I asked fellow children’s picture book author Josie Dom to write a guest blog for my website, and she very kindly agreed! In this article, Josie talks about the inspiration for her books and some of her favourite things.
A fun part of being an author is getting to know other authors, and being invited to write a blog for another author’s website is a lovely honour. Hopefully, I won’t let you down Nick, while I write about what inspires me to write stories.
Often, we will see or hear something that sets our imaginations running and the start of a story is born. However, our previous experiences in life are also in our heads and these inform the story too. Sometimes the experience is obvious but sometimes it is a hidden memory that only becomes apparent when the story is complete and you have time to reflect on what you have written.
This was the case for me when I wrote Lum. It began life as a rhyme to make my children laugh, get on with cleaning their teeth and go to bed when they were messing about in the bathroom. After they’d gone to bed, in fact, after I’d gone to bed, the small rhyme expanded into a whole story and I jumped out of bed to write it.
The original rhyme was meant to make my children laugh, but the way something is said and the context is important, in the story those same words coming from Lum are scary – he’s a bully. So, it will come as no surprise to discover that this was informed by my experiences of being bullied. At the age of about 5 or 6, children who lived in the next road to me but went to a different school started bullying me and my friend, who was also my neighbour. We didn’t know them before, and never knew their names, but for a few months that summer they plagued me and scared me. That was until I bumped into them at the swimming pool when I was with my Dad – who spoke to them and they never bothered me again. I don’t know what he said to them, but it had the desired effect.
Much later in life, as an adult and already a parent, I was bullied again. The feelings it brought out in my harked back to the time I was 5 or 6. Being an adult I was able to recognise those feelings – it didn’t actually help me to deal with the situation but I understood what was happening and how it was affecting me. It was at this time that I wrote Lum. Initially, I thought that Lum would get his comeuppance in the book, but as I wrote, the story changed and Lum instead gets an opportunity to make friends due to the kindness shown to him.
At this age, children deserve another chance to put their bullying behaviour behind them, rather than being labelled as a bully and that following them through their childhood which leads to the child living up to their stereotype. If all child bullies were shown kindness and taught a better way to behave then we may one day live in a world where we don’t have any adult bullies.
My favourite things in life are laughing and dancing. A lot of my stories start with something that has made me laugh. I cannot tell the story behind my Big Bad Barry and See-Through Tom story (it doesn’t yet have an actual title) without laughing over the memory.
Having watched a short Lego Star Wars film called Bombad Bounty with my son, he then asked me “Which one was Big Bad Barry?” It took a few minutes, but the misunderstanding tickled me and I still remember laughing over that one. When a few days later my husband walked into the room while I was watching Tree-Fu Tom with my daughter, and he called the programme See-Through Tom, it felt time to pair up these two mis-heard characters and give them a story of their own. It’s a tale of friendship – if you have a good idea for a title, please get in touch.
Princess Perfect was born out of me telling my daughter to walk carefully in her new school shoes. Whose Job Is It? was inspired by the time my parents were decorating their living room, I was an older teenager still living at home, and without a living room, the four of us (parents, my brother and I) and all the living room furniture were spending a lot of time in the kitchen/dining room. I wrote this story when I was in my forties but the memory of that time brought more laughter into my life.
I’m lucky enough to have a son and daughter who share my sense of humour, and they bring me so much laughter and that leads on to story inspiration. My daughter and I have created a cat-world and one day I might try to work that into a story.
My latest book, Animalympics, was also inspired by my daughter who told me that sloths are good swimmers. We spent an evening laughing over animals competing in our sports and by the morning I had the start of a poem, which turned into a 55-verse rhyming story all about the animal kingdom competing in the Olympics when humans were not able to.
I have yet to be inspired by dancing, but it brings me so much joy and hopefully I will incorporate that into a story one day.