for a younger audience, but I don’t feel a pressure, just a privilege if mine is one of the books they read. All I can hope for is that they ask to read it again, and enjoy it. I especially love visiting schools where you get to engage with children directly, it is really rewarding and the questions can be brilliant.

What are you working on at the moment? And do you write better at set times or can you sit down whenever and get straight to it? 

At the moment I’m working on a book for a Scottish charity, which should be published as an ebook this year. I’m also working on a new series of books that unfortunately I can’t divulge upon yet.

Is there any advice you could give to would-be authors? Something you would have found useful when you started?

Firstly, it’s all about the editing and making sure that every word deserves its place on that page.

Secondly, an author has to do a lot of their own self-promotion and create their audience. I’ve found this very hard and I am working a lot on my social media so that I can get myself out there.

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A massive thank you to Anna for answering my questions. I had no idea just how much authors, even ones with big publishers, have to peddle their own wares. It seems like a great idea to start building up your social media presence in advance.

Speaking of which, you can find out more about Anna via her website, which also has some great free colouring activities to download and print, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more Behind The Book posts please click here. I’ve got two more fabulous authors lined up for next month. I can’t wait to post them.

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Book Review: Greatest Hits.

cover102011-mediumHave you ever read a book featuring a fictional musician and thought ‘I wish I could hear their work in real life?’

Cass Wheeler, the lead character in Laura Barnett’s new book, Greatest Hits, had such an interesting, attractive and authentic voice on the page. I felt sure she had to be real and was so disappointed when I discovered that wasn’t the case. Then I read about an innovative project between the author and singer songwriter Kathryn Williams, which will bring the songs from the book to life.

An album of 16 tracks, entitled Songs From The Novel Greatest Hits, with music by Mercury-nominated Kathryn and lyrics by them both, is being released alongside the book.

How cool is that? I’ve listened to the first song, Common Ground, from the collaboration and it’s perfect. There’s no other way to describe it.

Before we get into more detail, here’s the blurb for the book:

One day. 16 songs. The soundtrack of a lifetime…

Alone in her studio, Cass Wheeler is taking a journey back into her past. After a silence of ten years, the singer-songwriter is picking the 16 tracks that have defined her – 16 key moments in her life – for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits album.

In the course of this one day, both ordinary and extraordinary, the story of Cass’s life emerges – a story of highs and lows, of music, friendship and ambition, of great love and great loss. But what prompted her to retreat all those years ago, and is there a way for her to make peace with her past?

Daughter. Mother. Singer. Lover. What are the memories that mean the most?

This is Laura’s follow up to the hugely successful The Versions Of Us and I think she has another hit on her hands.

It was one of those books where I was frustrated and, at times, a little bit cross to have to put it down and do real life things.

It’s complex, intense and bittersweet. Although it covers several decades, it doesn’t feel like there are massive jumps and it flows beautifully. The book is well-researched and steeped in nostalgia (for some reason it made me think about my first clunky old Walkman, which I adored, for the first time in years). It’s an altogether unique experience – and that’s before you even get to the music.

As I got further engrossed, I longed to hear Cass sing, which is why I went looking to see if she was a real artist. Instead I discovered the fantastic project between Laura and Kathryn, which surely has to be the next best thing.

When announcing the album, Laura, who is also a freelance journalist, feature writer and theatre critic, said: “From the earliest moment of coming up with the idea for Greatest Hits, it was clear to me that I wanted my character’s musical output to have a life beyond the page. I’ve been a fan of Kathryn’s music for years and I’m so thrilled to be working with her – she’s an absolute magician, and I’m so excited about the creative possibilities posed by drawing literature and music together in this way.”

I’m intrigued to see how the album, which is realeased under the One Little Indian label, does, but one thing is for sure – it’s safe to say Laura, like Cass, is no one hit wonder.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £6.99.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

With thanks to Orion Publishing Group for the ARC in return for an honest review.

 

 

A Look Behind The Book With H J Moat.

PortraitPicWhile she might have steered away from an early childhood ambition to own a petrol station, when it comes to her new book, H J Moat definitely went the distance.

Even though a publisher had taken an interest in Other People’s Business, the London-based author opted to self-publish so she could stay true to her story.

In her modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which happens to be one of my favourite plays (and not just because Keanu Reeves appeared in a film version), she explores whether “we’re ever really in control of our own romantic destiny and if true love really can conquer all”.

I can’t think of anyone better to kick off my new series, Behind The Book, where I interview authors about their writing lives and route into print.

