A Snappy Children's Debut

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Sometimes an idea enters your head: and with persistence, passion, and following your creative vision to the end, it grows into something inspiring.

This is what happened to Perth writer Chris Findlay, who has recently published his debut children's book, 'George the Turtle'. I got the chance to chat to him about his journey to becoming a published authour, his inspirations and writing process - and a little bit of magic.

Hi Chris, so first things first: tell me about your book.

It’s about a mischievous boy who disobeys his parents, and then he’s turned into a turtle as a punishment. So the whole idea of the book is that he’s trying to get back to being a human. I won’t give too much else away!

That’s an interesting idea – what was the inspiration behind it? Were you trying to convey a certain message?

I live with a Spanish family in Madrid. Their youngest kid used to be very mischievous and didn’t listen to his parents much. So it’s based on him a bit. I suppose the message behind it is – listen to your parents!

George the Turtle Inner pages

Nice! So from Perth to Madrid – that’s a big jump. What were you doing in Madrid?
I decided I wanted a bit of a break, and so I moved to Spain which is something I’d always wanted to do. I chose to go to Madrid. I initially planned to be there for 3 – 6 months, but I ended up staying for a year, and am now currently based there. I teach in a high school as an English language assistant. It’s helpful having us around, as we help the students practice their English – it’s one of Madrid’s public bilingual schools.

Okay, great. Can you tell me a bit about what made you decide to write a children’s book in the first place?
Essentially, not being distracted by technology really. I’m a musician and I’m used to writing lyrics, and so I channelled this into writing, it helped with composing the certain rhythm and flow of the story.

How it all started was basically I had a long commute to the school in Madrid in the early morning – around an hour and a half. I had just moved over to Madrid so I had no data or anything on my phone. I also wasn’t able to sleep like many of the other passengers on board the bus. So I ended up just writing on the Notes app on my phone, and basically the writing process emerged naturally from there. I ended up joining a lot of social media groups, particularly on Facebook, for children’s authors, where we shared tips and advice. It was a bit of a support network and really encouraged me.

And how did you find your illustrator, Hristina Tarpanova? Have you worked on projects together before?
She used to work with me in a previous job. She studied architecture but would also do these lovely illustrations. She sent me a few sample illustrations and I loved them, so from there onwards we began collaborating. Hopefully we’re going to continue to work together in the future, and she’s going to pursue a great architectural career too.

George the Turtle Turtle Page

What was the process of self-publishing like?
The traditional publishing process generally was long, and there was a lot of rejection. That’s what made me go down the self-publishing route. There’s a couple of ways to do this: there are self-publishing platforms like Create Space or Ingram Spark, who work closely with Amazon Print On Demand. I decided to do it the hard way, which took decidedly longer!

There’s the question of costs – in addition to paying for the printing costs, I needed money to pay the illustrator, the graphic designer, the proof-reader, all of the people involved with this. I self-funded around 45% of this, and the other 55% I sourced via Crowdfunding.

Do you have any advice for people who are inspired by your story, what maybe want to do something similar themselves?
I would say firstly, contact literary agents. This is a lot more effective than contacting publishers directly, as you have someone to represent you and publishers tend to be inundated with requests. However, if this doesn’t work and you just keep hearing “No’s” - go down the D.I.Y route and look into self-publishing.

Don’t let rejections dissuade you from pursuing your goal. Keep researching, and keep looking to avenues for self-publication. I also really recommend joining Facebook groups to provide you both with a support network, and a means of promotion/advertising.

Lastly, what are your plans for the future? Do you think you’re going to keep writing children’s books?
I’ve definitely got a lot of ideas and titles swimming around that I’m excited to start working on. In regards to my current book, I have also contacted Perth & Kinross Council. I want to apply for funding to make my book accessible to kids in Perth – I wouldn’t be profiting from this. So the idea is that my book could be given for free to kids at children’s groups and clubs around Perthshire. I have a good feeling about this. As for me, for now I’m going to continue being a teacher in Madrid for the next wee while and see where that takes me really. It’s a great school and I love what I do.

'George the Turtle' is available to purchase on Chris' website, http://www.chrisfindlaybooks.com/, and at a range of Perth outlets detailed on his website. 

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