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An Interview with Deborah Bell

The Adventures of Debbie’s Dad by Deborah Bell is finally published today. She has had a job these last few weeks keeping the whole project a secret. Read her interview and find out why she had to keep it all hush-hush.

 

There’s a wonderful story behind this book, isn’t there?

When I was younger, my mum used to work the night shift, meaning Dad was on bedtime duty quite a lot. I used to be a little frightened of the dark and always asked for the landing light to be left on (like most kids, I’m sure). I can’t remember where it came from or how it started, but in the mornings, Dad used to tell my brother and I that when we were asleep, he would go on an adventure through the night and would visit some fantastic places around the world. I was old enough to know this clearly wasn’t true, but at the same time, I was heavily invested in his tales, so each morning it would be a case of, “Well, where did you end up last night, Dad?” All very silly, but he is such a storyteller that you got lost in the tale and almost forgot it wasn’t real… or was it?!

Debbie and her dad

 

Did you tell your dad straight away?

I had toyed with the idea of developing his stories years ago, and when I eventually put pen to paper, I told him, but he had no idea that I was actually getting it published.

How did he react?

At first, he was a little confused. He thought I had only got one book printed as a one-off gift, but when the penny dropped, and he realised that it was a real-life bona fide published book, he was just made up. He was super proud and headed straight to the pub to celebrate and tell all the lads that his daughter had become a published author.

Why did you pick a New York theme?

For a few reasons, really. I mean, firstly, it’s New York! Possibly the most iconic city in the world, and I could easily visualise all the things Debbie and Dad would do there, which meant the story flowed so easily and practically spilt out of my head. I also thought it was likely children would recognise the landmarks with it being such a well-photographed city, appearing in many films and TV shows. And finally, as it’s such a personal piece of work, New York was the first city I travelled to when I started working for an airline and for that reason, it had to be the Big Apple.

Have you ever written before?

I used to write stories when I was a little girl and loved it when we did creative writing at school, but I’ve never written anything that has been published. I do have a collection of diaries I wrote during my teen years which would make an interesting read if I ever had the guts to publish them.

What prompted you to write this now?

It was during the first lockdown period in 2020 when we couldn’t leave the house. I was pregnant, bored, and needed something to stimulate my brain. After a lot of encouragement from my boyfriend, I finally did what I said I would do and ended up writing the book in just two days! Having it stored in my head all those years helped the words come out. I then decided to get it published after having my little boy and seeing how much he loves books. It will be lovely for us to read it together and for him to eventually understand that his mum wrote it. In time, it will become a family legacy for generations to come.

Debbie and her family

Is the book how you imagined it to be?

No, it is so, so much more! It was really clear in my mind how I wanted the book to look aesthetically and the characters to appear. I was genuinely stunned when Lisa’s first draft delivered exactly what I had envisioned—give or take a couple of tweaks. It is such a thrill seeing these characters come to life on the page. The feeling is indescribable.

How much detail did you input into the illustrations?

I was specific about how I wanted the main characters to look. Since they are based on me and my dad, it was important they looked similar, and Debbie simply had to wear glasses. Reading books when I was younger, I can’t remember seeing many girls wearing glasses, so that representation was vital. I also wanted other details: specifically, Frankie, our lovely French bulldog, my brother and I’s very first cuddly toys (which now belong to my son) and my dad’s navy towelling dressing gown and shark tooth necklace. Other than that, Lisa had free range to imagine the story how she saw fit. She’s done the most fantastic job!

Do you think there will be more adventures, or would you like to write something completely different?

Oh, I definitely think Debbie’s Dad could have more adventures. There are plenty of places he still needs to visit, but I also have some other ideas I’d love to turn into stories as well. So watch this space.

Why did you choose TAUK Publishing?

After doing a lot of research and receiving some hybrid publishing offers, I decided that self-publishing was the option for me as I kept creative control. I’m friends with a fellow author who used TAUK Publishing and spoke highly of the experience. After my initial meeting with Estelle, I knew I was making the right choice, and they have supported me at every step of this fantastic publishing journey.

Is there a children’s author you admire?

Roger Hargreaves. His Mr Men stories are classics, and they all started because his son wanted to know what a tickle looked like. I love that.

If your book was on Jackanory, who would you like to read the story?

The wonderful Matthew McConaughey. I’d love to hear him read my book in that beautiful Texan drawl.

Any advice for new authors?

Just do It. Take the leap, believe in yourself and enjoy the ride.

Harry with Grandad. (Are they planning new adventures?)

 

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