Today, my visitor is Catriona Hoy, author of picture books including ‘My Grandad Marches on ANZAC Day’, ‘The Music Tree’, ‘Daddies’ and ‘Mummies are Amazing’…and her new release ‘Puggle’. ‘Puggle’ is the story of a young echidna, illustrated by Andrew Plant.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about my writing and my latest picture book, Puggle.
Picture books are mostly for younger children. How does this affect the language you use in telling a story?
Like any other kind of writing, you have to think yourself into your character’s head. Three of my books have been written in the first person, so I must be good at having a mental age of four! Word choice is important, especially when conveying difficult concepts. I struggled with how to talk about death in My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day and ended up with ‘their mums and dads waited but they never came home.’
The sound of words are also important. Most picture books are read aloud, so the words have to flow naturally and have an almost poetic quality. I used a bit of alliteration in Mummies are Amazing, with mum doing things like making ‘buses out of boxes’ and ‘planning perfect parties.’
With Puggle, my aim was to make the language simple, without resorting to making the character anthropomorphic.
Knowing the general framework of the story; I always knew what the ending had to be. Often with a story, the ending can be one of the hardest things to make satisfying.
What was the most challenging?
Working out the timing, beginning with Puggle, going back to his mother, to the present….what tense to use where. The story begins in the present but I had to think carefully about what to do. In the end Jane Covernton suggested changing it all to present tense to make it flow better.
Picture books often take a long time to write and even longer to reach publication. Can you share a little of the journey to publication?
September 2006.The story began as a word…Puggle. That was always going to be the title. I knew that I wanted to write about this baby echidna but not what form the story would take. Then I had the first line. I had that for a long time. I did a lot of research about echidnas, trying to work out timelines, augmenting the notes I had taken on a visit to wildlife carers, cross checking and referencing.
When I was happy with the text, I sent it to one publisher who rejected it but saw the potential for some work on non fiction animal books. I really felt I wanted to stay with Puggle at that stage, so sent it out again to Working Title Press. I was working as a receptionist in England, answering phones when one day I quietly checked my emails and found that she had accepted it I had to contain my excitement! .This was November 2007.
Next I did a lot of editing with Jane. She has exceptionally high standards and we worked on nuances and flow. Jane asked me if I had any illustrators in mind and I mentioned that I would love Andrew Plant to illustrate. Andrew was incredibly busy and couldn’t start for quite some time, so it was 2009 before the illustrations were finished. The book’s release was postponed till March 2010 to maximise the exposure to schools as the educational market is a large potential market for this book.
So I guess 3 ½ years all up!
Why picture books? Why do you write for this age group?
When I started writing my children were that age, as were most of my friends children so that’s where my inspiration tended to come from. Now that they’re older I’m sure they’d like me to write the next Twilight! I still like writing for this age group because I like the way in which an idea can be captured in so few words.
You recently spent some time living in the UK. Do you think this will
affect the way you write or the subjects you write about?
Living in the UK gave me lots of opportunity for background information…I’m just waiting for the inspiration. I’d like to write a ghost story I think based in Ireland and Scotland.
What’s next for you?
My next book, George and Ghost is due for release in November. It’s with a UK publisher, Hodder, but as they are part of the Hachette Group I’m hoping to see it over here in bookstores too. I’m very happy with this book…, it’s a story about friendship, with a little science and philosophy thrown in. It can be as deep or light hearted as you wish.
Apart from that, I’ve couple of books currently being illustrated and my fingers are always crossed that the next envelope I open won’t be one with my own handwriting on the front…those rejections don’t ever get easier.
As for goals…I’d like to tackle a longer story…it’s on the list of things to do.
Thanks for stopping by Catriona.
Follow Catriona’s blog tour:
April 13- http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com
April 14 – http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com
April 16 – http://orangedale.livejournal.com
April 17 – http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com
April 18 – http://angelasunde.blogspot.com
April 19 – http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com
April 20 – http://belka37.blogspot.com
April 21 – http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com
April 22 – http://trudietrewin.com/blog-ramblings