Author Interviews

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Monday, 3 June 2013

Author interview with Jaquelyn Muller (revisited)

Back in May 2013, I interviewed author Jaquelyn Muller for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...

Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children’s author Jaquelyn Muller. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Jaquelyn. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Jaq 71Jaquelyn: I am based in Melbourne, Australia. I am married with two daughters who everyday dare me to back myself – hence the writing.
Morgen: You write children’s books, was there a reason to choose this genre?
Jaquelyn: I still think and behave like a kid myself in many ways. I don’t understand why anyone would make a jumper with itchy wool if you expect people to wear it and I understand the importance of a good pencil case!
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Jaquelyn: I have just published my first book, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’ under my own name. I worked with illustrator Kathryn Zammit which was one of the best working relationships I have ever had (she understands the attraction of a good pencil case also).
Morgen: They’re fanastic illustrations. What age group do you write for?
Jaquelyn: I have written for ages up to 12 years old. I like the variety in subject matter and tone as it is such a massive learning and growing curve in anyone’s life when you think about it. Kids are adopting, developing and moving on very quickly from all sorts of concepts.
Morgen: Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Jaquelyn: Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery. I was a bit of a romantic as a child and loved the historical aspects of the settings and social nuances. I even asked my grandmother to make me a ‘petticoat dress’. I think the sophistication of the relationships between women in those days was quite evident. They didn’t have the interruptions that we had as children and I loved the way they spoke. I don’t know how many little girls I probably freaked out because I wanted them to be my ‘kindred spirit’?
Morgen: Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Jaquelyn: I wouldn’t dare compare myself to another writer, but I admire the work of Stephen Michael King, Freya Blackwood, Anna Walker and Sam McBratney. I love the way they represent individuals.
Morgen: Do you think it’s easier writing for children than adults?
Jaquelyn: No, not at all. Since early childhood picture books are so much shorter you have to grab the attention of the younger audience instantly and hold it. Adults may be inclined to wade through a few chapters of a book to see whether they like it or not. Children don’t give you that opportunity. You need to know what you are going say and do it well very quickly! 
Morgen: Do you get a second opinion on your stories before they’re published – if so from adults, children or both?
Jaquelyn: Both and on-going at different stages through the process. The inception of the idea I generally run passed the kids, then I have the base text assessed by an adult for grammar, story, age appropriateness and marketability. Both audiences will have feedback on concept layouts, then it’s a matter of finessing it from there.
Morgen: Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about writing for children?
Jaquelyn: Don’t just assume that it is a matter of writing a cute story about a chicken or a frog. Marketing and self-promotion is a huge part of the process which often takes you away from the joy of writing. You are marketing the book to parents and grandparents as well as children so you need to think about how you are going to do that before anyone even sees it.
Morgen: Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
I love you coverJaquelyn: Yes I have self-published ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’. I had the text assessed by a highly-regarded children’s book editor who told me it could be developed into a beloved family favourite, but I didn’t want to wait around for a publisher to pick it up. I have a background in publishing and marketing so I felt that with the right preparation I could take this on. I am extremely proud with what I have ended up with and the support for the book has been heart-warming. I feel like running through a meadow in petticoat dress!
Morgen: :) Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jaquelyn: Not yet but there are plans for this down the track. I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to picture books but I love the idea of all the digital assets that can be created around them to enhance a child’s relationship with that book, eg. website, app, activity sheets.
Morgen: Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Jaquelyn: The attraction of self-publishing is that you can have far more control over the design of your book and since I had a very clear vision for ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’, this was very important to me. Book covers are particularly important in children’s picture books as the cover needs to engage both adults and children.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jaquelyn: I am planning a ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’ follow-on series involving the central character, Elizabeth Rose and her family. Both the illustrator, Kathryn Zammit and myself are eager to work together again and feel there is plenty to explore with this character.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Jaquelyn: I do write everyday whether it be for my blog, press releases, teacher’s notes for my book, my other digital consulting work or other social media. I don’t necessarily work on my books every day, which is a priority for me this year.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jaquelyn: I tend to find more creativity when I am on trains, in the car, outside or observing. I will write down a few notes on the spot then I will start to flesh it out from there. I tend to work at my desk when I am getting into the nitty gritty of story construction and editing.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry, novels, non-fiction or short stories?
