“Sometimes it seems that elderly people in our society are overlooked. . .I wanted to give a clear message that most elderly people have had very interesting lives, and still have a lot to give.” -Catherine Rosevear
How can your day job lead to writing strong children’s stories? What’s one of the most surprising things about the publishing experience? How do you plan a great author visit—and get over the first-time jitters?
Meet the person who puts “Roman Magic” into her stories when you—
Meet Author Catherine Rosevear!
Catherine Rosevear lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband, her two children and a Tibetan Terrier. She’s always enjoyed reading children’s books, especially the Paddington books by Michael Bond and books such as Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. Having worked for many years in and around nursing homes, Catherine thought that a nursing home might make a good setting for a children’s book. She also wanted to write a book that would not only involve some magic, but also allow her to bring in her interest in the ancient Romans!
Let’s get started!
Let’s jump right in to your first book, The Secret of the Wooden Chest, published in June 2017. It’s a marvelous mix of an only child, Hannah, a nursing home resident, Mrs. Oberto, and more than a little touch of magic! What made setting your first story in a nursing home so important to you?
A few years ago when I was working as a social worker, I spent a lot of time visiting people in nursing homes, and it always struck me as an interesting setting. Also, I think that quite often, children can form a strong bond with people in their grandparent’s generation, and so I started wondering about setting a book in a nursing home, with a friendship developing between the main character, who would be a girl, and a mysterious old lady, who might have something magical hidden away in her room!
What do you hope children will take away from the story and the characters?
I wanted the characters to be strong and to give positive messages about friendship, and also about growing old. Sometimes it seems that elderly people in our society are overlooked, but I wanted to give a clear message that most elderly people have had very interesting lives, and still have a lot to give.
Also, I wanted strong female role-models, so even though Hannah’s dad is a handy-man, and her mum is a nurse (often seen as traditional male/female jobs), as the story unfolds, you realize that Mum is in charge of the whole nursing home and is the main wage-earner for the family, and that as the home’s handy-man and general ‘fixer’, Dad actually works for Mum.
I also wanted to put some history into the story – I’ve always loved learning about history, and the Romans in particular, and I hope that this story will encourage other children to enjoy this, as well.
You’ve got a second book coming out: Mystical Moonlight. This is also book 2 in your “Roman Magic” series that began with The Secret of the Wooden Chest. When’s your launch date? Do you have any pre-launch plans? Any plot teasers can you give us?
I’m really excited that Mystical Moonlight will be coming out soon! The publication date is set for 28th April 2018, but it may even be ready slightly earlier than this. I’m not sure yet what plans I have to celebrate its launch, as while book 2 is off to the printers, I’m busy doing final edits on book 3 in the series!
At the beginning of this second book, there is a lot of excitement as Hannah gets a puppy, but when she chases after her puppy into the woods at the end of the garden, she is sure that she sees a deer there.
What will she do when her parents decide to sell the woods to a housing developer? Will the magic pendant be able to help her to save the deer’s home. . .?
Did you plan for a series right from the start, or did that idea come later? What things do you have to pay closer attention to when doing a series?
When I started writing the first book, The Secret of the Wooden Chest, I thought it would be a stand-alone book, but as soon as I finished it, I got the idea for the second book. I’ve also now got drafts, at various stages of development, for books 3 and 4 in the series.
I think with a series, you need to be careful to introduce new ideas and minor characters in each book, to keep it interesting, and also vary the settings. Book 1 is set mainly in the nursing home, book 2 branches out (excuse the pun!) into the woods beyond the nursing home, book 3 is set in the gardens of a near-by stately home at the height of summer, and book 4 is set at Halloween, in a creepy, old hotel.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to inquire after a very close companion: A certain Tibetan Terrier who is most likely observing you right now—unless it’s nap time! Tell us about this star of your blog (and household).
My dog Timmy joined our family over five years ago, now. When I’m working on a book, I sit in the kitchen, typing away, and Timmy sits (or sleeps!) next to me; we often share a snack before I start!
Once I’ve done a few rounds of editing and re-writes on a book, I read it out loud to him – he loves a story and sits, staring at me, as I read. If he wanders off into a different room, I know there’s something wrong with it.
For the last year or so, since I started writing my twice monthly blog, he has always featured in each post, and there is always a picture of him at the top of each post. It seems only right, as he offers so much moral support when I’m writing!
