Let's get to know another writer, who is Bournemouth-based and produces pre-school picture and middle-grade chapter books. Her most recent release is Brother Butterfly (25/04/2020, Curious Cat Books).
In this short interview, you can learn a bit about Alanna Betambeau's writing methods, preferences and processes. If you're writing an illustrated children's book, this could be the interview you've been waiting for!
But first, here's a bit about Alanna's April 2020 book, Brother Butterfly...
"Brothers Charlie and Percy are confused when the other caterpillars in their oak tree begin acting strangely. One by one, the caterpillars disappear in the middle of the night. Will Charlie and Percy be able to keep themselves safe, or will they disappear, too?"
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? In other words, why are you a writer, and how important is it to you?
I started writing from a very early age. It’s always something that I’ve loved to do. I have hundreds of stories up in the loft that I have written over the years. It wasn’t until I had my own children that I decided I wanted to pursue writing professionally.
What inspires you to write, and where do you get your ideas?
My children inspire me. I love writing knowing they are the right audience to enjoy the books. I get my ideas from everywhere. I love animal-inspired stories.
I can write a picture book in a night…
Do you have a schedule for writing, or do you write only when you feel inspired? How often do you manage to write and when you do, how many words can you manage in one sitting?
It completely depends. I can write a picture book in a night… I will then spend a couple of weeks fine-tuning it. For the first chapter book I wrote, I only wrote when I felt inspired. Often it went untouched for months at a time. It took me nearly three years to finally finish it. For my second chapter book, I was a lot more focused and made sure I wrote for at least 1 hour every evening to avoid losing momentum. It took 3 months to complete this book in contrast to 3 years!
Writers are often labelled as loners and introverts; in your opinion, is there any truth to that?
I am definitely not… I love to socialise!
What would you say are the easiest and hardest things about writing a book? What do you love and hate the most about what you do?
I’m not sure if there are necessarily any easy parts… the hardest thing is trying to get your book out there. I wish I could just write and it be popular! I don’t particularly enjoy the marketing/social media side of it.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long did it last and how did you overcome it?
Yes at times, but luckily not for long. If I experience it with a particular picture book and it continues, I will tend to move on and start another. If it doesn’t flow then it probably never will.
When you finish writing a book, how long do you wait before beginning the editing process and why? Do you edit your own work, or hire someone else to help you?
I generally write a whole picture book without looking at it in detail, just to get all the ideas on the page. Then the next time I open it up, I start looking with a more critical eye. For a picture book I may re-read it and edit it anywhere between 5 – 50 times depending how good that first draft was!
Journal Prompt: do you enjoy the writing process more than the editing process? Why?
Many people advise not to judge a book by its cover. As an independent author, what are your thoughts on cover quality? Would you say it plays an important role in sales?
It absolutely plays a very important role in sales. My aim is for my books to NOT look self-published. I want them to fit in on the shelf amongst all the other children’s books as if it had been published in the traditional way.
It’s all about making sure that you are using a reputable company for your printing.
Some people believe independent (self-published) authors produce books of poor quality in comparison to traditionally published books, often down to editing and cover design issues. What is your opinion on this; what would you say to those people as an independent author?
It’s all about making sure that you are using a reputable company for your printing. Make sure you see a proof copy before signing off, making sure that you are comparing the cover and style to other books within the genre. As long as you are meticulous with who you select for editing/printing then there is no reason for a self-published book to look any different to traditionally published.
What is your experience of publishing so far? How have you chosen to publish and why? What do you feel are the benefits of this method?
I have self-published two chapter books with a printing company. This literally just involved them putting the words and illustrations into book format and then printing copies. This worked fine, but I was looking for a bit more support post print. For my new picture book I used Curious Cat Books and this worked very well. This was more of a partnership with editing, marketing help, formatting, printing and continued support.
If you were asked to give advice to primary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them?
Try to have a plan. Plan what you’re writing and why and perhaps for who (who is it aimed at?). You’re more likely to have a good story at the end if you plan.
Lots of authors struggle to market and promote their book/s. Do you have any top tips you can share with them, and what have you found to be most effective?
I have been visiting schools with my chapter book and that was great fun and I have had some schools order the book in high numbers. I also really like Christmas fairs – these are great when people are looking for unique gifts – I offer personalised and signed copies so that brings something different. They are also great for receiving feedback and noticing who your stall and books attract.
Journal Prompt: write down all the things you can think of in a five minute session that would help to market and promote your book for little to no financial investment.
Do you believe that writing can be learned, or that you must be born with a passion and/or talent?
I believe you have to have a passion for writing but talent can grow and be nurtured.
How do you view and define success? What does it mean to you, and do you currently feel successful? If not, what would you need to achieve to reach success?
I base my own personal success on children enjoying my book. Whether that’s 100 children or 1, it feels like a win. Particularly when they ask what’s next in the series or what else have I written. On a recent school visit to my daughter’s school where I did an assembly introducing one of my books, that felt incredibly rewarding seeing her sitting very proudly with her ‘mummy’ up at the front.
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If you found this interview interesting and would like to get to know Alanna and her books, please consider subscribing to our YouTube channel where you can watch her read Brother Butterfly LIVE for the first time, entertaining children at home during the Covid-19 lockdown.
You can also find Alanna on Facebook by clicking HERE. Please hit like and follow!
A huge thank you to author Alanna Betambeau for this interview. If you would like to learn more about her writing journey, please be sure to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask your questions!
If you would like to complete and submit an interview of your own for the blog, get in touch today through this website's contact form.