'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 2 December 2013

Author Interview: Deborah Kelly

Kids’ Book Review is delighted to welcome author Deborah Kelly to discuss her thoughts on writing. Deborah’s debut picture book, The Bouncing Ball, was published by Random House in October 2013.

Congratulations on publishing your first picture book. Can you tell us what inspired the story of The Bouncing Ball?

Thank you!

The Bouncing Ball was inspired by my son. We were at the park and Oban was scratching about in the dirt. He uncovered a small hi-bounce ball. Immediately the line came into my head: ‘A small boy found a small ball’.

I began to wonder where the ball had come from, where it might go next. I also liked the idea that playing ball is something that almost all kids everywhere, have in common.

You mention on your website that you have been writing stories since you were quite young. What inspired you to take the step of sending one of your stories to a publisher?

Yes, I still have poetry that I wrote as a child, and a series of picture books I wrote when I was seven. I am thrilled to see that my six-year-old daughter is now beginning to write books of her own, too!

I have always felt compelled to write, be it in the form of journals, poetry or stories for children.

Wanting to share these stories with a wider audience, giving them a voice I suppose, was what compelled me to seek publication.

In addition to The Bouncing Ball, you have short stories published in the newly released collaborative projects Stories for Girls and Stories for Boys (Random House) and haiku poems incorporated into Liz Anelli’s ‘Mapping the Port’ project in Newcastle. Do you have a favourite genre or style of writing? Is the writing process the same or different for each type of writing?

I adore picture books and I love poetry. I think the two have a lot in common; both use words sparingly, to create a story distilled to its very essence.

Lately I have been reading junior fiction and middle grade novels because I would like to explore writing in both of these areas.

The writing process for me is still a bit cryptic-each new story takes me on its own journey. But I like to think it’s becoming a more streamlined process with each story I write.  

As a new author, what has been the most valuable lesson you have learnt during the process of publishing your first picture book? Do you have any advice for writers who want to take the step of approaching a publisher with their work?

Patience and perseverance are very important. So is learning to take on board constructive criticism!

I would advise writers to spend some time in bookshops and libraries familiarising themselves with who publishes what, before sending a manuscript. Also, to visit the publishers website and follow the submission guidelines carefully.

I found that attending courses through the NSW Writer’s Centre in Sydney and the Hunter Writer’s Centre here in Newcastle really helped me to develop my writing to a more publishable standard. 

Do you have a regular writing routine? How do you find time to focus on your writing in the midst of a busy family life?

I try to write at least a little bit every day but I have had to work it around the kids. Now I am able to write on the days they are at school / preschool, as well as in the evenings. When they were very young I wrote in 5-10 minute snatches, when and where I could! 

The great thing about writing is that you can get ideas while driving, cooking or washing dishes. You can jot them down in a notebook…or ask a stranger for a pen to write them on your arm…. or you can text them to yourself!

I am also incredibly lucky to have both parents and in-laws nearby who are very supportive of my writing. 

What inspires you most as a writer?

Observing and reflecting on the world around me. If your eyes, ears and heart are open to them, stories are everywhere!

Do you have any other writing projects on the horizon?

I usually have several projects on the go at once. Now I am working on a few picture book ideas and a chapter book for older readers.

My next picture book, Jam for Nana (published by Random House), is due for release in April  2014. It is a story that is close to my heart, based on my relationship with my own Nana who was born in Hungary. It has been wonderfully illustrated by the gorgeous Lisa Stewart whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently.

In October 2014 another picture book, The Great Cuddle Muddle, will also be released by Random House.

Visit Deborah Kelly's website and Facebook page to find our more about her work and keep up to date with her latest news. You can read our review of The Bouncing Ball here and our post about The Bouncing Ball book launch here.