Where do you live? Islington. Team North London.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? The first ambition I remember having was to own my own petrol station…that’s perfectly normal, right? I did start a novel when I was 16 and sent it to an agent on a whim. Unbelievably, they actually asked to see more, but – and lord knows I regret this – I lost interest and never followed up. Teenagers…

Is fiction writing your day job (if not, what do you do, and when do you find the time to write)? Not fiction, although I have made a career out of writing. I’ve spent a decade as a fashion and entertainment journalist and I’m now the editor of Farfetch, which is a luxury fashion website. I mainly edit and commission my team’s features there, but I do write some of the bigger stories – celebrity and designer interviews and in-depth style pieces. I write whenever I can: before work, after work, free lunch times, and I try and get in at least four hours in on whatever day of the weekend Spurs aren’t playing. I also have three notebooks of differing sizes for different handbags – I’m always having ideas in the most random places.

CoverCan you explain a bit about your book? Were you intimidated to take on such a well-known and popular play? Other People’s Business is my first book, though it started out with a different, wildly pretentious name. I began writing it in 2013, during a very long, very bleak winter and from then to publication it probably went through six or seven revisions. I should point out it’s not like I was sat there for four years obsessively tinkering with it, thinking it was my Magnum Opus or something – there has been other projects in between.

So, why did I take on Much Ado About Nothing? Well the truth is though I had story ideas of my own, I’m madly in love with Shakespeare’s work, but most people I know dismiss reading him because they think it’s too hard to understand. It made me sad, so I thought if I could modernise my very favourite of his comedies, anyone who read it would have a far better chance of being able to understand and follow the play. Also, nobody can craft a story that blends romance and joy and sorrow and laughter quite like Shakespeare can, so, no, I wasn’t intimidated taking it on at all – in fact I was less scared than if I was writing something original, because I knew I could learn so much from it.

Who are your favourite authors (obviously you’re a Shakespeare fan)? I do love Shakespeare quite an embarrassing amount, although I draw the line at Titus Andronicus (so gory). But Jane Austen is my absolute writing idol, and so ahead of her time. P.G Wodehouse is another favourite, and as for modern authors, I like to mix it up – Curtis Sittenfeld, Nick Hornby and Jackie Collins.

Are you a planner or more of a wing it and see? I like to have structure to a certain extent – I think it’s important if you want to drive the plot forward and not allow your reader to get bored. So when I sit down to write a chapter I will know what story beats I need to hit, but I like to experiment with different ways of getting there and seeing what works best. Sometimes a character will sort of decide for themselves and surprise even me!

Can you talk about your route to publication? After my very first draft I sent off chapter samples to several agents. I received some very positive feedback but none of them actually took me on. I’m not surprised, it wasn’t ready – honestly that professionals liked it remains a shock because that first version is so, so embarrassing and I’m still mortified I sent it off. A few redrafts down the line it attracted some interest from a publisher I was in touch with, and whose director gave me an initial round of detailed notes which were extremely helpful and I think really improved the book. She then passed it to some colleagues for a second round of notes and their advice was to strip out all of the Shakespeare elements of the story (the crossed-wires…can’t say too much without spoiling) and turn it into something more formulaic. Which may have been good advice – I’ll never know, it wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. So I decided to go it alone.

Where do you hope your fiction writing takes you in the future? I feel very lucky to have my career in fashion (and to quote another great book, The Devil Wears Prada, to have a job that a million girls would kill for) but the more fiction I write the more I know that in a perfect world I’d spend my life telling stories.

Are you already working on your next book? I’m about to start the 4th draft of my 2nd book, which is of a genre I don’t think there’s enough of about: a rom-com detective story. I love mysteries and heists but I hate that they’re all so humorless and grim. This one is about two estranged sisters who mend their relationship as they team up to investigate a blackmail and kidnapping.

Is there one piece of advice you could give to writers (or would-be writers)? Yes, the most important thing is if you have a great story idea – just get it down. Write it. Even if you think what you are writing is a pile of crap, you need to start with something. Editing is magical and it’s literally my (day) job to improve copy by moving it around, and cutting out the unnecessary bits and changing words so that it reads better. But you can only do that once you have something to edit.

Thank you so much to H J for agreeing to be featured. I found her answers not only helpful but also really inspiring, which is exactly what I hoped for when starting this series. If you’d like to connect with her you can follow her on twitter @hjmoat or on Goodreads here.

Please also give Other People’s Business some love. It was released last month and you can buy it here, priced £1.99. It’s on my TBR pile.

If you are an author and you’d like to appear in Behind The Book please get in touch.