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Stockport, United Kingdom
Angela Cater is a writer, illustrator and self-publisher. Her books are published by Tabby Cat Press. She is the writer/illustrator of "The Adventures of Sailor Sam" and "A Perfect Nest for Mrs Mallard."

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Interview with Marc Archambault, children's author

Partnered by illustrator, Lorna Foot, Marc Archambault is the author of a number of children's picture books produced under the publishing name of 'Indy Books'. His most recently published book, "Teevert" will be reviewed in my next blog.
What kind of books did you like to read as a child? What type of reading inspires you to write?
Roald Dahl was my favourite author. I sought out anything and everything written by him, but that was when I was a bit older that when reading picture books. I honestly don't have much memory of the picture books from when I was very young. I mostly got exposed to them more recently when my wife and I would take our daughters to the library and return with - quite literally - a cartful of books too heavy to carry.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
There's a spark. I try not to force my writing. I write when the inspiration hits and it usually just pours out all at once. Sometimes it will be a mater of mere hours between the spark and the finished story. Other times the spark may linger for months or years before it finally comes out int a story. Often the spark will come from my family. In the case of Teevert, it was a walk in Vancouver with the family one autumn and one of the kids said 'what if a leaf is afraid to fall?'
What do you think makes a good children's story?
It depends on the intent of the story. I've seen some very good ones that are quite serious. Mine, however, tend to all have a sense of playfulness. Like any story, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end. There needs to be a point or a punch-line. It needs to engage the reader. Personally, I also have a pet-peeve that I dislike stories that insult the intelligence of children by distorting reality - for example, putting together animals that are normally found on different continents, calling chimps 'monkeys' and other inaccurate things like that. Sure, the animals talk, but if you're representing African animals, do a bit of research first so that you're not sticking South American animals into the story.
How do you get reader feedback?
So far most of our sales have been direct at book signings, craft fairs, through people we know, etc. So often people will read the story there and tell us they love it. Or they will tell us later after they've read it to their children.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc?Regarding writing, none. I write when the inspiration hits me. The promoting of the book requires a lot more work in contacting people, setting up events, etc. I'm still new and learning so I'm mostly taking it as it comes.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help you concentrate?A mess! I write in the same office where I do my day job, and it's pretty messy - and we're still renovating. When I'm inspired I'm immersed and I don't need any help concentrating. I do always, always listen to music while I'm worknig at the computer though.
What has been your experience with publishers? Why did you decide to independently publish your stories?
I submitted a number of my stories to a handful of publishers. I got some positive feedback - handwritten notes from the editors rather than just form letters - but no bites. I found it to be a lot of work researching the publishers, writing cover letters, mailing then waiting weeks and weeks. It's such a matter of luck. You need to get the righ editor at the right time with the right story, and it has to fit their criteria re. number of words, etc. It's such a restrictive process and I didn't enjoy it at all. The impetus to self publish really came from realising that the tools were out there (Lulu.com) and meeting the right illustrator. I didn't really know what I was doing at first, but I learned quicly and so far I have enjoyed the process very much. There's freedom to it. There's reward in proportion to the amount of work you do to promote the book, rather than just sitting and hoping that it might get accepted by a publisher.
How did your partnership with Lorna first come about? How do you work together?
Lorna and I are Kung-fu brother and sister. We've been beating each other up for a couple of years now!
After I decided to try and find an illustrator, I initially asked another guy I knew from Kung-Fu who is a professional cartoonist. He was interested but turned out to be too busy. I kind of knew Lorna was an artist, so I asked her and she agreed enthusiastically. I sent her all the stories I had written to date - I think there were six - and she chose to start with Hal the Unwashed Dragon. She gave me some sketches and I chose which I liked best for the character. Then I gave her a story board of what should be on which page, and she drew it. There's a big of back and forth on some changes, but mostly she just rolls with it and works independently. The process was the same for Teevert, but a bit smoother. My wife also helps with the storyboarding and editing, etc.
How do you go about publicising your work and selling your books?
It became apparent quite quickly that getting people to order from Lulu would be difficult. So I invested some money and bought 125 copies of Hal - you get a good discount when you order 100 copies or more, plus there was also a good coupon at the time. We started with friends and family. Then we decided to focus on the one niche market that every author has: local. We sent a press release and got in the local paper (twice) and another regional paper is picking up the story aw well. We got ourselves into some local retailers and arranged for signing and reading events. We sold copies to libraries. And through it all, we've been actively promoting on Facebook and on our fan page. We've also just recorded the books on audio and Lorna has mixed them with music and a slideshow and put them up on our new YouTube channel.
Do you also have a day job or do you manage to make a living out of your writing?
This one made me laugh! We haven't even managed a profit yet let alone a living. So far, all the money we make we use to buy more books to sell (but then we only started this 3 months ago). I work full time and overtime as a life insurance underwriter from home. One day I'd love to be able to be just a writer instead of an underwriter, but that day is likely some way off.
Do you have a website we can visit?
Yes, several. Most of the information is on our Facebook fan page - slideshows, interviews, updates, newspaper articles, etc. www.artist.to/goneindybooks/
We've also got a YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/goneindy
and a temporary basic website http://www.goneindy-books.piczo.com/?cr=3
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into writing children's books?I'm not exactly a bestselling author yet, so any aspiring author can take this advice with a grain of salt.
Read lots and lots of kid's books. Read your stories to kids. Also, be sure you really are a writer. I've heard lots of people say they;ve written "a" kid's book. In my opinion, if all you have in you is one book, you're not a writer, just someone with one story. It may be good enough, but maybe not. You should be writing lots, have lots of ideas and experiment!
Please return in a few days time for a review of Marc's most recent book, "Teevert"

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