Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Amelia McInerney!
Oh my gosh! Internationally published author (and one of our fabulous Pitch It! judges), Amelia McInerney is such a mega star! And you know who else is? Her newest book character – Neil. Neil’s a sea cucumber, and he is totally AMAZING! If you thought you’d never fall in love with a boring ol’ sea cucumber, you definitely will with Neil, thanks to Amelia’s hilariously heartrending and endearing narrative and Lucinda Gifford‘s BRILLIANTLY loveable illustrations. Find out all about Amelia’s (love) story and how Neil, the
Boring Amazing Sea Cucumber came into her life. Dedicated to all the Neils of this world, this one’s for you! (Hi, Dad!) 🙂 x
Internationally published children’s author Amelia McInerney lives in Canberra, where she spends most of her time writing kids’ books, staring out the window thinking about kids’ books, and occasionally just plain staring out the window. When she’s not writing, thinking or staring, Amelia enjoys yoga and snorkelling, although not at the same time. It was, in fact, Amelia’s singular focus whilst snorkelling that inspired her latest picture book, Neil, the Amazing Sea Cucumber. Having fallen in love with unlikely star of this book, Amelia would never eat a sea cucumber… but she does still have a penchant for pickles.
Amelia is also the author of other humorous titles including The Book Chook, Bad Crab, Who Fed Zed?, Mary Had a Little Lamb: What REALLY Happened and My Bird, Bertie.
Amelia can be found at:
Facebook: Amelia McInerney (Books)
WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?
WHAT is it about?
A funny, quirky metafiction for young and old alike, Neil, the Amazing Sea Cucumber is possibly the most entertaining story about the most boring character you’ve ever come across! The book stars the unlikely but loveable Neil, a sullen sea cucumber who is downhearted over the loss of his companion, Sandra, ever since she floated away in the undertow. Lamenting his woes to the reader and wondering why he, a lowly sea cucumber, should even be in a book, Neil soon finds himself… in a bit of a pickle.
Humour in the deadpan text and graphic novel-style illustrations afford a gentle exploration of identity and self-perception and how mood and relationships can colour our world. But mainly it’s just funny and endearing.
What is your favourite part of this book?
It would have to be the loveable main character, NEIL! And the way Lucinda brought this quirky little character to life. But if I have to be more specific, I’d say it’s when Neil breaks the fourth wall like they do in ‘The Office’, near the end. Or perhaps when Neil realises why he is in fact in a book, recounts his big day, and gives his opinion on his likeness to his namesake fruit. Or is a cucumber a vegetable…?
WHEN did you begin writing this book?
I began writing this book while holidaying on The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, where I did a lot of snorkelling. It was 2018, or perhaps 2017. (I went two years in a row because I love to snorkel/dive in tropical locations – I must start putting the year on my exercise books!) I hung onto the manuscript for a few years, tinkering away, until it felt finished.
When is its release / launch date?
(Happy Publication Day, Amelia, Lucinda, Affirm Press and Neil (and Sandra)!)
I will be signing books in several bookstores in Canberra and a few in Sydney, and Lucinda will be signing stock in several Melbourne bookstores.
So, if you live in one of these cities, contact your favourite bookseller if you’d like to snaffle a signed copy!
WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?
I’ve always found sea cucumbers fascinating because they are so unattractive and dull compared to the other beautiful, delicate and often brightly-coloured tropical marine life, but this contrast really struck me on this particular trip. Sea cucumbers are usually just a dark murky green or brown, and often covered in sand, and they can’t really move -they just lie around on the sand – like sunken discarded cucumbers would – often in groups, and when the current is strong enough, they get rolled around and moved, unable to hang on to each other or the bottom. Staring at them through my mask on this trip, I began imagining how the poor things would feel in comparison to the beautiful and more popular sea creatures zipping about gracefully above them. I imagined what kind of personalities they might have, and that perhaps they would feel down about their lot in life. The conditions weren’t the greatest on this trip and I watched them loll about on the current more than I had previous seen them loll about, and then I imagined one being swept far, far away from the others and not even having a companion… and the story was born! I was also inspired to write a funny book about a really dull and ‘boring’ character and see if I could make it work; to write a ‘boring’ main character but not a boring book.
WHY is this book meaningful to you?
I love funny picture books with endearing characters so that’s enough to make Neil’s story meaningful to me! It also feels nice to give an often-overlooked animal a turn in the spotlight (by giving him his own book to star in 🙂
Why would its message resonate with readers?
Readers will be able to identify with Neil, especially because feeling ‘less than’ is common among adults and children. And because we all experience low mood from time to time and endure the various ups and downs of relationships, the deeper layer in the story has meaning that is applicable to everyone; the reader can ponder whether Neil was always ‘boring’ or whether he was just being so negative because he was heartbroken over losing Sandra.
HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?
I ADORE the illustrations and cover design! I couldn’t be happier with how Lucinda brought the story to life visually. She really nailed everything, especially Neil’s deadpan facial expressions (pretty tricky, I’d imagine, considering he’s a sea cucumber!) and conveyed the tone so well. It was such a joy and a relief to see how brilliant the ‘roughs’ were because such a lot of the story and humour is conveyed visually in this story. Kirby Armstrong’s cover design is (once again!) fabulous.
How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?
The wonderful team at Affirm had a fabulous animated trailer made, which was narrated by Melbourne comedian, Bob Franklin – it’s on Youtube and social media as well as my website and Booktopia’s website too (see below!). Lucinda and I have shared insights and bits and pieces on the book’s development on our own social media channels (I’m on Instagram and Facebook) and we’ve done some podcasts (a Words and Nerds takeover together, and I did a Reading with a Chance of Tacos podcast episode too). What else…radio: ABC Canberra’s Drive segment chat for me, and I’m doing some school visits in Canberra and Sydney to help Neil connect with kids as soon as the book is released. And hopefully there will be lots of good reviews!
Thanks so much, Amelia! We know Neil will go far, quickly (despite his physically slow mobility)! 🙂
Purchase Neil, the
(Boring) Amazing Sea Cucumber.
Get in touch with Amelia for picture book manuscript assessments!
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