A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Like most dogs, Pierre, a French bulldog, loves the excitement of digging things up. He hoards his treasures in a hole in the backyard and then makes space for more. One day Pierre tosses some old stuff into the trash can, but he forgets to recycle. Now, instead of being transformed into new things, that plastic bottle and newspaper will sit in a landfill forever! Well, not if Pierre has anything to do with it. He chases the garbage truck through town, but will he catch it in time, or will those treasures be trash forever?
Helen: Happy publication day Kate, and thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about writing picture books. Your first published book was a dystopian novel for young adults. How different is the writing process for picture books?
Kate: There’s such small word count for a PB. You have to get your concept, voice, theme, and story into fourteen pages. I find picture books a lot harder to write than novels. But it’s wonderful to meet the illustrator and share the journey with someone so closely.
Helen: That sounds like an interesting collaboration. How do you work with your illustrator? Does the story come first? Or the images? Is it closely collaborative?
Kate: Each time I’ve done this, I’ve written the story, split it into spreads, and pitched it to my agent with a synopsis. Then I’ve been paired with an illustrator (as my agent reps a lot of really talented artist) and they’ve provided a sample of artwork (the amount varies). Then it’s sent out on submission. When/if we receive an offer, we complete the rest of the book together. The text is already there (waiting to be edited), so we chat about what the spreads should include and go back and to with images to get them perfect before meeting the deadline. There’s usually not that much tweaking between us because I’ve been fortunate enough to be paired with three outstanding (and very hardworking) illustrators.
Helen: I love the concept of an eco friendly dog desperate to ensure his rubbish gets recycled. Where did the idea come from?
Kate: Thank you! I used to work somewhere that’s big on recycling, and we make sure to recycle properly at home, too. But sometimes there’s confusion, when I’m holding an object wondering which bin it’s supposed to go in, and I’m asking, “Where does this go?! Help!” And that’s just what happens to Pierre when he’s faced with the two.
Helen: What are your favourite children’s picture books? Were you inspired by any of them?
Kate: I have lots of favourites and find them all inspiring. I pick books from my bookshelf to help with switching between writing for 12+ and writing for 3+ and get back in the zone. There’s such a wonderful variety of picture books out there – I’m always buying them!
Recent favourites include: Ame Dyckman’s WOLFIE THE BUNNY, James Mayhew’s BUBBLE & SQUEAK, Rose Mannering’s THE SPOTTY DOTTY DAFFODIL, Sophy Henn’s POM POM GETS THE GRUMPS, Bethany Straker’s THE FUNNY BUNNY FLY, and Isabel Atherton’s THE BAD EASTER BUNNY, to name a few…
Helen: Any words of advice for writers interested in writing for picture books?
Kate: Read lots of picture books. Research what’s already out there. Make sure your message isn’t a lecture (keep it fun!). Word count at 500 words or less. Remember the pictures describe. And write as much as you can to keep improving and writing tighter. I’ve written SO many that have never been seen because it helps just to keep practicing. You’ll know when you’ve got something.
Helen: Finally, what’s next?
Kate: I have TOUGH COOKIE with Grace Sandford out this October, and a YA novel (THE WANDERERS) out in September. Thank you for the great questions, Helen!
Helen: A busy year! And thank you for sharing your experience as a writer.
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Kate Louise is picture book author of THE UPSIDE-DOWN FISH, PIERRE THE FRENCH BULLDOG RECYCLES, and TOUGH COOKIE. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She graduated from university with a first class degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate rediscovered her love of reading, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. And she writes YA as Kate Ormand. Kate is represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd.
Helen Douglas is the author of AFTER EDEN and CHASING STARS, both contemporary YA romance novels with a sci-fi twist. When she’s not working on her next book, she spends her time reading, stargazing, watching science-fiction and hanging out at the beach.