This week I got to interview the wonderful Kelly Louise Jarris about her latest book 'IMAGINE OUR SPECIAL PLACE.'
Welcome Kelly and thank you for taking the time to interview on The Book Tree Blog.
My pleasure and thanks for having me.
'Imagine Our Special Place' is obviously very close to your heart. How important was it for you to get the story out there?
This story was inspired by watching two very special people in our family go through palliative care and terminal cancer. Hearing how my sister saw her diagnosis and her positive outlook and how she coped, I saw a strength that I admired. We had small children at the time, and it was really difficult to articulate what was happening and the process that comes with this whole journey. I am hoping I have done that with this book as so many families are dealing with this daily.
The illustrations are so bright and playful. Did you collaborate closely with Sandunika Dissanayake?
Absolutely, my concept art, references and notes were very thorough. They needed to be as I wanted Sandunika to understand my vision for my story and she definitely did.
The story is very uplifting which is not what most people would expect from a story about grief. Was this intentional as an appeal for younger children?
It really was and I am so pleased that is what you took from reading my story. I think keeping a child's innocence for as long as possible is so important. My intention for the book was to get kids to use their little imaginations and hopefully create a soothing thought process for such a hard topic to talk about.
Do you share or ‘test drive’ your stories with anyone – students, family - before you submit them for publication?
Yes, always. I usually get my kids, young nieces and nephews to listen. In fact, they are already quoting lines from my next book, which I love.
What has been the most helpful advice given to you on your journey to becoming an author?
I was told early on to always surround yourself with people that have your best interests at heart and want to see you succeed and achieve your goals.'
Read the book review here.
Thanks to Romi Sharp and Books On Tour PR & Marketing for facilitating Kelly's book launch and this interview.
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Hi Michelle and thanks for joining me to answer a few questions about your wonderful new book Sass and Traz Save The Library.
Kerry: Firstly, where did the idea for this book come from?
Michelle: I have been writing this book in my head for a long time. It is a love letter to libraries to thank them for being a safe space when I was growing up. Book characters are among some of my best friends and I hope readers will find some new friend in this book.
Kerry: Is the Ms Burns in the book very similar to the real Ms Burns?
Michelle: Ms Burns was my librarian in primary school. She was from America and had a laugh that filled up the whole library. Unlike the Ms Burns in the book, she wasn’t tall and didn’t have fake eyelashes, but she loved books and inspiring children more than anyone I had ever met.
Kerry: I love the way you talk about libraries being safe spaces and describe it as ‘a haven’ for Traz. Was the library your safe haven growing up?
Michelle: I was definitely one of the kids who spent nearly every lunch hour in the library, especially in high school. It was a place I visited my fictional books and escaped from reality for a while. Filling my head with fiction and non-fiction books was an important part of shaping who I am as a person and how much I value critical and creative thinking as well as education for all.
Kerry: Why twins as the other main characters in the story?
Michelle: This was a throwback to the books I loved as a child where the main characters were twins and always had the best adventures. My younger brother and I are very different, and I wanted to show that just because you are twins, doesn’t mean you think or act the same. I love the idea of twin telepathy and I have friends who are twins who tell me that it definitely does exist.
Kerry: Diversity is a key component in many of your stories including this one. How important is it for you to bring diversity into a story?
Michelle: It is very important to me that kids of all abilities can see themselves reflected in the books they read. I was very lucky as a child that I felt represented. It wasn’t until I became an author that I realised that not all kids were as lucky as me.
Kerry: What advice would you give to aspiring authors on incorporating diversity into their own writing?
Michelle: Start writing from a place of personal experience, but don’t be scared to reach out to diverse cultures and abilities to understand the world from their point of view. I think writing what you know is the most important place to start for any aspiring author, but I also think there is great potential to share our gift with others who don’t have a voice and help them represent themselves as well.
Kerry: Are the books and people you’ve brought to life in the story - literally! - ones that were your favourites growing up?
Michelle: I have loved pirates ever since I watched the Pirate Movie on repeat in the eighties. I was obsessed with King Arthur and the knights of the round table at University, when I was studying history, but have yet to find a movie that can live up to the books. Einstein’s theories have always been a fascination, as are all the historical figures who changed our world. There were so many more that I wanted to add, which will hopefully find a place in book 3!
Kerry: Ms Burns describes the books as ‘treasure’ to Blackbeard and his pirates. Is that how you see books too?
Michelle: Books are the best kind of treasure because they are different things to different people. They give us each exactly what we need.
Kerry: You’re a Children’s Rights Queensland ambassador and an Australia Reads ambassador. What drives your passion to be involved with these organisations?
Michelle: I am passionate about working with organisations that champion the rights of children, give them a voice and supply them with the tools to be the best they can be, regardless of economic or cultural barriers.
Kerry: In the book, Sass mentions ‘. . . we don’t even have a library at school anymore.’ What are your thoughts about the role of libraries and librarians in schools?
Michelle: It is a sad reality that some of the new schools I visit don’t have a full-time librarian, and some even don’t have a library. Books will always have a place in education, no matter how advanced our technology becomes. The benefits of reading a physical book on a young brain cannot be duplicated or improved on a device. Librarians are more than keepers of the books, they are the key holders and they can unlock confidence, inspiration and motivation for the kids who need it the most.
Kerry: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us Michelle and best wishes for Sass and Traz Save The Library.
Published by Daisy Lane Publishing and OUT NOW. A must have for your younger readers library collection.
With thanks to Books On Tour PR & Marketing for helping to organise the interview and Daisy Lane Publishing for access to the digital copy of the book. Link to review here.