Great to have Sam Hearn, author of the Baker Street Academy series, talking about what he loves about writing/illustrating children's books - we're excited to read Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond soon!
So, what do I love about writing children's books, you ask? Hmm… Let me think… I should probably squeeze in a little mention about illustrating them too, seeing as I also do that bit!
I suppose the first thing I need to point out is that the whole writing part of the job really does still feel completely new to me. I know I have written an entire young fiction novel now - and even a few younger children's board book type texts as well, but it still doesn't quite register that it's actually what I do as part of my job just yet. I’ve been doing the drawing bit for around 16 years now and that definitely feels like a job! (a hard one too) In fact, when I first got a sniff of doing this Sherlock work I don’t think I was entirely aware of the fact that I’d have to write everything as well as draw it… It’s almost like they made a mistake. Shh! Don’t tell anybody! However it happened, I definitely do love it though. It’s very satisfying when you get to put the final full stop at the end of a document - no matter how difficult it has been to get there - and I don’t think I’ll ever get over what a strange sensation it is to read your own words in a book. It’s as if it was all done by somebody else!
With writing, I think you get an opportunity to really bring all your ideas to life in a way that just drawing the pictures can never afford you - usually that's simply because you are illustrating somebody else's words and somebody else's ideas. If you are lucky, with the pictures - you get a good amount of input into the visual elements, but it can never compare to being the one who comes up with the ideas in the first place. Mostly, I love the fact that I can finally make some use of the random and strange thoughts that often come into my head! And I know that as long as I remember to write them down somewhere, they might just be the right bit of spark to set a bigger idea or story alight.
Another good thing about writing is that you can do it anywhere! In your bed or on the train - You don't really need anything other than a pen and a notebook ( if you're still into writing on paper, that is… ) Let’s face it, you don’t even need to get dressed. Yep, you can sit around in your pants and still get stuff done! ( Please let it be known that I actually do get dressed before writing though. I also leave the house. )
I’m being a bit silly, I know. But for me, that’s probably the best bit about writing children’s books and the bit that I love the most. I can now legitimately have conversations with myself all day, usually in all sorts of voices - either out loud or in my head. I don’t know how other writers do it, but this is how the ideas come to me. Even though I have been just an illustrator for most of my career, I always did have ideas and write in some way or another. The problem I had though was that I hadn't learned how to think about exactly when to make a note of the ideas properly. It doesn't help that they often come to you in the most awkward or unexpected moments, like when you're in the middle of having a shower, or just about to drift off to sleep!
Having to write for a published project ( with a looming deadline and all the associated pressure ) made me much more aware of how to catch an idea when I have it and put it down somewhere safe. It doesn’t mean that it will be any good of course - but just for a little while, I can be anybody I want to be or say anything I want to say and have a cast of characters running around in my own personal film in my head. The very best bit of all is when I can make myself laugh. I hope I can always do that! Obviously there's no guarantee that someone else will find the same thing funny, but it's always a good feeling.