MR BLINKING, the first children’s book written and illustrated by Charley King, is out on Amazon Kindle now. Charley worked on the story with BPA Editor Sara Sarre and self-published in March 2020. We asked her some questions about her editing journey and the decision to self-publish in E-book format.
Your website charleykingcreative.com shares some of the inspiration behind MR BLINKING. Can you summarise what got the story started?
The initial inspiration came from my partner who used to say “blinkin’ this and blinkin’ that” all the time. Funny! He hardly says it now!
Mr Blinking’s tower came from a visit to Warwick Castle and the location of Blinkingstoppe initially started when we were on holiday in the Yorkshire Dales visiting Pen-y-ghent fell.
Coming across Cressbrook Mill (which used to be an orphanage and workhouse for the expanding eighteenth-century cotton industry) whilst cycling along the Monsal Trail in Derbyshire gave me the idea of the orphans in the story, where they lived and worked. I have since learnt that Charles Dickens had the same idea when he saw Cressbrook Mill for his famous story of Oliver Twist. I wonder how many other people have thought the same thing?
One of Roald Dahl’s tips is to use three characters that would be unlikely to mix and make a story from them. Hence Mr Blinking a wealthy businessman with a football team, orphans and Molly the mouse.
“One of Roald Dahl’s tips is to use three characters that would be unlikely to mix and make a story from them.”
You illustrate your own writing with gorgeous watercolours – what comes first, the words or pictures?
Initially I drew and painted the illustrations before I wrote the story although I had a rough idea of how the story would pan out. However, after sending the original draft to Sara I put the illustrations to one side and concentrated on getting the story right first.
Blue Pencil Agency’s own Sara Sarre helped you edit the book. How much did the story change from first to final draft?
Sara was really pleased with the structure of the story; she said that everything happened in the right place and at the right time. However, she thought that some of my characters were too weak and I did not have any strong female characters. Molly was originally a male mouse and it was hard for me to change him into a female character. Sara also taught me to write with some gumption as I was really apprehensive about how I could do this in a children’s story. Once she gave me the nod though my confidence grew.
My first draft of the story was written in the eighteenth-century but Sara encouraged me to make the story more contemporary and this is where the football match and trainers came in and healthy snack bars.
My characters were also doing certain actions but with no real reason and Sara taught me to show those reasons rather than tell them; a mistake apparently often made by new authors.
I found Sara’s advice extremely helpful and I would not have been brave enough to publish my book without her editing skills. Her criticism is extremely constructive and she doesn’t mince her words which makes her very easy to understand.
How did you get into the mind of a child when writing the book, and did you have any children offer feedback?
I think to be able to write a children’s story you have to be able to find the child within you. I think everybody has that ability, it is whether you want to go there or not. I was a cub leader for 10 years in my village which really helped with knowing what makes young minds laugh. My first draft was read by a few children who gave me feedback. Once Sara was on-board though I just listened to her as you can have too many people saying different things which can be really confusing.
“I think to be able to write a children’s story you have to be able to find the child within you.”
MR BLINKING explores themes like greed and homelessness. Can you offer some advice on covering heavy topics in an accessible and entertaining way?
I wanted to tell a story that had meaning with emotional intelligence. Kindness is very important to me and being happy too. I felt that I could tell the story as long as it had some funny parts in it and I could show the main character learning from his selfishness.
Tell us a bit about the process of self-publishing and why you chose E-book format. Has this affected the way you approach publicity?
Self-publishing has been a huge learning curve for me. I had always wanted to build my own website and to be independent in the publishing world. I realised very early on in the process that I was going to have to do some serious research on IT as it doesn’t come naturally to me. On reading about marketing your eBook it is suggested that you have your own website as customers want to read more about you and see exactly who you are.
“I had always wanted to build my own website and to be independent in the publishing world.”
I have chosen to put MR BLINKING on as an eBook because the book contains a huge amount of illustrations that would not be viable enough if it was in paperback form at this stage. I have heard that a lot of authors want to see their story as a book and will pay out a lot of money in advance so their dream can come true. I don’t have that feeling as I know I have written and illustrated it myself and that is enough for me.
However, since publishing the eBook I have had a few enquiries from customers asking me if they can purchase the paperback. I am now seriously considering making a paperback version of MR BLINKING and have been looking at famous author’s books to see how they print a book with just a few black and white illustrations. I have also had the idea of publishing a colouring book of Mr Blinking’s illustrations for younger children.
As for publicity I have created a charleykingcreative facebook and instagram page; the latter I am still trying to get my head around. I was in the process of designing and working out a price to advertise MR BLINKING on a leaflet and was ready to print when the new rules of Coronavirus set in. My plan had been to visit the local beavers, cubs and the primary school and ask those in charge if I could hand the leaflets out to the children and parents. Obviously these plans will have to be delayed until we are told by the government when we can mix safely again.
Are you working on anything new?
I have a lot of ideas for new stories in my head. One of them I think I will visit again, which is about a ladybird, and make it into a short story for young children, but I would like to redo the illustrations and obviously I would like Sara to edit it for me.
I am eager to start another story that I have mentioned on my website. Having learnt about printing costs for paperbacks though I think I will leave the illustrations to a minimum and concentrate on the story.