Blimey! She’s on her third well-being book from her Fantastic Fin and Friends Series. We caught up with Jessica about the latest instalment, Awesome Alfie’s Disastrous Day out today.
Is the book how you imagined it to be?
Yes, it is! I’m thrilled with how it has turned out. Awesome Alfie’s Disastrous Day is the third book in the series, and they have developed a wonderful style of their own.
You used your own illustrator. How do you know him?
Andrew Whitehead is a very experienced artist and a lovely man. My husband plays golf with him, and when he told him of the stories I’d written, he offered some sample illustrations, which I immediately fell in love with. It was meant to be!
What prompted you to write this now?
I wrote the first draft of several rhyming stories during the first lockdown, Awesome Alfie being one of them. Writing was a wonderful way of escaping without leaving the house. This story was written during those hazy nights of breastfeeding my newborn baby. As a result of home-schooling my children during the pandemic, I felt drawn to developing fun and engaging stories and resources supporting children’s emotional well-being.
Are your characters based on anyone you know?
Yes! All three of my books are inspired by my experiences with my children. Awesome Alfie is influenced by my youngest child, Alfie, who is now three. His character in the story is older, though. The well-being theme within the story is about developing a positive mindset and practising gratitude, which was certainly inspired by Alfie’s glorious smile. During the pandemic, I was trying to home-school, work from home, be a new mum and stay sane whilst my husband was out working. Alfie’s gorgeous smile and demeanour as a baby really helped me through. I also developed the bedtime practice of finding three things in each day to be grateful for, which informed the premise behind the story.
Where do your ideas come from?
My life experiences, coupled with my knowledge and expertise as a counsellor and psychotherapist.
What is the most important element for you? Character, story, rhyme or illustrations?
I think they’re all equally important ingredients – like making a great cake. Andrew’s illustrations really do bring this story to life. I adore rhyming stories; I have read countless rhyming stories to my own children, and they fill me with deep joy.
How long did it take to write?
The first draft flowed well and didn’t take long. It is a difficult one to answer because, for the edits, I kept revising this story around the edges of the day and any time I could fit it in.
When you are not writing, what else do you do?
I’m a mum to three lovely children and have a counselling and psychotherapy practice in Derbyshire. We now have a six-month-old cockapoo called Teddy, who we love taking out on walks. I’ve also just taken on the role of School Governor at my children’s school. One of my favourite things is visiting schools and reading my stories to the children; it’s such an incredible privilege as the children are full of wonder and engage well in my sessions.
What did you read growing up?
As a young child, I was obsessed with a short story called Spotty Potty, a funny, short rhyming story about a poorly hippo. There were made-up words, and this is where my love affair of rhyming stories began. I can still recite this now. I also really enjoyed reading Chilly Billy by Peter Mayle.
Is there a children’s author you admire?
There are many. I love Julia Donaldson’s stories, particularly A Squash and a Squeeze and Monkey Puzzle.
If your book was on Jackanory, who would you like to read the story?
I can’t deny that I have had a little fantasy about Tom Hardy reading one of my stories for the CBeebies bedtime story!
What would you write if you couldn’t write children’s picture books?
I’d write non-fiction for children and adults to support emotional well-being. I hope to do this in the near future.
Any advice for new authors?
Having doubts and questioning whether you can do it is normal and natural – work through these. It can’t be wrong if you have a passion and love for writing. Also, think carefully about how you measure your success. Aiming to sell as many books as Roald Dahl is setting yourself up for failure (perhaps)!
What was the best thing about working with TAUK Publishing?
This is the third time for me, and I must say the experience gets better and better each time. You really care about what you do, and I know that I am in very professional and capable hands. You should be very proud of all that you have achieved.