When you decided to go full-tilt into the self-publishing world, what made you choose a self-publishing company such as Troubador versus, say, CreateSpace on Amazon?
I think CreateSpace is great, particularly for people who have a good level of technical IT knowledge, and who can be confident about getting their layouts right. But, although my IT skills have come on it leaps and bounds since I started writing and self-publishing, I felt that, at least initially, I needed a company who could guarantee to produce a professionally produced, high-quality book, and also offer all the options for marketing and distribution that I needed. I had a look around, and found that Matador (the self-publishing imprint of Troubador), had a good reputation and weren’t pushy.
Author visits: Something that a lot of indie authors simultaneously want and dread! What are your tips for getting started—and for what to be sure to do?
When I did my first school author visit, I was terrified. What if the kids didn’t listen/messed about/found me boring/asked questions I couldn’t answer? But I’d taken plenty of advice from fellow-authors, and had put together a well-structured programme to fill the hour I had in the class room.
I think the key thing is to be confident, and remember that the kids are delighted that you are there; after all, it’s an hour away from normal lessons for them! Remember to break the session down into sections, taking into account the ages of the children in the group. Also, as well as reading aloud from your book, try to include a practical, craft-based activity for primary aged children.
Finally, make sure that the school has sent home a letter the week before, letting parents know that you are coming and that they can send in money on the day, if their children might like to buy a book – otherwise you won’t get any sales!
You recently did a writing workshop with a group of children. What was that experience like?
It was great! It wasn’t something that I’d ever thought about doing, until a friend, whose son had been in a class that I had visited at our local primary school, asked if I would put together a short workshop for a small group, one Saturday afternoon. Again, I think that a good planned structure, taking into account the ages of the children, is the key.
Initially, we spent some time thinking about how to structure a story, and talked about story arcs, and then we talked about where we can get inspiration from. I’d taken along some Story Cubes and also an inspiration box, filled with all kinds of bits and pieces that might trigger some ideas. Finally, we looked at some stories that the children had written before the workshop, and talked about what made their stories come alive and how they could improve them further.
When you started publishing your books, what would you say surprised you the most about the publishing experience?
How many mistakes can slip through the net – grammar, punctuation, spelling – by the time you’ve read it fifty times, you think there can’t possibly be any more errors in there, but it’s amazing how many mistakes still need to be weeded out at the final stages.
What other books and projects are in the works? Do you plan to stay with your target audience, or branch out?
After Mystical Moonlight, I’ve got another two books planned in the ‘Roman Magic’ series, but I’m also currently working on a book for slightly older children; maybe 10 to 12 years old, which I won’t say too much about yet, but it might include a genie!
As well as that, I’ve always been interested in history, and I’m currently transcribing and editing a World War Two diary, which was written by someone who was in the Home Guard near London during the war. This will be for adults as well as young adults, and I’m hoping to have it published later this year, by the Loughton and District Historical Society.
Now for some just-for-fun challenge questions…
What type of book do you reach for to lose yourself in? Any favorite titles/authors?
My all-time favorite books are the Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond – you can’t get better for humour, adventure and a good moral compass, in my opinion, not to mention some wonderful story-lines. I was both sad and honored towards the end of last year, to attend Michael Bond’s memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, where the final Paddington Bear book (to be published later this year), is to be set.
What’s your favorite non-writing, non-reading activity?
Spending time with my family and the dog.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or challenging ones?
Always! I think you should try to take both good and bad ones with a pinch of salt, but it’s impossible to resist the urge to read them!
When you get a story idea, do you scribble it on any scrap of paper or napkin you can find, or do you have a special notebook or online tool where you keep all the inspiration?
I have a special notebook to write ideas down in, but if I get an idea when I’m out and about, it’ll get written on whatever happens to be there at the time – often the back of my hand!
If you could go back in time before you started your author career, what advice would you give yourself?
Get involved in writing networks, groups and societies straight away. These are such wonderful sources of support and advice to all writers, but especially those who are just starting out. I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and it is a fantastic place to meet other writers, both online and in person.
Not that we’re saying you need this, but what one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Cake! I like to set myself writing goals, and when I’ve met them, I stop work and have a coffee and a biscuit or a piece of cake to celebrate. Not that there’s anything wrong with cake, but you can definitely have too much of a good thing!
Here’s where to find and follow Catherine, and purchase her books!