Shelly was my very first interviewee on this blog two years ago (see here, here and here) and now here she is – finally – with her series of no less than five books! And they are so gorgeous too! It’s an absolute delight to welcome Shelly Unwin back to the JWFK blog!
Thanks Debra! It’s lovely to be chatting with you again, and at such an exciting time.
Shelly, last time on this blog, you had just signed the contract with Allen and Unwin but couldn’t tell us much about the books at all, but now they are here, what can you tell us about them?
Well let me show you:
They’re a gorgeous (collectable) little set of books that celebrate age. Written in rhyme, they speak directly to the child about the wonderful things that share their special number, e.g One tummy to tickle, one head to shake and one little mouth for eating cake. They gradually become more sophisticated as the child’s world becomes a broader place, five toes on a foot, five fingers on a hand and five blue oceans surrounding the land. Each book ends encouraging the child to take their time and enjoy being the age they are.
Shelly, it’s been a long wait – can you tell us a bit about what has been happening behind the scenes in relation to these books being launched into the world?
Well, as you know these things always take time and because all five books will be launched at the same time we had to allow time for Katherine Battersby (the wonderful illustrator) to create the artwork, the designers to complete the designs, and for all five books to be safely printed and in the warehouse in time for launch (You’re One! and You’re Two are board books so they were sent to a different printer to the hard backs).
Have you met your illustrator, Katharine Battersby? I understand that she grew up in Queensland but lives now in Canada although frequents Australia. Were you consulted about the illustrations during the process? How was that managed? Was there much to-ing and fro-ing?
I haven’t met her, although we have chatted via email and Facebook regularly. She is so lovely. It is a shame she lives in Canada as I know we’d enjoy a drink and a very long natter! The process was so easy with Katherine, basically because I loved everything she brought forward. The storyboards felt magical and all I did was suggest the addition of a clock here or an extra stool there. Katherine has such an incredible ability to give emotion to her characters whilst keeping them simple and so appealing to children, and I love the textures she uses on the page. It feels like it could never have been done any other way.
What has kept you sane these past years waiting?
Other books. I am most alive when I have a new story idea that is filtering its way through, and fortunately I’ve had a few of those over the last couple of years. I’ve continued to write regularly and keep up my fortnightly meetings with my writers group, as well as getting along to conferences etc.
What are your plans for launching and marketing the book. I’m sure a big publisher like Allen and Unwin have a wide reach and ideas, but are there things they expect you to do to help sell the book, and are there things you want to do?
Allen & Unwin have focused mainly on the distribution of the book and managed to successfully sell it into Big W and the other big retailers, which is exciting to hear. I have been busily building my profile amongst other mothers on Instagram so that I can promote it through that medium. It seems like such an ideal targeted market space. I have organised a multitude of launches, including a wine and cheese night with close friends and family, a ‘numbers disco’ at my local preschool, a launch at The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft and a launch at Abbotsleigh ELC.
I hear that you have another book in the pipeline with Penguin Random House – what can you tell us about it and how did that contract come about?
Yes, I have a non-fiction picture book called Blast Off! coming out in Feb-March next year. It’s a funny adventure through space, learning facts about the planet as you go. This came about due to a visit from Kimberley from Penguin Random House to our critique group. I presented the manuscript to her and after a slight re-write represented it and was lucky enough to secure a contract for it. Ben Wood is doing the illustrations and I laugh out loud at the wonderful sense of humour he injects through his drawings. It’s going to be a very funny book.
Are there other things in the pipeline for you?
Yes. I also have another fiction picture book coming out with Allen & Unwin mid to late next year called There’s a Baddie Running Through This Book, it’s a story that takes the child on a chase through the book. Vivienne To is the illustrator for this one and although I’ve only seen her initial ideas I am so excited about the sense of fun and movement she’s achieved already. I can’t wait to see more. I also have a completely new and very different idea that is in early draft stage, but it excites me every time I think of it. So watch this space!
That all sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing this exciting time with JWFK readers, Shelly! And all the best for launch and take off! I hope to be there at the Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft launch – it will have happened by the time this post goes live – so watch out for selfies with Shelly on social media!
Thanks for having me Debra! Anytime! See you at the launch.