TAUK Publishing is so pleased to finally see the publication and launch of Dave The Whale today. Fay Evans, author of Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon and Bob’s Beard, has managed to find some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her third children’s picture book and how her writing career started.
All of your books have great characters that children immediately fall in love with. Is it easy to create them, or do you take time adding to their personalities?
I think the personality of the main character evolves as the story develops. My characters have unique traits and act in a certain way within the story, which helps to form their personality. Then when my illustrator Lisa Williams gets involved, the real magic happens. I tend to have strong ideas about how my characters should look, and Lisa helps to bring them to life on the page. It’s always exciting to see a character I’ve created in my imagination evolve into something real.
Do you plan a story and then create the character, or does the character come first?
I think the story idea comes first. With Dave The Whale, I was always intrigued as to why so many whales get beached – no one really knows why this happens. I then thought about writing a story about a young whale who wants to swim to a beach to sunbathe, not realising that he could get stuck on dry land. Hence, Dave The Whale was born!
Your books always have instructions for physical actions for the reader to perform at points of your story. How important is having this aspect for you?
I love including an interactive aspect to my rhyming stories so that children can join in and have a go at repeating some simple actions as they read the story. It helps to bring the book to life off the page so that storytime isn’t static. It’s also great fun when I’m sharing stories on my primary school author visits. I can’t wait to get everyone flapping their flippers and swimming along with Dave The Whale!
What is the most important element for you? Character, story, rhyme or illustrations?
Story and rhyme are key for me. The narrative has to make sense, and the rhyme has to work or ‘scan’ with the correct rhythm. No made-up words for the sake of a rhyme and no clunky rhythm – definite no-nos for me!
You visit schools a lot. Is it more than just reading your book to the pupils?
I’ve visited over 150 primary schools over the years to share my stories with tens of thousands of children and have evolved into a children’s author and professional storyteller. With my second book, Bob’s Beard, I began using props and cuddly characters to get the children involved in the storytelling to help bring the book to life. Essentially, I’m in character, performing as I share stories, so I was really proud to be accepted as a member of Equity, the union for performing artists.
Have you always been writing?
My first job was as a reporter for a local newspaper. I then worked in PR, writing news releases for lots of different businesses, particularly in the food industry. I always yearned to be a creative writer, so I completed an MA in TV & Radio Scriptwriting. I wrote sitcoms and had a couple of short films produced. I also co-wrote a TV comedy-drama series idea which was optioned by ITV Studios.
You’re watching TV and wish you were part of the writing team. What are you watching? Explain what it is about the writing you like.
It would have to be a classic sitcom or sketch show. Fawlty Towers is my absolute favourite. I also think Friends is the perfect mix of great writing and comedy performance.
What would you write if you couldn’t write children’s picture books?
Funnily enough, I’ve already turned my hand to writing a musical stage show for children based on my first rhyming picture book, Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon.
Can you tell us anything about your stage show?
Fred The Musical is aimed at toddlers and primary school children, with lots of panto-style audience interaction. It has an all-rhyming script and catchy sing-along songs – including a show-stopping power ballad performed by the leading man, a lovable young dragon with a fiery affliction.
You have self-published all of your books. Why did you choose TAUK Publishing?
Self-publishing makes absolute business sense to me as a children’s author and storyteller. I publish and direct sell copies of my books on my author visits, so I get to keep every penny of profit above the printing cost. With traditional publishing, the author receives only a tiny amount of the cover price from each sale. TAUK Publishing is the bee’s knees when it comes to supporting self-published authors. They know their stuff and guide you through every step of the publishing process. Their help is invaluable.
What’s next for Fay Evans?
I’m really looking forward to sharing Dave The Whale on my primary school author visits. I’m also excited about getting Fred The Musical on its little green scaly feet. Watch this space!