Today I am interviewing Aussie children's writer Aleesah Darlison. Aleesah has, in recent years, been short listed for the Eve Pownall Award, which is the non-fiction section of the CBCA awards. I have made it as far as the Notables and the Claytons, for my book Potions To Pulsars: Women Doing Science but never the Pownall short list!
I will also be publishing her guest post in which she tells us a bit more about the books.
So, enjoy the Q and A below and maybe think of a book or two for your younger children. Aleesah's current publisher is Walker Books.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, e.g. what do you do when you aren't writing? Where do you live?
I grew up in the country, living in a tiny house on a small farm with my parents, my brother and my two younger sisters. I left home at seventeen to attend uni in Sydney where I studied marketing. I’ve always had a passion for books and writing and although I worked for a number of years in corporate marketing, I spent every spare minute writing. For many years, I treated it as a hobby, never dreaming that I could actually become a published author.
It wasn’t until I left paid work to become a full-time mum that I decided to give writing as a career a proper shot. After three years of attending workshops, running writers’ groups and receiving copious amounts of rejection letters, I finally had my first picture book accepted for publication. That was two and a half years ago. Since then, I’ve published fifteen books.
I still live in Sydney, on the Northern Beaches with my husband, three young children (aged 9, 8 and 5) and two small but yappy dogs.
2. What made you realise you were a children's writer?
When I finally had a picture book accepted for publication. Flowing on from that, and snowballing from all the years of writing manuscript after manuscript, I had other stories for primary school aged children published. I had tried writing short stories and novels for adults, but I just don’t think my inner voice (or inner child) has grown up enough for me to be successful at that. Writing for children is fun and rewarding, so I’m very happy to be where I am right now. Plus, I have loads of ideas that are yet to be turned into fully-fledged books so I could be in this space for quite some time to come.
3. You've sold a lot of books for such a short career - how do you manage to do it all?
I’ve had some luck on my side having two series picked up, which means a lot of books need to be written in a short time to keep readers interested. I’ve worked hard and learned to make the most of each day. I have three young children – one still in preschool – so my writing time is quite limited. I don’t necessarily write every day as often I’m visiting schools to run writing workshops and author talks. I just try to make the most of every day and manage my time efficiently. I don’t watch much TV and I’m usually tapping away on my keyboard until late into the night. I’m certainly not the only author who does this!
4. How did you make your first sale? And how did you celebrate it?
I submitted my picture book text, Bearly There, to several publishers, through the slushpile. The story was eventually accepted by Windy Hollow Books. Even though that was my first acceptance, the book won’t be released until March 2013. It’s been a long time coming and I’ve had fifteen other books released in between times. I was so excited when Bearly There was accepted that I couldn’t speak at first. Then I ran around the house squealing. I phoned my husband pretty quickly after that and we celebrated with the kids (and a glass of champagne) later that night. I’ve since managed to secure a literary agent, Jacinta di Mase, but the joy in having a manuscript accepted for publication hasn’t dimmed at all, nor has the enjoyment of a glass of champagne to celebrate that acceptance.
5. Which of your fictional characters is your favourite and why?
It’s incredibly hard to choose between them. I love Persephone Pinchgut from my Totally Twins series because she’s clever, quirky, shy and witty all at the same time. I adore my four gutsy heroines in the Unicorn Riders series: Quinn, Willow, Ellabeth and Krystal, who are so courageous and work well as a team. Ben Hopper from I Dare You is funny, vulnerable, sensitive and brave. And he’s got a crush on this cute girl, Astrid. My animal characters, like Pipp Puggle, Warambi and Little Good Wolf, teach us lessons through their experiences ... see I really struggle with it. I guess my characters are like my children – I can’t choose between them!
6. Which is your favourite book of those already published and why?
Again, this is hard for me to answer. If I HAD to choose one I could (perhaps!) narrow it down to my Unicorn Riders series, which has been very special for me. I’ve always loved unicorns and collected figurines since I was a child. The girls in the stories are strong, empowered female lead characters. The series has been a joy to write, the publisher, Walker Books, is very supportive of me. The stories are filled with magical adventures, life-lessons and twists and turns. And I’ve received high praise from readers, parents and teachers for the series.