What inspired you to write your first book?
I first self-published a "one-off" printed book of poems for my niece when she was about six. Reading the wonderful rhyming Dr.Seuss book "Oh , the Places You'll Go" just seemed to trigger my daft brain into crazy poetry-writing mode!
When did you start considering yourself a writer?
I don't really consider myself a writer at all. I studied science, and expected to spend my working life in a laboratory. My love of rock climbing and hillwalking used up all other spare time, so writing anything other than scientific reports was not something I'd even thought about.
Neck and pain issues put a stop to my laboratory career, and make it impossible for me to do a lot of "normal" things (like sitting at a desk). Writing ebooks using my iPad is something I've found I can do. I do so whilst lying on my side (a position I have to stick to for a lot of every day).
Out of the books you've written, which is your favourite?
Definitely the one that I will be releasing shortly, called "Monster Poems for Monstrous Kids". I had great fun both writing and illustrating this one, and I hope kids will enjoy it.
How do you feel about being interviewed by a children's book character?
I work with the Top of the Wardrobe Gang, so being surrounded by book characters seems quite normal to me!
|The Top Of The Wardrobe Gang|
What are you working on next?
I want to get the Monster Poems ebook out on both iBooks and Amazon. The latter is a new market for me, and I expect getting things in the right format will take me a while. I also plan to add Audio to the iBooks version, so readers will be able to click on a button by each verse to hear me reading it to them.
I'm always working on new poems, and frequently get up in the middle of the night with a rhyme starting in my head! I like to grab my iPad immediately and type away until I've got the first draft of a poem done!
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I've attached screenshots for a short poem from my next book called "The Monster Bunch". It stars the four monsters who are on the cover of the new book. I don't promise this will be quite the last version, as each time I re-read my poems I tend to want to make changes!
|The Monster Bunch|
Out of your own characters, do you have a favourite?
That's like asking a parent if they have a favourite child! No, I love each of them for their own unique personality, and I refuse to admit to having a favourite. Most of the gang are based on cuddly toys I own, who keep me company every day. Odd Sock's personality definitely has quite a bit of me in it, though, so I can probably identify with her more than with the others.
As far as characters in my poems go, I definitely have a soft spot for the monster who sits in the sink knitting everyone socks.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Just give it a go, and see what happens. If you don't try then you will never know, and I think that is good advice for everything in life.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I never really know what each day will bring, as my neck problems are both very temperamental, and unpredictable. I might be able to walk normally at one point in the day, only to be struggling to move at tortoise speed at some other point, or I might even be stuck in bed for the whole day, barely able to move at all due to pain. My husband and I are quite used to this as our version of "normal", but it does mean that a lot of my time is taken up just gradually getting on with simple household tasks like food shopping or cleaning.
I still stay as active as possible, though, and I enjoy swimming face down with a snorkel on, and going to the gym to walk steeply uphill on something called a "Stairmaster" machine. For the last few years, with the careful use of extra medication, I have also been able to sometimes rock climb and hill walk again. The mountains are my greatest passion in life. Being unable to be among them for many years, due to being barely able to walk at all for that period, hit me very hard. It makes me now really appreciate how lucky I am to return there!
If you had to live in one of your books which book would it be?
I tend to immerse myself into a different world each time I am writing and illustrating an individual Poem. I think I had most fun living in the "Monster Carwash" world from my new "Monster Poems" book. I loved thinking up all the different monster characters who helped with different stages of cleaning the cars, and I think they would all make great, fun friends to live with.
What was your favourite book when you were a kid?
I honestly don't remember having one favourite. I was quite a little "tom boy", and enjoyed reading adventure series like Enid Blyton's "The Famous Five".
I'm only 44 now, but when I was really little books were not so cheaply available. We would go to the local library to get new books each week, then return them. My Mum and Dad tell me that I enjoyed Dr.Seuss, but that I was always inventing my own daft versions of things like traditional nursery rhymes, so they never knew what I'd say next! (They felt the zany Dr.Seuss books were seriously to blame!)
I remember the excitement of going to the library more than which books I chose each week! (And I remember how far away it felt when peddling my little tricycle, even with my Mum pulling on a belt tied around the handlebars!)
Illustrator QuestionsHow did you get into art?
Oh dear, that's a tricky question! I was always atrocious at "formal" art at school. To be honest, I felt it boring, and never really tried! Apart from creating and drawing a cuddly pineapple as a hillwalking club mascot at University, I'd never really drawn anything until I started the first Top of the Wardrobe Gang book!
The original poem book that I created just for my niece was illustrated entirely with other people's "clip art". When I realised that I could make commercial ebooks on my iPad, I didn't want to spend lots of money asking someone else to draw pictures for them, so I set about trying myself. The illustrating takes me far longer than making up the rhymes, but I am enjoying doing it!
What art program do you use? (Or is it top secret?)
No, it's not a secret. I use a wonderful app on my iPad called "Tayasui Sketches", and I use a rubber-tipped tablet pen with it. It's been a bit tricky to get the hang of drawing while lying on my side though. I can often be seen with one knee and leg up in the air to hold my iPad steady while I move the stylus! Thankfully there is an "undo" button, so when I slip I just try again!
Do you feel like it's important to illustrate your own books?
I'm sure there are lots of great illustrators out there who could bring my rhymes to life. It was simply finances that made me illustrate my own work. (As I said above, though, now I've started, I'm really enjoying the illustrating side!)
How did you come up with the concept for Odd Sock?
She sort of evolved from me seeing a joke on Facebook, with lots of pairs of socks marching up to the washing machine crying out "Remember the buddy system!"
I've always been a daft cuddly toy lover, and a supporter of all sad and lost causes. It suddenly struck me how sad it was that people tended to just throw out poor odd socks, and that they could have a happy second life as cuddly toys!
Thank you for interviewing me Destiny, I've enjoyed trying to answer your questions. Is it OK if I share the cover of our next book with you here?
Destiny's note: The pleasure was mine! Of course! Here it is!
We'd love it if people looked out for the book on iBooks (and, we hope, on Amazon later too). They can find out about the gang, and links to all our books (the first three of which are free) at our website http://topofthewardrobegang.
Destiny's note: So there you go! Look out for Melinda and all her books on iBooks and her website, because her books are top shelf!
All covers and illustrations © Melinda Kinsman. All images used with permission.