Writing Across Genres – Alison Reynolds on tour “A Year with Marmalade”
I am thrilled to welcome a very special guest to From Hook to Book today, my good friend and writing buddy, Alison Reynolds, to celebrate the launch of her fabulous new picture book A Year with Marmalade.
A Year with Marmalade, illustrated by the very talented Heath McKenzie, is the delightful tale of two good friends Maddy and Ella who find everything changes the day Maddy has to go away. Maddy cannot take her precious cat Marmalade and so she entrusts him to Ella’s care, but Marmalade and Ella do not even like one another. Through the seasons of one year Ella and Marmalade share adventures and a budding friendship.
This is a gorgeous picture book on every level, from its delightful prose and story, the wonderful illustrations and use of colour, through to the fabulous design where the playful and distinct arrangement of the text and fonts work to enhance meaning and fun in the illustrations and text.
Alison Reynolds is the prolific author of over 30 books, including the fantastic choose-your-own-adventure Ranger in Danger series and the gorgeous Why I love… and Baby Talk series. She writes across the entire spectrum from board books, picture books, chapter books through to novels. How does she do it? It makes me want to know if there’s a difference in her writing process between these different genres? Time to ask her a few questions.
Welcome Alison. It’s fantastic to have you visit today.
Hi Chris. It’s very special to be here with you for the last day of the blog tour.
Let me start by asking you, when you get your story ideas, do they arrive fully formed, specifically as picture/chapter/novel ideas or do you work them into the genre you want to write? How do you decide which format an idea best suits?
For the last few years I’ve been doing commissioned work so the formats have been decided by the publishers. I would love to say my ideas arrive fully formed, but unfortunately they don’t. Sometimes I have a scrap of a conversation twisting around my mind. Or an image of something. A Year with Marmalade originated in an image of a cat in a tree looking on, and feeling unloved. It was perfect for a picture book. I think sometimes that many chapter books could be picture books because they are really “cluttered one idea” books. (I’ve been guilty of this.)
Sometimes, a picture book should be a chapter book, but I have found that sometimes you think you need the extra words, but when you look at it closely you don’t have enough plot to justify a chapter book. For me, less words are practically always better.
What differences do you find in your writing process between sitting down to create a picture book and say writing a novel?
I start both with a vague idea or image. I do tend to write picture books in longhand, while I’m very comfortable writing straight on the computer for a novel.
I also write a picture book extremely fast, but I tend to write novels much more slowly. Maybe I am pacing myself! I don’t find either much easier or harder, just different.
Do you have any rituals or habits you follow when writing or to get you into writing mode?
What you want me to tell you how I’m always at my desk at nine every day? That only happens in my every hopeful imagination.
I can’t write in a dressing gown and need to be fully dressed so I’m in work mode. I usually have music. My poor family suffers when I play the same two or three dvds constantly while I’m working on a project. It needs to be music that I know so I don’t listen too intently. I went through a Johnny Cash phase that I’m not sure everybody enjoyed. It gets to the stage if I’m out and I hear the music I feel as if I could start writing. Very Pavlov’s dog.
When I am near a deadline I write every day and work ridiculous hours. I’m a binge writer, but I wish I wasn’t!
When I’m on holidays I rarely write, but my little brain keeps ticking over.
When I’m stuck I’ve been known to flee to the local library or coffee shops. I’ve found that really helps.
Are you a visual writer? Does this visualisation change between your writing of a picture book text and a novel text?
I’ve become much more of a visual writer since I’ve been writing a spate of picture books. Picture books really are a different way of looking at the world. It’s important to have something different on every spread to illustrate. In A Year With Marmalade, I loved how Heath McKenzie dived in the spaces I left for him and created something even better than I could imagine.
I’m currently writing a YA and I feel as if I am much more of a visual writer than I used to be. The scenes roll across my mind and I could tell you exactly what each character is wearing. Writing visually is infectious!
Chris, I would love to write another Marmalade adventure. I could imagine him in a talent show or lost.
Thank you so much for dropping by and answering my questions, Alison. I love all your books and wish you and Heath every success and mega sales for A Year with Marmalade.
A Year with Marmalade is published by Five Mile Press ISBN: 9781742488806
Marmalade’s personality really shines through in Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie’s newest picture book A Year with Marmalade. Share your favourite picture showing your cat’s personality to win.
The winner will receive a signed copy of A Year with Marmalade and a copy of the picture book Lighty Faust the Lion, a book about a much bigger cat.
Share your favourite picture of your cat by uploading it to author Alison Reynolds’ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524 or email it to Alison as a low res jpeg file at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll upload it on her website www.alisonreynolds.com.au
Entries close on the 1st of September.
Today’s visit wraps up a busy blog tour by Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie and, if you’ve missed any of their stops, you can catch up with their other terrific tips and insights into writing and illustrating at the following tour links: (Also check out their websites at http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au and http://www.heathmck.com.)
7th August Dee White (Picture Book Writing Tips)
9th August Karen Tyrrell (How to Get Published)
11th August Tania McCartney (Review)
13th August Pass It On (The Marmalade Journey)
14th August Kathryn Apel (Let’s Get Catty – a competition)
17th August Dale Harcombe (Review and interview)
20th August Peter Taylor (How the Book was Created)
22nd August Susan Stephenson (Review)
23rd August Robyn Opie Parnell (Writing a Picture Book)
27th August Sally Odgers (5 Reasons to write picture books)
29th August Angela Sunde (Illustrating Marmalade – the process with Heath McKenzie)
31st August Chris Bell (Writing Across Genres)