Indie Author Chat: Heather G. Watts, Author of The Mystery of the Magic Mirror: A Digger and Biscuit Adventure
Congratulations! Your children’s book is now available on the Amazon bookstore. How did it feel to see it there for the first time?
To be honest, just amazed and so pleased that this dream I’ve had for so long is finally a reality. My dad always told me I should write a book and now I finally have. I enjoyed the whole process of imagining then writing their adventures. Of course I hope people enjoy reading it, that’s why I wrote it, but I so enjoyed losing myself in Digger and Biscuit’s world and living their adventures with them. I felt lost when I finished – which is why I’m now nearly halfway through their second adventure.
Can you tell us a little bit about your book and who you’ve written it for?
I’ve always struggled to find books that bridge that gap between picture books and longer chapter books. There is a time in a child’s relationship with books and reading when they can hold a longer plot and more characters, but perhaps find a couple of hundred pages daunting. Oh, and all the lovely colourful illustrations disappear too.
I love reading stories aloud and bringing the characters to life so I set out to write a story that adults would enjoy reading aloud and that children could then read themselves. I debated whether to have some black and white line illustrations or full colour. I’m so glad I decided to have full colour because I really think they add to the fun and complement the text beautifully. I was very lucky to find my illustrator, Bex Sutton, and we quickly developed a great working relationship. Apparently my appalling scribbles did help her to know what was in my mind!
When I was teaching I began to develop the characters of Digger and Biscuit through puppets who were always learning, asking questions, joking around and making mistakes that helped the children to learn. My own two Golden Retrievers are not unlike Digger and Biscuit and this is where the games originated that Digger and Biscuit play.
I hope that The Mystery of the Magic Mirror is a book that children will enjoy over and over again and reread like an old friend. I have books from my childhood like that and when I read them, I still have the pictures in my mind that I had as a child.
Have you always been a writer / wanted to become an author?
I suppose if I’m honest, yes, I have. When I was six I had letters published in the local newspaper and the Bunty comic and I decided at that point I would be an author. I had no idea how or what being an author really meant but at school, writing was always my favourite subject so I went on to do a degree in English. I did think of journalism as a career but teaching was in my blood. Each time I looked at a different career path, my heart brought me back to teaching. I just wanted to give children the love of reading that I had.
Of course, the world was very different and the opportunities for on line learning, support and self – publishing simply didn’t exist. I loved my teaching career and the idea of writing was pushed to the back of my mind until I found myself in the Middle East with the time and resources to start writing. I took some academic courses on writing for children to understand plot, characterization and structure more fully and started scribbling ideas in notebooks.
What made you take that leap and publish your book?
Oh I kept putting it off! How could I call myself a writer when other people had been writing and publishing for years? I suppose what pushed me to action was that I really enjoyed writing and then reading, Digger and Biscuit’s adventures. What if there’s one child out there who feels the same and this is the book that ignites that spark of reading for fun? My husband pushed me too – in the nicest possible way. He felt it was too good a story to sit languishing on my computer or in my pile of notebooks. As he said, what’s the worst that can happen? You publish and nobody reads it, you don’t publish then definitely nobody reads it.
Finding Michelle was the impetus I needed for this book to see the light of day. Her support, calm supportive voice and superb professional knowledge took away the fear of the actual process and left me free to focus on writing.
Thanks, Heather. That’s so kind of you to say. Have you any more book plans in the pipeline?
Yes, Digger and Biscuit’s second adventure is already well underway and will be available for Christmas. It will have twenty-five chapters so that it can be read over the course of December – a sort of advent book rather than a calendar. It features Digger and Biscuit of course, and some characters from the Mystery of the Magic Mirror, as well as lots of new characters. Its title is The Mystery of the Missing Christmas: A Digger and Biscuit Adventure. I do have ideas for a third Digger and Biscuit Adventure but more of that later…
What advice would you offer other aspiring authors who want to self-publish their books?
Make sure you believe in your book because if you don’t, no-one else will. I wrote, rewrote, edited, and changed so many times. Sometimes I’d wake up at four in the morning thinking “that doesn’t make sense – why did that happen? What if…” So I suppose my advice would be don’t rush to print. Leave it to marinate for a while then come back to your story with fresh eyes.
If you are having illustrations, find an illustrator who is a good fit for your story and build a good relationship with them. A good illustrator will feel invested in the success of the book and hopefully you will work on more projects together.
If you’re nervous about the whole account set up, formatting etc.; as I was, get in touch with Michelle. It made such a difference having Michelle answering my questions and setting things up that would have stressed me out! When you’ve invested all your time, effort and emotion into your book you don’t want to fall at the last hurdle – you want to publish in a professional manner.
Enjoy your writing. Tell your stories.
Thanks very much, Heather G. Watts! All the best with your fantastic book!
Buy The Mystery of the Magic Mirror here: