Sunday, 15 February 2015

Interview with Children's Author and Publisher Adrianne Fitzpatrick

 

I am honoured to welcome children's writer, and publisher, Adrianne Fitzpatrick to the blog today. Thank you for joining us today Adrianne and for taking time out of your hectic schedule to answer some questions.

I am sure the readers would love to hear about you. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
This is always the hardest question in an interview because I never know what other people want to know. Everyone else seems to be so much more interesting than I am!

I grew up in Australia (mostly), but I followed my dream and moved to the UK in 2003. My grandfather was English, so I was able to come here on an ancestry visa. I’ve worked freelance in the publishing industry since 1989, although I’d been writing (and published) long before that, and was able to bring that experience to this country.

I’ve had numerous short stories and articles published (for both adults and children). I’ve also had poetry, puzzles and workplace training manuals published, and several musicals produced by amateur theatre. One of my stories took first place in an international writing competition. In Australia I taught on a publishing and editing diploma course as well as running creative writing classes and workshops. I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.

You have a focus on writing and publishing children’s books. Why kids books?

Because I’ve never grown up?

Seriously, though, I was a voracious reader as a child. Reading – getting lost in a fictional world – was my lifeline throughout a difficult childhood. Even as I graduated to more grown-up books, I still kept my favourite children’s books (despite my mother’s best attempts to clear my shelves because, after all, ‘what’s the point of reading a book again – you already know what’s going to happen’!). I discovered some series books – Elsie Oxenham’s Abbey books and Elinor Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School – and I desperately wanted to read more of them but access was limited. The Chalet School books were only available in paperback at the time, and then only a few titles at a time; and most of the Abbey books were out of print. I had to wait until I was old enough to have a car and could scour the second-hand bookshops before I was able to satisfy the need to know what else happened to my favourite characters. So at 17 or 18, I was officially a collector of children’s books, both old and new. I still own a number of the books I bought with my own pocket-money when I was around 12 or 13 – Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards; When Marnie was There by Joan G Robinson; The Power of Three by Diana Wynne-Jones; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – and many more that I had borrowed from the library and added to my own collection later. I had to get rid of a lot of my books when I moved to the UK, but somehow the collection has grown again …

As for writing: I started quite young, although I never really showed that much promise very early on, but I can remember writing a fairytale when I was around 15 and my English teacher being very snooty because she felt I ought to be writing something ‘more appropriate’ to my age. It didn’t matter that I wrote the story for pleasure, not as an assignment. I received the message that I was supposed to have outgrown children’s stories. Fortunately I didn’t pay attention to that teacher!

I am fascinated by the fact that you are now writing Chalet School books. How did you get involved in this venture?
As a freelance, I do production work – writing, editing, proofreading, typesetting and design – for Girls Gone By Publishers, who are republishing the books (and who own the copyright). Over the years, I’ve written articles and short stories as extra material for a number of their books (not just Chalet School). Although it has never been my intention – or even particularly my desire – to write in someone else’s world, there were times when there was need of some kind of ‘extra’ in the production of one of the reprints and so I filled the gap.

A few years ago, a friend and I visited Warwick Castle and on seeing the wooden floor of the dining hall, I had a vision of the Chalet School girls sliding up and down the highly polished boards. Thus was born the idea for the half-term holiday that appears in my book, Champion of the Chalet School. And again, there was a gap in the GGBP publishing schedule last year for a new full-length Chalet School title …

For all those brought up on the original Chalet School books, what does this new range add to the existing stories?
Girls Gone By have now published around 12 or 13 new Chalet School titles from a number of different authors. The original series comprises 60 books, published between 1925 and 1970. There are a number of time gaps within the series where Elinor Brent-Dyer skipped a term or two – or a year or three – and the ‘fill-in’ authors are filling in those gaps. The new books take into account what Brent-Dyer says in other parts of the series and try to extrapolate and imagine what could have happened in the chosen term. EBD was notorious for changing facts (even within the same book), so it’s no easy task for a new author to reconcile some of the inconsistencies. For Champion, for example, I had to take into account statements later in the series that some girls were caught cheating in this particular term; that there was an unsatisfactory head girl; and that another girl needed to be head girl at some point (even though, technically, there was no term in which she could have been).

Although the books are still children’s books, they do allow for the fact that many of the readers are adult collectors of the series; so even though it may possibly seem old-fashioned to younger readers, the new titles remain true to the original series in era, tone, setting, language etc – or at least as true as possible; not all readers will agree on what ‘sounds’ like EBD and what doesn’t. And all this without writing pastiche!

Given that you are writing in the past, in a different country from that in which you were raised, how do you go about developing a sense of place?

I’ve been reading (and rereading) the Chalet School books for the last 40-odd years, so I’m immersed in the culture of the books. I’ve also spent the last 40-odd years reading other traditional English boarding school books by authors such as May Wynne, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Ethel Talbot, E L Haverfield. These books were what fuelled my desire to move to England. Interestingly, when I did come here, I had a tremendous sense of coming home – probably due in large part to the books I’d read for so long, but also partly to my English heritage.