Jaquelyn: This book and my next are both poetry. I have also written a novel for pre-teens.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jaquelyn: The novel that I wrote for pre-teens!
Morgen: Oh dear. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jaquelyn: Of course. It is hard at the time mostly because of the time it takes from the time you send the submission to when you receive an answer, so you sweat on it a bit. I think you just have to accept that it is part of publishing and have another stream of income!
Morgen: Ah yes. I quit my day job last year and am doing the pauper writer thing, even with two lodgers (paying housemates) but I don’t regret it for a second. Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Jaquelyn: I have spent a lot of time in the marketing of myself as well as my book. I have a background in PR and marketing so I have spent many years marketing other people and products. It has taken a while to feel comfortable doing about myself, but I am getting better at it.
Morgen: Marketing is definitely a learning curve, and the usual answer to the ‘least’ part of my next question… What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jaquelyn:  My favourite aspect is when I am deeply in the zone of writing and I am happy with what is coming out. I have been humbled by the support I have received from people who don’t know me and their enthusiasm for what I have produced. I have also been surprised by how much I have enjoyed the business aspects of publishing (not too many authors say that).
Morgen: Not many have to me, no. :) If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Jaquelyn: Billy Connolly, Jane Austen and George Lucas, they are all great story tellers. I think I would cook something warm and comforting like risotto. I suspect there would also be a few bottles of pinot involved.
Morgen: If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Jaquelyn: Recently I took my girls to Disneyland. It was the first time there for all of us. When I caught a glimpse of the Magic Kingdom from a distance it was an excitement that I had anticipated for over 30 years, the fact that I got to share that with my daughters was a day I will never forget. Cheesy but fun.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Jaquelyn: ‘May the force be with you.’
Morgen: :) Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Jaquelyn: Cooking (there are people who live in my house that insist on eating all the time), running (it clears my head and sets me up for the day), attempting to grow vegetables (I am waiting for People Against Vegetable Abuse to knock on my door any day).
Morgen: My mother is very green-fingered. I take after my father. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Jaquelyn: I find the children’s author groups on LinkedIn quite good. I have been able to get onto a few book reviewers that way. It was also how I did some of the research around self-publishing platforms.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Jaquelyn: What are your top 3 favourite children’s books?
Morgen: My all-time favourite is Russell Hoban’s The Mouse & His Child. I don’t have my original copy unfortunately but did get another edition quite recently from a car boot sale (like a garage sale but held in a field). It’s been quite a while since I was a child (I’m mid 40s) so the other two don’t come so easily but I’m a big Roald Dahl fan so Matilda and James & the Giant Peach are ones I’d love to have read to my children (had I had any). Thank you, Jaquelyn.
I then invited Jaquelyn to include a synopsis of her book, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’…
A new book by Melbourne author, Jaquelyn Muller, is set to become a cherished family favourite enhancing bedtime for children and care givers as they read aloud together.
Released through, and selected independent bookstores, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’, is a full colour paperback that follows the story of Elizabeth Rose and her unusual family.
With timeless circus themed illustrations by Kathryn Zammit, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’, is a return to the tradition of bedtime story telling. Jaquelyn has used elements that many children will recognise but the concept of family and relationships is represented in a fun and imaginative way designed to promote discussion.
Although produced in the early childhood genre, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’ can be introduced to the youngest of babies and toddlers, while the images allow for art, literacy and numeracy project adaptations for kinder and school-aged children.
Jaquelyn Muller has skipped, ran and at times spun in circle around a 20-year career in marketing and public relations, starting out in magazine publishing then moving on to start and run businesses with her husband. 
Now daydreams through the home office window are to be put to good use and weaved into tales she hopes will bring moments enjoyed through her children’s books.
Inspired by the thousands of fearless authors and illustrators, who at some point were prepared to ‘have a go’, Jaquelyn will release her first early childhood picture book, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’ in early 2013 via Amazon and other online bookstores and selected bookshops.
Collaborating in creative relationships is one of the gifts Jaquelyn appreciates in writing for children. ‘Whether working with other authors, illustrators or discussing story ideas with children, there is a deep level of trust in handing over your creative vision and asking others to invest their time in it. The path from inspiration to page is like having a best day every day, which will hopefully come through in the books I create’.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
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