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The story behind the story

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Riding the publicity trail for a book can be surreal and lovely or exhausting and tedious. Sometimes it’s all of those things at once. It’s a strange experience to talk endlessly about the story behind your book, but fascinating to hear readers’ perceptions of the work. Many reviewers, for instance, have noted that Megumi and the Bear is about never giving up hope. They’re absolutely right, and yet this wasn’t consciously in my mind as I wrote it.

I’ve also realised that in recounting Megumi’s origins I’ve inadvertently given some readers a false impression. I’ve been talking about how this picture book is unusual because the illustrations came first. Craig Phillips emailed me a handful of drawings of a little girl and a bear playing in the snow, inspired by a trip to Japan, and I was in turn inspired to write the story that became Megumi and the Bear. However, it wasn’t until Alex Sloan interviewed me on ABC that I realised people have assumed that the story was all mapped out in pictures and I simply added the words. Not so. The illustrations were only the starting point, or the spring board, for the story. None of those original illustrations are in the finished book, though a couple of pages are variations on them. (Here’s an original so you can see why I fell madly in love with these two. Though you’ll notice how different the bear looks.)

Now what should we do

Sometimes in the publicity whirlwind it’s easy to lose the sheer pleasure of finally seeing your precious book getting out and about. As Craig Phillips wrote to me: ‘We should just be enjoying the fact that we have a book out. How many people have their own children’s book out on the stands?? Not many!’ A very good reminder.

Come Saturday I intend to enjoy every second of our launch party at Paperchain. There’s nothing like a room full of kids to unleash joy and excitement. Bring it on!

(And if you missed my chat with Alex you can listen in below. It was possibly the most fun I’ve had on air.)