son is a children’s author from Leeds. Having found inspiration from reading to her children she decided to pursue her passion for writing with the hope of getting published. To date, she has had 6 picture books published as well as many e-books. She also writes adult fiction under the name Gillian Larkin allowing her to look at more complex issues.
The first in what will become a regular feature on the Pen Heaven blog, we spoke to Gillian to find out a little bit more about her work and how she went about getting published.
So how did you get into writing? What’s your background?
I always loved writing at school and made my own booklets at an early age, unfortunately I never sold any even at the price of 2p. There was never an option to consider writing as a career; it seemed to be something that happened to other people. I ended up working in an insurance office but still had the dream of being a writer.
Why did you decide to be a children’s author?
I always had this yearning to be a writer but I never knew what stories I wanted to write until I had my children. We spent hours reading picture books and then making our own stories up. That's when I got excited about writing picture book stories, they seemed to represent the magical sharing time between a parent and child.
I understand you also write adult fiction. How does the creative process vary?
Well, I can write longer words and deal with more complex issues. I've only started this recently and feel like I'm finding my feet - and my voice. I'm reading a lot more and noting how different authors deal with emotions and the ways they might use alternatives to said etc. As I grow in confidence I'm finding it easier to write more words. As a children's author I usually write less than 1,000 for a picture book. I use the same creative process: I have a general idea for a story and let it develop as I write. I have tried plotting stories before I write but this hasn't worked for me as I change my mind as I write when better ideas come to me.
Talk us through getting published for the first time. How did it happen? How did it feel?
I had an almost publish before a real publish so I was a bit wary at first of a true offer. The almost publish involved a trip to London to discuss a text, I made changes as requested by the publisher - but then they changed their minds. My first published book, The Teddy Bear Scare,
started off the same with requested changes. Fortunately the publisher went ahead and I held the book two years later. It felt amazing, particularly as it had taken me 5 years to get to that point, I had submitted over 60 stories to various publishers.
You previously said to me that you’ve recently got into self-publishing. How did that come about and what’s the process like?
I have had my stories rejected by publishers for various reasons. Having published books is no guarantee of future publishing contracts. I researched self-publishing and thought I'd give it a go with my unpublished stories. I love every story that I write and I love to share them. I have had positive reviews for my ebook stories, comments from children saying how much they loved my stories - which made my heart sing. The first book that was an almost publish has now been published as a free book, the title is Watch Out For The Bears
. It's gained the most amazing reviews and I'm so glad it finally got published.
What are some of the barriers you encounter with self-publishing?
I can't really think of any. You can have an idea for a book, write the story and publish it within a week. I did this with one of my stories and had a sale within 24 hours. There is still a stigma that self-publishing isn't real publishing but I'm sharing my stories with parents and their children. That's what I set out to do.
Do you think that self-publishing is leading more people to pursue their passion for writing?
I hope so. I love hearing about success from self-published authors. It's refreshing to read a variety of author voices that haven't been 'polished' to fit in with everyone else. I don't even mind typos and spelling mistakes in ebooks - I know mine have them no matter how many times I check! If someone has the urge to tell a story then they should just do it, don't listen to anyone else.
What’s a typical working day like for you?
I have my family to look after and I work at a local primary school. I fit my writing in when I can, usually at the end of the day. I try to stick to my rule of writing at least 1,000 words a day. Weekends are better because I can get 3,000 to 4,000 words written. I don't manage to write every day, sometimes life (school plays, parents' evenings) gets in the way. It doesn't matter, I just continue the next day.
What have you been working on recently and what have you got lined up for the future?
I published some children's stories that I had to get out there; some of them are free as I love sharing stories. I've recently published 2 short stories in a new series that I'm working on called Storage Ghosts
. I love the TV shows that show storage locker auctions, I'm always fascinated by the things that people find. I wondered what would happen if ghosts were attached to these things, what would their stories be? Would they need help to 'move on'? I really enjoyed writing them and I have ideas for more stories. Plus, it gives me an excuse to watch the TV shows. These stories are written under Gillian Larkin as I wanted to keep my children's stories separate under my name of Gillian Rogerson. I'm aiming to put the first book in each series free, I like to share my work!