That said, social history has always intrigued me, so I think a lot of the period detail comes naturally to me. The biggest challenge, of course, is the different use of language, but for that I depend on my editor, who transforms my occasional Australianisms into more appropriate expressions. The important thing is to get the story down first and fine-tune the details later.

As well as being a writer you are also a publisher. Could you tell us a bit about your publishing company?

Books to Treasure specialises in children’s fiction. There are two branches within that.

There’s the new fiction, which includes picture books right through to young adult novels. To date, we have four picture books in print, with further titles in various stages of production.

The other branch is a line of reprints of classic girls’ stories. These are predominantly ebooks only, but by popular request, some of the books are also available in print versions.

What made you decide to branch out into publishing?

I do like to say that this is God’s practical joke on me – I never expected or planned on becoming a publisher! – but in many ways it’s a natural extension of the work I’ve been doing for years. Initially it was fuelled by my need to generate an income around the limitations of my health (CFS/ME). Producing ebooks on an ad hoc basis could be done when I was well enough to work but not well enough to do the more demanding tasks of writing and editing etc for other clients.

Then in 2012 a friend showed me two picture books – one she’d written and illustrated, the other she’d provided the illustrations for. I felt they both deserved to be published, so I went ahead and did it. And the publishing has grown from there.

Where can people find the links to the books?

The ebooks are available on all Amazon sites. The print books can be bought directly from www.bookstotreasure.co.uk or from our official shop at www.bookdragonbooks.co.uk .

Are there currently any more books in the publishing pipeline?

Yes. We’re in the final editing stages of two YA books: Destiny’s Rebel by Philip S Davies is the first in a fantasy series about Kat, the reluctant Queen; and Eleanor Watkins’ as yet untitled book is set in the time of the Black Death. Both of these are due to be launched in September. There are also three illustrated books at different stages of production.

If you ever have a day off from writing books what do you like to do in your spare time?

Apart from sleeping? I spend a lot of time knitting or doing cross stitch, which I can do while watching DVDs, especially on days when I’m not well enough to do anything else.

When you are not writing what types of books do you read? What would you say was the best book you have ever read?

I must confess I don’t read as much now as I used to. Most of this is down to the fact that I spend so much time reading for work – proofreading, editing, appraising manuscripts etc – that I want something completely different to fill my down time. Hence the increase in watching DVDs, I think, which meets the need for story, just in a different way.

So when I do read, it tends to be back to old favourites or to new books by favourite authors, or books that have been recommended by people I trust to know what I’ll like.

That said, I do still read a lot of children’s books, both new and old. In adult books, I prefer fantasy but I do read other genres as well, including science fiction and crime/thriller. Some of my favourite authors include Anne Bishop, Lois McMaster Bujold and Sharon Bolton.

Best book I’ve ever read? I’m not sure I can answer that. I think my view changes according to where I am at any given time and how a book impacted on me. When I finished reading Lynn Flewelling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin I went straight back to the beginning and started again (book 2 wasn’t yet available). When I finished Elizabeth Moon’s The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, I rushed out immediately to my specialist SFF store to buy the next two in the series because I couldn’t wait even one day to find out what happened next. Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards remains one of my comfort reads. Would I name any of those as the best book I’ve ever read? Probably not. But they’ve each had a significant impact on me or made a considerable contribution to my reading life.

I know you are a Christian. What part does this play in your writing? Is your book specifically Christian or aimed at a crossover market?
First and foremost I tell stories. Oftentimes there’s an obvious spiritual element, though not necessarily obviously Christian. I have a tendency to explore issues such as honour, friendship, forgiveness, justice – issues that are relevant to everyone. My faith underpins what I write and how I write it, but I don’t write to express my faith. At least not in fiction. Yet. (I’ve learned never to say never!)

As a publisher, I’m looking for books that will work for the mainstream market. That may mean books that cross over into both mainstream and Christian markets or books with no spiritual content at all. Most important is a good story, well told.

Wow. You certainly do pack a lot into your day. This is especially impressive since, as you have told us, you suffer from two quite debilitating illnesses. I am even more thankful that you have taken the time to let Bookaholic readers have a glimpse at what you do. I wish you all the best with the upcoming books. Maybe we will be able to meet the authors of these at some time on Bookaholics.

So my Bookaholic friends, if you have any children, or grandchildren, nieces nephews, in fact any children top buy presents for, it is worth taking a look at Adrianne's range of books and having a shopping spree. See you all back here soon with more books for your reading delight. Keep reading. .

3 comments:

  1. Thank you, this was a fascinating read, especially as I plan to send Adrianne my children's book one day - once I've pulled it apart, rewritten and finished it...!

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    Replies
    1. All the very best with your book. I am glad you enjoyed the post

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