This week is National Storytelling week and in a bid to celebrate this, alongside our families love for books, we are bringing you a selection of fantastic interviews with children’s authors and illustrators as well as some fabulous competitions.
Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my interview with Jane Browne, a brilliant children’s author.
Hi Jane, Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for National storytelling week can you please start by telling me why you feel it is so important to encourage children to read?
Well, as a primary school teacher, this is something I discuss with parents all the time. In this 21st Century, it can be a real battle to compete with technology, which is growing exponentially and children are quick learners so by the time they leave primary, if not before, they are most likely high competent at using the latest tech. It is my responsibility to encourage children to read and when I share stories with the class, to really perform the book so they are as excited about what happens next as I was when I was young. But equally, as a teacher, society often over-burdens us and I truly believe that a love of reading begins at home. If parents are modelling reading habits to their children, that is, to me, good parenting because the word parent isn’t just a noun, it is a verb, too. We live in such a hectic world now and the world can come crashing in through our gadgets, but books offer an escape, a safe place full of wonder and a chance to develop a child’s emotional literacy. As I tell my parents, there is no greater gift a parent can give their child than the gift of story-time.
What was your favourite story when you were a child?
Oh my goodness, where do I begin? I grew up in the late 70s and 80s so the Ladybird books were in abundance and I remember reading with my grandmas, particularly The Elves and the Shoemaker. I loved C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, but it was The Ice Palace by Robert Swindells that captured my heart. My original copy sits proudly now on my bookshelf where I write. It is because of that book that I understand the power of an opening line…Turn your face into the east wind, and if you could see for ever you would see Ivan’s land. What a way to capture an imagination!
Have you always wanted to be a children’s author?
In short, yes. I began writing when I was around eight years old. It began as poetry for my beloved Mum and she always encouraged me to write. I remember being given my Grandma’s typewriter after she passed away and attempting stories as my fingers scraped between the keys.
Which children’s authors inspire you?
The legends, naturally. Beatrix Potter the pioneer of children’s books. Dahl, Lewis, Lucy M. Boston, Andersen and now I would add Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman and JK Rowling to that list, too. Currently, there are an abundance of authors out there because literature for children is growing and growing and that is, in part, because adults never stop loving reading children’s book themselves and sharing that passion with their children. Look at Potter or The Hunger Games. David Walliams appears to becoming a contemporary Roald Dahl.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you became a children’s author?
It wasn’t until I began my teaching degree and was so inspired by one lecturer in particular, Joyce Simpson, that my fire for creative writing was reignited and shortly after I was hit with the idea for Hannah and the Hollow Tree. It took a long time to write because I was juggling being a new teacher which required stamina for those long hours but I was also learning the real craft of writing. I took the business side of writing very seriously when I began my MA in Creative Writing, returning to LTU. As an indie author, I have to be both creator and business manager and I enjoy both elements. It is a challenge though because I still work full-time as a teacher.
What is your latest book about and why should parents embrace it as their book of choice for storytelling week?
Hannah’s story is about choices and consequences, family and loyalty, our past and our future because it deals with the question of climate change. As Gaia, Mother Nature, lies dying, Hannah begins a journey of discovery and through The Earth Chronicles series, I tackle the question of What is humanity doing to our home? Climate change is so prevalent now in the media and finally it is beginning to impact the choices we are making towards sustainable living but what I find most unusual, is that I began writing Book One in The Earth Chronicles series, Hannah and the Hollow Tree nearly twelve years ago.
Hannah’s story is aimed at readers aged 10+ but I know parents that are reading it together with their children who are aged 7 because my heroine is a 13-year-old Yorkshire girl and the story is told through her eyes, in first person. There aren’t enough female lead characters in literature and so I’m trying to do my bit!
If I can be perfectly honest here, it would be absolutely wonderful if parents wished to embrace Hannah and the Hollow Tree – goodness, what an honour that would be – but I would wish, more than anything, that parents would embrace our home and protect it like they would their own children because their future depends upon it. That, is the message that runs like a river through the novels.
Do you have any plans to write any more books and if so can you tell us anything about what we can expect from them?
Yes, absolutely! I couldn’t ever stop writing. I am currently working on Book Two: Gaia’s Revenge, which I wrote for my dissertation during my MA. Hannah’s worlds, yes, worlds, have completely opened up as she faces the reality of who she is and the fate that awaits her and, indeed, all of humanity. There are more mythical creatures to battle with, new allies in the forms of gryphons and warrior witches, along with favourites from the first book. Hannah develops in terms of powers and strength as her new family grows and her maternal side flourishes. Running through Gaia’s Revenge is nature in all its glory, starkness and beauty and this is something I really want to shine, just how incredible our natural world is and that it is worth saving because by doing so, we save ourselves.
Is there anything else you would like to let my readers know about?
Yes please, to co-inside with National Storytelling Week, I will be releasing a Secret Chapter from Hannah &Th Hollow Tree and this can be obtained by subscribing to my mailing list from the 26th January. You can purchase your copies, if you wish, from amazon.