Ellie, welcome to the blog!
Thanks so much for having me, Robert.
The Avery’s Hat-Tastic Adventures series for 5 to 7 year-olds can be described as fun and imaginative stories with themes of friendship and real-life problem-solving challenges. What can you tell us about the first title in the series, How Does a Hat Save the Day?
Avery’s a girl who loves hats, using them creatively to express how she feels. Book one is set in a community garden, so Avery is wearing her very favourite gardening hat to a day of fun with her best friend Olivia, Olivia’s dog Gatsby and Granny Irene. They plan to work in Granny Irene’s plot in “The Patch”, followed by a community feast of dishes from all over the world made by the different people who have plots in the garden. But things don’t really go according to plan when Sam the Scarecrow, one of Avery’s favourite parts of the whole garden, is in danger of being ‘re-cycled’ to become a bit scarier and keep the birds out of the plots.
So - problem alert! Avery has to come up with a way to keep Sam in one piece, as well as figure out how to make him seem scary to birds. Because it’s Avery, the solution to these problems is creative and of course also involves hats! There’s a protest, a scientific experiment, and a really kind act involved in the happy ending.
How did the idea present itself in your mind?
That’s always the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Where do ideas come from…
I think in this case the illustrator Mardi Davies and I, (who are good friends and critique buddies in real life) have wanted to do a project together for ages. We took everything we love like nature, community, kindness, feisty girls, friendship, family and solving problems in creative, positive ways and put them together. We wanted certain things to be woven into the book, for example Mardi’s unique illustration style of the characters is quite different from the usual depiction of girls in most junior fiction books. I wanted the characters to be able to make positive change in their world, by thinking about what they CAN do within the scope of their own individual abilities talents and capability rather than what they can’t do.
And, gosh, the hats, a very important part of the idea!
When I was thinking about this story, I wanted something to make my character special, a little quirk that made her different from everyone else.
I remembered some of sweet little quirks my daughters had when they were small, particularly when my older daughter was about three and she had this kind of 1920s hat she’d put on and then we had to address her as “Madame Sari”. She totally became this other character. It was very cute and really, quite interesting.
So, I started wondering about hats. They’re fun and a great way of being creative in expressing ourselves, but they also can have a real effect on how we’re feeling. Research shows when people wear certain hats, they can do better or worse in test situations. Some athletes wear ‘lucky hats’, for example golfers when they play a game, and hats can even reduce anxiety for some people, who find they give a sense of security when out and about.
Avery collects hats and believes that they are helpful. She wears certain hats for certain situations and uses the hats to express how she’s feeling, as well as to help her ‘be’ a certain way. She even has a ‘thinking ‘cap! Her hats help her navigate the everyday challenges that arise in her adventures around her neighbourhood, in her relationship with her best friend Olivia, and life in general.
Later in the series, we’ll see how Avery deals with a scenario where she can’t get a hat to help her- I wonder what she’ll do? (Don’t worry, it all turns out fine!)
How did you find the process of both writing and publishing these books under your own imprint, We Are All Made of Stories?
Well, I hadn’t really considered the idea until the last year or so when I came across so much information and some wonderful, inspirational stories from other authors that demonstrated how much more accessible independent publishing has become in recent times. The ‘Avery’ stories were already written, they’d been liked and taken through to acquisitions by a few publishers, but for one reason or another didn’t make it through the process (e.g.- we’ve just signed something very similar, etc).
They sat in the metaphorical ‘drawer’ for a while, and when I had a bit of time to look back over them, I was thinking a lot about my personal philosophy of how the world needs MORE different stories so that everyone has the chance to see themselves represented in literature, especially in children’s books, hence the name of the imprint “We Are All Made of Stories”.
I’m also a book nerd from way back, so I thought, “What if I could actually make a book for the readers who like these kinds of stories?” As a lifelong learner, the thought of learning something new was quite exciting, too. It really became a case of having to take that leap and try it out.
So anyway, long story short- I found the process of publishing fascinating! There’s a lot of work and a lot of research, many stages in the process if you want to do a good professional job, professional editing, formatting of the files, book and cover design plus all the metadata and then the marketing of course!
But I’ve loved it. What an experience!
What has been the most rewarding part of creating Avery’s Hat-Tastic Adventures?
Oh definitely the great feedback from the girls who have read the book and loved it- found it fun and inspirational. That’s always the best part, isn’t it? That’s why we do it.
It’s also been amazing working creatively with a friend and following the whole book making process through to completion. Usually as an author I hand a manuscript over and then much later on have a bit of input on the illustrations (that’s been my experience and I feel very fortunate that it’s the case) then later again a book shows up- this time I’ve been a part of every little bit. Awesome fun.
Favourite part in How Does a Hat Save the Day?
Oooh, hard to say!
I love the sit-in where the girls stage a protest to stop Sam being taken away while they figure out their next step- but there’s so much more. I love their scientific experiment too, and the kind heartedness that runs through the book.
Too hard to pick!
Which other junior fiction authors do you enjoy or gather inspiration from?
I’ve always loved the “Violet Mackerel” books by Anna Brandford and Sara Davis (Walker) and when I was researching junior fiction I came across so many fabulous authors; Sally Rippin (Billy B Brown), Belinda Murrell (Lulu Bell), Lesley Gibbes (Fizz), Matt Stanton (Funny Kid) – the list goes on…
What are your top tips for aspiring authors?
They’re pretty bog standard, everyone says it but it’s true- read and read and read, and write and write and write. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid of rejection, and do create with joy, remember you’re doing this because you love it, because maybe someone somewhere needs the story you’re writing, that they will laugh or cry or be touched, inspired or fall in love with it.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on another Junior Fiction series at the moment, there’s a new picture book on the way with Ford Street (who also published my last book “Frizzle and Me”) in 2023, and of course, there’ll be more Avery’s Hat- Tastic Adventures in the coming months. We have 2 more books ready to go, once they’re illustrated, so stay tuned!
Do you have an online presence?
You can find me online at www.weareallmadeofstories.com,
on Instagram at @ellieroycekidlitauthor or @weareall_madeofstories
and on Facebook at @ellieroyceauthor.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog and asking such great questions Robert!
My pleasure, Ellie. Wishing you every success with Avery’s Hat- Tastic Adventures series.
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