This time i am talking to author Gillian Rogerson who was kind enough to answer my questions.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Gillian Rogerson: I write children’s picture books. I have been doing this for 12 years now and still love writing them. I live in Yorkshire, England with my two daughters (both now teenagers). I work part time as a teaching assistant at a local school. I work with the younger children who constantly give me ideas for my stories. Last year my first non fiction book was released, which was a history book of the town where I live. It was written for children so it was quite a challenge to get all the interesting bits of history in. It was also a challenge to have to write the truth instead of making things up.
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Gillian Rogerson: I had my first story published in the local newspaper when I was about 7 or 8. It was about two paintbrushes talking to each other. I vaguely remember writing it. I do remember being pleased about it being published. At that age I also made one of my stories into proper books i.e. by folding pieces of paper in half. I tried to sell them to my neighbours for two pennies – but no one bought any.
Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Gillian Rogerson: I loved Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. It was about some children who climbed this magic tree. There was a different land at the top of the tree every day. Sometimes a good land and sometimes a bad one. I tried to find such a tree near my house, but I never found one. I was inspired to write picture books by my own children. I used to read these kind of books to them constantly when they were young and I loved the magical sharing time that these books represented.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your children’s books.
Gillian Rogerson: I like my characters to do something that is unexpected. For my first book, The Teddy Bear Scare, I thought what would happen to a teddy that didn’t want to be cute and cuddly, what could he do to make himself scary instead? My latest books have a character called Princess Spaghetti who is independent and brave, she doesn’t wait to be rescued, she’s the one who does the rescuing. I wanted to create a character that today’s girls can identify with.
Books & Writing: How did you come up with the idea for the books?
Gillian Rogerson: It could be anything, a remark on the television, a line in a book or conversations from my own children and the children I work with. It helps to take a certain character e.g. witch, dragon etc and think of really silly situations for them to be in. Or if a certain character wants a certain thing but everyone tells them ‘no’, what will the character do to get or be that thing? A good thing to keep asking myself when writing is, ‘What if?’
Books & Writing: What attracts you in Children’s stories?
Gillian Rogerson: It’s the magic and the fact that anything is possible. Children don’t think in limits, they know that anything is possible. When you see children at play they have such magnificent imaginations and a wonderful sense of fun. Unfortunately, we lose this as we grow up as we are told to ‘sit down and keep quiet’. As a children’s author I get the chance to think again that anything is possible. It’s a lot of fun making things up.
Books & Writing: Are you planning to write for a mature audience in the future?
Gillian Rogerson: I don’t know if I could, I would be tempted to throw in impossible situations and unlikely characters that do ridiculous things. I don’t think this will go down well for those people who prefer serious books or books that have a well defined genre. However, I am currently writing stories for an older age range than 3-7, I’m breaking into the 7-9 age range! The kind of short chapter books that are suitable for children who are becoming more confident in their reading.
Books & Writing: Where do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?
Gillian Rogerson: I’d love to do more picture books and create strong enough characters that could develop into more stories. I like the idea of doing more chapter books and perhaps one day, novels for older children. I have this reoccurring idea for a longer book but I don’t feel ready to write it yet. I would also like to develop adventure stories that encourage reluctant readers to read. I think reading is so important to children. It doesn’t just increase their imaginations, it gives them more confidence in themselves. I’ve seen this in children that I’ve worked with, how they feel so proud of themselves as they read books on their own.
Books & Writing: Are you working on something new at the moment?
Gillian Rogerson: I’ve got several picture book texts out with publishers at the moment and I’m waiting for their response. I sent a new story to my agent yesterday for her opinion, if she likes it she will send it out to publishers. I’m halfway through a chapter series and I’m getting some ideas together for ebooks which I will upload to Amazon Kindle. Of course, this leaves me no time for house work whatsoever.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Gillian Rogerson: The big one is never give up, even if it takes years. It took me 5 years and over 60 rejections before my first book was published. I saw each rejection letter as one step closer to success. I think it’s important to imagine your success too. I used to go to bookshops and libraries and find the place where my books would go. I imagined who I would donate books to, who I would dedicate them to etc. I even did Google searches on my name, there were no results years ago but now there are thousands ( not that I’m constantly checking). If you can imagine your published book – then you can make it happen.
Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?
Gillian Rogerson: All those authors who struggled to get published but who persisted anyway. If you read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ you will see that his road to success wasn’t easy. One of the nicest writers I’ve met is Jacqueline Wilson. She had hundreds of fans queuing to get their books signed but she she had time for every single person and was so friendly. Unfortunately, I have met authors who are dismissive of their fans.
Books & Writing: What is the last book you read?
Gillian Rogerson: One of my favourite authors – James Patterson’s ‘Alex Cross’s Trial’. The books, as always, are wonderfully written with the right amount of descriptive and narrative parts. I like the way his books are set out in short chapters, it seems to keep the plot moving at a wonderful pace. Although, it does make you think, ‘I’ll just read one more chapter. Okay, just one more. Perhaps two’. I admire the fact that James Patterson is doing great work to encourage reluctant readers with his children’s books.
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
Gillian Rogerson: My books are available in most shops and on Amazon. There seem to be a plentiful supply in libraries too. My local libraries have been so wonderful in supporting my books.
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Gillian Rogerson: www.gillianrogerson.net
Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Gillian Rogerson: If you want to write, then you absolutely must. No one anywhere has your writing voice as no one anywhere has had your life experiences. Don’t imitate anyone, just be your own wonderful, unique self. Due to ebooks you can now publish yourself – there are no excuses!
The following excerpt is from her book, ‘You Can’t Eat A Princess!’ It was some of the first lines that popped into her head as soon as she came up with the character of Princess Spaghetti.
Princess Spaghetti landed neatly on the nearest planet.
A group of aliens were looking up at her and smiling.
“Hello, I’m Princess Spaghetti,” she said with a polite curtsey.
“Welcome to our planet,” said one alien. “We love princesses here.”
“I like mine with chips,” said another alien.
“I like mine on toast with a bit of ketchup,” said a third. “Yum, yum.”