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It is with great pleasure to chat with award-winning author, Ellie Royce about her newest junior fiction series for younger readers, Avery’s Hat-Tastic Adventures, and how the journey has progressed. It’s an interesting one! Thanks for sharing, Ellie! 🙂
Ellie, congratulations on the release of your first delightful junior fiction chapter book in the Avery’s Hat-Tastic Adventures series – How Does a Hat Save the Day?!
Thank you so much Romi, and thank you for having me at JWFK!
Did you plan out the series from the beginning, or was each title a solitary venture? In other words, did you wear your ‘plotter hat’ or ‘pantser hat’?
Well, I wrote one story first, then I sort of fell in love with this little character and her world, and I wrote two more. So the second and third were plotted out because I already knew Avery and what she’d do in situations, more or less. I guess you could say I changed hats from pantser in story one to plotter in stories two and three!
Avery, your protagonist, is certainly a versatile, multi-faceted character. How did you develop her personality, and are you like her in any ways?
Well, we both like ice cream and gardening, and I think Avery’s curiosity (and probably her stubbornness!) are traits we share. I feel like the fact that her personality grew and developed over three stories that are all quite different scenarios helped her become quite a well-rounded little person who’s not perfect but tries her best. I had the opportunity to move between the stories and tweak little bits here and there, and I feel it’s worked out well that way.
Why is it important to you to write these stories that encourage creative and critical thinking, resourcefulness and imagination?
I personally believe, firmly, that critical and creative thinking and imagination can solve any problem. We are far more resourceful than we give ourselves credit for, and that to thrive and flourish through our lives, we need to develop the ability to think outside whatever box we’re placed in. Kids naturally do this and are very capable when given the opportunity to be. I hope by giving them fun, exciting stories that emphasise these qualities as positive and desirable, they’ll naturally continue to do so as they grow into the next group of adults in charge of the planet. Imagine if there was no rule that said, “There’s only one way to solve this problem”! What a glorious, diverse, exciting world we’d live in.
What other ideas or themes did you aim to elicit to readers through your story?
I’m passionate about growing food- I think it’s one of the most important things we can learn to do, no matter where we live, and I’m also a passionate supporter of the idea that diversity makes us stronger, so I tend to weave those themes into most of my work!
What do you most hope children, parents and educators will gain from reading How Does a Hat Save the Day?
First and foremost, I want readers of all ages to enjoy this zesty little story and have fun reading it.
But I guess, I set How Does a Hat Save the Day? in my own ideal world, where inclusion, community, self -sufficiency, creativity, kindness, friendship (and delicious food) are everywhere.
Reading a story can shine a light for readers to recognise parts of their own lives, or perhaps to see things they’d like to have in their own lives. They might then start to look for ways to include those things, or even create them!
Wearing hats for Avery is a way of expressing how she feels, or how she wants to feel, and she believes hats are helpful enough to solve problems. It’s a unique and slightly quirky way of looking at things, but it works for her!
So, I hope the story gives readers the confidence to embrace what makes them special, and positive ideas about meeting challenges and what they want their lives to look like, and maybe offers parents and educators the opportunity to have conversations with kids about these quite important ideas.
Tell us about the collaborative process with your illustrator, Mardi Davies. Her illustrations are deliciously zestful! What do you like about Mardi’s work, and how do you feel she captured the essence of your stories?
Mardi and I have been friends for a number of years and are very similar in many of our approaches to storytelling, so it was a joy to finally work on a project together. Her illustrations are, like Avery herself, delightfully unique and quirky, quite different from many other junior fiction books and this was deliberate, since part of the whole ethos of this adventure was to create something ‘else’ for readers, not more of ‘the same’.
It was a totally collaborative process, with a lot of laughing. There’s always lots of laughing when we get together.
What have been the most rewarding moments of your journey with creating and self-publishing the Avery’s Hat-Tastic Adventures series?
The most rewarding moments are always when you get feedback from readers. My favourite feedback so far is how many people loved the way scientific method was woven into the story, and that people liked the kindness of the friends to each other.
On the other hand, my inner book nerd has loved learning how to actually MAKE.A.BOOK.
I’m called a “Hybrid” author now, I love that, it sounds so cool and kind of Dr. Who – ish!
It’s been a long, high, learning curve and I certainly couldn’t have done it without Mardi as illustrator AND book designer (Flo&Ebb Design– she’s done some fabulous work for Storytorch Press, too), but I love it. As an author you don’t get to see and be involved in the whole process, there’s a lot of waiting involved. But publishing independently, you’re busy the whole time. It’s a bit addictive, actually!
What’s next for you? Any projects you’re currently working on?
There are more Avery books in the pipeline for early next year and I have a new picture book coming out with Ford Street lateish next year. Meanwhile there’s a funny junior fiction MS as well as a middle-grade novel chugging away in the background, between working and being a grandma and … you know… life! Who knows, what the future holds? But as long as I can write and share some stories, I feel like it’ll be okay.
Thanks so much for answering our questions, Ellie! 😊
Thank you so much for asking such fantastic questions Romi and listening to my answers.
Ellie Royce was born in Adelaide, South Australia and she’s been telling stories ever since. Although she spent over ten years crafting nonfiction articles for magazines, she finally realised her real love was writing the stories for young people that blossom in her imagination.
Ellie is the author of six books, five of which are for children. Two middle grade novels “the Letterbooks” were published in 2008 with ABC Books. Her first picture book “Lucas and Jack” was published in 2014. “Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero” Ellie’s second picture book came out in April 2020. “Frizzle and Me” is Ellie’s newest picture book, out in June 2021.
Ellie truly believes in the magic and power of stories to change the world for the better, so she writes and reads them all the time (quite often when she should be doing other things!). Recently she’s also added podcasting and indie publishing under the imprint We Are All Made of Stories to her life, because they’re such a great medium for sharing even more stories. Ellie lives on Gumbanynggir Country in Northern New South Wales Australia and plans to keep writing, sharing and publishing visionary stories for kids and young adults forever.
Mardi Davies has extensive experience in the graphic design, illustration and animation industries.
Mardi has built up a body of work in both design and illustration including working with online education platforms, full colour illustrated journals, cover illustrations and design for chapter and middle grade fiction, (including work for Storytorch Press) and author/illustrator of ‘Found You!’ picture book (published by Ford St Publishing).
Mardi’s love of the ocean and creatures within, continues to inspire her personal illustration brand mixing traditional watercolour and goauche with digital illustration and composition.
Visit Ellie Royce at her website: https://www.weareallmadeofstories.com/
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