Sean Connolly has finally embraced the world of writing a children’s book as opposed to his successful adult novels. Today, he explains how he found it different and how Monkarrot came to him in a dream.
How would you describe your book?
As an author, I have always wanted to write a children’s book. Monkarrot is an amazing character who is half monkey and half parrot. He stands for everything good in our children. He exudes warmth, togetherness, happiness and everything we teach our children. Furthermore, and in his own special way, he also teaches our children what may be wrong. This is a special book from the planet Imagination which will take you to another place.
Who is your reader?
My readers are ALL children between four to eight years old. (Let’s not forget the parents who will be having a sneaky look.)
Tell me about the story of your story.
Monkarrot came to me during a long coach trip to France. I was writing a lot of poetry at this time. While I was sleeping through the channel tunnel, I dreamt of this beautiful little creature. The description of Monkarrot was very clear and vivid.
Where do your ideas come from?
Difficult to say, but sometimes my mind will go into overdrive. Characters and storylines often appear during moments of quiet. I keep them hidden away until the time is right.
How long did it take to write?
The six short stories, which are now one book, took me approximately one year to write. However, I was determined not to release them until I found not only the right publisher but the right illustrator. This has been an eight-year journey.
Did you enjoy writing it?
Absolutely. Not only was it a break from my normal writing, but the more I wrote, the more I loved Monkarrot. It was great to take my mind to another place.
Do you plan out your story?
Definitely, I normally work backwards, which I believe isn’t uncommon. I did this a lot when I was writing my poetry.
When you are not writing, what else do you do?
My job is as a Health and Safety Business Partner for a housing association in Birkenhead. My hobbies include my two German Shepherd dogs, welding, and presenting Mighty Radio. I present a show every Saturday afternoon. I love my motorbikes and Fee; the kids and I like to get away in the camper van.
What did you read growing up?
I remember reading The Spider Monkey Uncle King and Of Mice and Men at school, but during my days in the army, I read a lot of Terence Strong and anything military.
What’s your biggest groan when you read other people’s work?
I easily become bored when reading. If I don’t read regular `hooks’, it tends to wind me up a little.
Are you writing anything else?
I had already started a new fiction book, Soldier B with PTSD. However, I am sorely tempted to shelve this book and write the next instalment of Monkarrot.
If you could pick anyone to read your story on Jackanory, who would it be?
Denise Van Outen. It should be someone with great meaning and expression in their voice. It would also take a soft and warming delivery when required.
Any advice for a new author?
Take your time. Believe in what you are writing. Write the book as a reader and not a writer. This is my personal view, but if you are writing a children’s book for financial reasons, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Keep your readership in your mind while you write. Keep focused on what you are doing. You have a lot of good people wanting to help you.
Is the book how you imagined it to be?
Much better. TAUK Publishing and their illustrator, Lisa Williams, have transformed my rough narrative into something way better than I could have ever imagined. The owner of Write Blend Bookshop persuaded me to contact TAUK, and I am so glad I did.
What was the best thing about working with TAUK Publishing?
The communication between the TAUK team and the author is nothing short of perfect. This was the primary thing for me. Having experienced poor communication while publishing previous books can often damage this relationship and make what should be a good time, a bad time. The publishing process at TAUK is very slick and well-rehearsed. This is evident when you look at the final book. The attention to detail is outstanding. Finally, it’s about the team. When I publish, I need to communicate with people at my level, using my language—TAUK did exactly that. They spoke in `layman’ language. This gave me the reassurance I needed when searching for my publisher.