I had been a teacher for seven years before turning to writing; I wanted to read a piece of my own writing to my class rather than someone else’s! Having lost our family Siamese cat on a ferry a few years before that seemed like a sensible place to start as a story theme, whilst also providing some emotional support for me and my family.
I use my many varied experiences from life and living in different countries as inspiration for my writing. Teaming up with four fantastic illustrators has helped breathe life into the stories; which have started to take on a life of their own. Each story is loosely based on family or friends who have been important in my life whilst also trying to tell stories in an honest and gentle way, singing praise to things we have to celebrate in our world. Teaching children to look out for others, work as a team and not to be afraid of doing the right thing is important. Such lessons might then filter through and be reflected in the way we, as humans, live in the magical world around us.
The stories have emerged into three unique groups; Oscar and his adventures, Other animals and African tales.
Each book teams up with a charity which is associated with the theme of the book in some way. Part of the profits from book sales are then donated to the designated charities.
The books are available in paperback and hardbacked versions. They have received endorsements from the royal family at Kensington Palace, the principal of St Andrews university, Alexander McCall Smith, David Attenborough, Dame Judi Dench and Julie Andrews. They have received an award for being the ‘best cat in literature’ from the British Library and a Blue Peter badge. They have also been shortlisted for the prestigious People’s Book Prize and won bronze at the wishing shelf book awards. They have also just been taken on by Celene Press and BBC Alba for CBeebies.
I feel like the luckiest person in the world to spend my time doing something I love and something that brings joy to others, and hopefully you too. There’s no greater gift in the world.
As a successful children’s author, what was your motivation to create books for our young friends?
Initially I wanted to read something to my class that was by me not by someone else. I have always found children easy to relate to. Maybe part of the reason for writing is to keep the inner child in me alive and to never grow up, a bit like Peter Pan!
That’s true! When reading children’s books, there is a part of us (adults) that truly enjoy the story as well. Especially when the story has a deeper meaning, just like yours. Could you tell me more about your books?
They were born from losing our cat, Oscar, on the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry about 10 years ago and have grown from there. the stories were a nice way for me and my family to remember Oscar and the rest of the stories have just stemmed from there! The Hebrides seemed a sensible next point as we were on our way to the Hebrides when Oscar went missing and then having lived in London, I felt Oscar deserved to have lots of fun and adventures there too and this was a way to celebrate my Uncle, father and brother’s success in the army though the stories as well.
I find inspiration everywhere I look. The ideas just seem to flow pretty easily, growing from a tiny seed into something beautiful. They are centred around a person who has been important in my life who takes on the characteristics of a different animal that I anthropomorphize.
Each book teams up with a charity which is associated with the theme of the book in some way. Part of the profit from the book sales is then donated to a designated charity. The books have received many varied endorsements, been shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize, won bronze at the Wishing Shelf Book Awards, been taken on by Celene Press and BBC Alba too.
Congratulations on those amazing achievements. You are setting a great example to children not only with your stories, but with your actions too. Do your books have a theme, a message you wish to convey to children that will help them in their adult lives?
Be bold, be brave and follow your own path.
Your books may be for children, but adults also enjoy reading them (I am one of them). Was this something you expected?
I don’t like to place a specific age bracket on books as I believe that anyone can get something from a book, regardless of how old they are. The best of books have something to offer anyone be they 6 or 60!
Have your life experiences helped you in writing your books?
I have travelled quite a bit which has given me a good taste of cultures from different parts of the world. The stories are also, in some ways, a projection of my hopes and dreams which have been put into a story.
Aside from the beautiful story, your books also have amazing illustrations!
Yes, I am very lucky to have wonderful friends who are all incredibly talented illustrators too. Each illustrator has their own particular area they focus on within the books be it the Oscar books, other animals, hybrid animals or African tales.
You have successfully created books for children that address sensitive issues such as loss or the task of finding good friends, which even adults often find difficult to deal with. Did you face any problems?
I found London quite a lonely place at times when I lived there and so my books were a way for me to create a support network and friends around me. The stories have opened so many doors for me into words I would have never otherwise been able to enter. The nice thing about a story too is that anything can happen, you are in charge of it which is not always the case in real life.
Truly a creative way to build friendships. Did you always wish to become an author?
I have always loved writing. At School I used to write cards to all my friends and family, and I write a diary every night. I enjoy writing as a form of self-expression and a way to record memories and experiences that text or email doesn’t quite achieve.
What was the most exciting moment in your writing career?
Going to the People’s Book Prize ceremony at Stationers Hall in London was pretty special. Frederick Forsyth was the patron, and it was amazing to meet him and be able to meet other successful authors.
What do you love most about being a children’s author?
I love being able to share my stories with those around me and engage with children in a creative and imaginative way. I am beginning to travel the world with my stories too and that is lots of fun!
What was the hardest scene to write?
I always find the writing process fairly easy. Once I have found an animal or some form of inspiration the rest just flows so I wouldn’t say any aspect of the writing has been hard. The promotion of the books has taken a bit of getting used to- it is quite tricky to put oneself out there sometimes.
How long does it take you, approximately, to finish a book?
It takes about a year from start to finish. The actual writing of the story can take anything from 1 day to 100! But you then have to factor in the illustrations, editing, proof reading and printing which is all part of the fun! There are the audio books too which are lots of fun to do afterwards.
Congratulations on creating audio books! Which of your books can we find in audio book format? What would your advice be to authors who wish to create audio books?
Audio books are always huge fun to make. They present your book in another format. My advice for anyone wanting to create an audio book would be make sure you pick the voice for the audio carefully, it is very important and will be the selling point for your story. Make sure it is edited carefully too as this is an opportunity to add in sounds and music and make the audio come alive.
What is your favourite childhood book?
I loved the Noel Streatfield books; Ballet Shoes was a particular favourite, and Winnie the Pooh is a brilliant book too. I used to sit next to Winnie in London Zoo to find inspiration for stories.
What are your goals for the future? Should we expect another great story?
I would love to continue to write my stories and continue to be able to engage with children and encourage them to create, write, read, imagine and dream!
The plan is for Oscar to get engaged next and I’m keen to introduce you to a few other animals too so watch this space!
I’m sure we will enjoy your future books. The idea of Oscar getting engaged is sure intriguing! Thank you for this interview, Molly. I can’t wait to read more of your books!