It’s lovely to be here with you and to chat a bit about my path to publication! A debut book is incredibly exciting, and I still have to pinch myself about it!
At the end of February, 2020, one of my critique partners posted in our group that UCLan Publishing was running a competition. The brief was to write a picture book about their foxy mascot, Finney. As I didn’t have anything suitable in my portfolio — and as the competiton was due to close very soon — I didn’t intend to enter as there wasn’t much time left to write a new story. But as soon as I’d decided that, a little voice in my head kept saying, “Go on, have a go — you know you want to!” and very quickly, an idea about a fox who travels the world with a book (plus a lilting metre for a rhyming story) popped into my head.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I was so excited to learn that I’d been shortlisted in the competition! Although I wasn’t the eventual winner, Hazel Holmes, of UCLan Publishing, quickly got in touch to say that they loved my story and were interested in publishing it. But would I consider changing the main character to another animal? Well, of course, I was delighted to oblige — and our book-loving bear was born!
Quite soon, I had signed my first ever publishing contract! I also saw some sample sketches of my bear from illustrator, Sophia O’Connor — and was totally smitten!
The book then had some light edits under the guidance of Jake Hope, who kept me calm when (to my horror) he spotted that I had got two Spread 5’s! Jake reassured me that this
wouldn’t matter in the least, because the text layout would be decided by the designer. Jake also suggested that we switch the bear’s gender from male to female.
Once the story was in its final form, it was sent to designer extraordinaire, Becky Chilcott, who began work on the layout. The book was then increased from 12 to 14 spreads, which gave everything a bit more space to breathe.
For me, the biggest joy of having a picture book in production comes from those unannounced emails delivering artwork. Thus, in September 2020, an email pinged into my inbox from Becky — containing some developed character sketches from Sophia. I continued to be amazed by Sophia’s vision for my bear; it was perfect! Then in November 2020, the roughs (black and white sketches of all the spreads) arrived.
After that, I received the revised roughs, and then the colour plan for the book. The cover roughs followed, (along with some interior colour artwork) and then, joy of joys, the fully-worked up cover artwork, in all its gorgeous dusky teals — plus the promise of foil! The full interior colour artwork soon followed, and all at once, our book started to look like a real book, complete with words, pictures, and a glorious cover.
At this stage, the book went off to a proof reader, and I spent time pondering commas and en dashes! And then… it finally went off to print, hooray! And here we are, now! Throughout the whole process, UCLan Publishing has been so inclusive and accommodating. It has been a real team effort and a total joy — and this is very much our book.