Today I’d like to introduce to you a fellow children’s picture book author, Harri Romney whom I had the pleasure of interviewing. She has just released two new picture books titled CLUNKEY MONKEY and A DOG CALLED DOG. Harri not only writes the stories she is also the illustrator.ABOUT HARRI
I’m an English author / illustrator of children’s picture books only. Although having had a varied career, I’ve worked with children for quite a few years, spending most this time employed within Early Years and Primary education.Her stories are children’s fantasies, mostly written in narrative verse. She considers rhyming verse to be one of those cherished characteristics, that modern children should be given the opportunity to enjoy.
First off, could you give us a little teaser about what Clunky Monkey is about?Clunky Monkey is on her way back home when she discovers a picture of a beautiful dancing couple. She goes to visit the wise gazelle, in order to find out exactly who these strange dancers are. Fascinated by what she learns, she wants to learn this ‘ballet way’ too, but Clunky Monkey’s family are a funky disco dancing troop, therefore it will not be easy for her to break from tradition to becoming a ballerina instead. The accident prone monkey tries to follow her dreams, even though most of the jungle creatures ridicule her.
What made you write a story about a monkey?I honestly can’t remember... I remember the inspiration came to me one morning. I can even recollect where I was standing too, but cannot recall exactly what trigger inspired that picture book.
How did you come up with your cute title?I do remember that a book about a funky monkey seemed too cliché; this is how I deviated from writing about this. I recollect changing the original storyline from a monkey that should have been funky, into an accident prone monkey instead (while she was trying to learn ballet).
What process do you use to do your illustrations?Examples of my illustration work can be found on the link http://www.harriromney.com/gallery-4/ . I’m what you’d call a technophobe, so I just prefer to use pencils and paint pens rather than Wacom technology. My husband enhances colours and removes smudging using a computer, before publishing the pictures.
Which is more of your passion, illustration or writing? How long have you been doing each?
In reality, I haven’t been doing either of them for very long. Sadly, it was the death of my brother in law a few years ago, which inspired me to fulfil my ambitions (one was to write a children’s book). I really don’t mind whether I write or illustrate… they’re both necessary in order to get my work done. Sometimes I need a break from one; but at other times I prefer to do the other. After sending off quite a few manuscripts to agents (and receiving just as many rejections back), I decided to publish my work on Kindle instead – but I needed to get the illustrations done first (I’d not drawn anything for 20 years). After joining some networking sites, I had an unpleasant experience with one illustrator who tried to hard sell me his work (after I’d complimented him on it). Anyway following this incident I decided that if I was ever going to get my work published, I’d need to have a go at illustrating myself… so I did. I never intended to illustrate; in fact I was scared stiff at the mere thought of doing so.
Do you have a goal with your writing that you want to achieve? If so, how long do you think it will te you to achieve it?
I don’t really have a goal … I achieved the initial goal to get one children’s book published. I’d always had an ambition to write a book since I was around seven years old, which never seemed to fade. However, after completing my first story, I was emotional; I felt a real sense of achievement because of the little manuscript I’d created. Afterwards my head was buzzing with so many more ideas or quirky titles, and I had to start keeping a notepad nearby at all times.
That very first story became part of the series ‘Winston and Fairy’s Adventures’, which has been dedicated especially to my brother in law. For this reason, when the first paperback from this series ‘Winston and Fairy: A New Sleigh for Santa’ is published in 2012, some of the proceeds will go towards supporting the ‘National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society’, which researches the condition that my brother-in-law tragically died from.
Presently, I’m in the process of illustrating any remaining books that I’ve written right now (as there are about twenty books), but I’ll see what happens afterwards… Whatever life does next is what’s meant to happen. Away from the writing and illustrating life, I really want to concentrate on my academic studies.
Clunky Monkey is written in Rhyme. Are all your stories written this way?
Most of them are written in verse. Out of twenty stories, there are only three that aren’t, but they’re lovely stories too.
What inspired you to become a children’s book writer?
I’m told that I’m like Peter Pan, refusing to grow up. It’s the experiences that children and I share a love of such as celebrations, fairy tales, mythical characters, snowy scenery and nature and so on, which inspire me. Additionally studying childcare, working with children or being a mother, has partly helped me to understand children’s likes, dislikes, or their thought processes and capabilities. Plus I’ve read countless picture books to my own children every day, since they were both only weeks old, so perhaps picture books are the genre that I’ve been the most exposed to (apart from academic literature).
What are you working on next?
I am finishing off the illustrations to my remaining stories right now, which will take me at least another year or two. Although I have actually written (and edited) the first two books from my next series, but that really is a long term plan.
What is the single most important thing you have learned from your writing to publication journey?
Writing and illustrating is not my main job; it’s more like an interest. I’ve learned that within this journey, you need to have a great deal of stamina to accept plenty of rejection, and always have an alternative plan to help you move forward, if you really want to be published. Don’t take things too much to heart or you could walk about feeling quite despondent; writing/illustrating is so competitive. The flip-side is that, it can be extremely rewarding too – just through finding out what you can achieve on a personal level.
My personal experience (as a published author), began on Kindle. I found that picture books which are only available on Kindle or iPad, don’t seem that popular among parents yet (I’ll be the first to admit that I’d not let my children free with these gadgets either). I believe that for this reason and other reasons, paperback or hardback books remain the preferred presentation for picture books, hence why I made the decision to get my work published in paperback earlier this year.
I am not with a main publisher. I’m actually using a micro-publisher who prints on demand, and being rather shy, I’m far more comfortable with this strategy anyway right now. However, marketing the work yourself is extremely difficult; that’s the downside ( I firmly believe that confidence is essential for marketing).
What is your definition of success as an author?
Being a successful author is achieving what you set out to achieve on your own personal level. That answer would vary according to who you asked. I wrote one children’s book and then got it published (the fact that I illustrated it myself, and then went on to write many more stories has been a real bonus – and a confidence boost). Hence even though I’m not famous, I’d consider myself to be successful … Others would disagree with that. How would you define success Allyn – I’ll bet your answer will be vastly different to mine?
Where is Clunky Monkey available for purchase?
My books are available to purchase from the main online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and more…
What else have you written and where can readers find your work?
Review of Clunky Monkey by Allyn M. Stotz
Who doesn’t love a Clunky Monkey! Well this Clunky Monkey wanted to change from her families’ way of funky disco dancing. She wanted to dance like a ballerina. So she finds her graceful giraffe friends and asks them to teach her. But, it wasn’t so easy for this Clunky Monkey. She had to practice day and night!
This story is told in rhyme with a good message about going after what you really want. The repetitive line “your ballet dancing nonsense is spoiling the day!” really added a charming touch to this little story. The ending has a very satisfying conclusion and will leave readers with a chuckle.
The illustrations are cute and will have the little ones laughing!
Thanks to Harri for giving me the opportunity to interview her, it's been a pleasure! I wish her much success with everything she does.