In anticipation of the imminent release (March 19th) of the next instalment from the wonderful, award-winning Whimsy Wood series of children’s books, I sat down with Sarah Hill for a chat. We were keen to find out more about what inspires her to write and remain creative.
To find out more about the book and to pre-order visit Abela Publishing’s website.
Following the success of the previous 7 Whimsy Wood books, tell us how you remain creative and think of new ideas for your books…
Well, I have 3 young children aged 8, 6 and 2 and a half years old, so playing games with them and reading stories to them helps to maintain my creativity. I’m also fortunate enough to be invited into primary schools across the country regularly, where I’m asked to run creative-writing workshops and woodland-related literacy activities with the pupils. Engaging with my readers in this way also helps to feed my creativity. Finally, I am an avid reader. Reading and writing of course go hand-in-hand; to write regularly, you really do need to read regularly to feed your imagination!
As to how I think of new ideas for my books, well, each of my ‘Whimsy Wood’ children’s books is written for a specific month in the calendar, so the flora and fauna change as you read through the series. When I’m about to write a new Whimsy Wood book, I’ll decide which month I’m writing the book for and then research what animals, flowers, plants and trees would be out and about in a UK woodland, at that particular time of year. This helps to give me ideas. I also like to weave a proverb or saying into the story, so I’ll see which ones I’ve used before and then hunt for a suitable new one. This also helps me gain ideas. Finally, I mind-map my thoughts and ideas every time I write a new Whimsy Wood book and by planning my book this way, the story usually comes together reasonably quickly.
With the world now digital crazy, and children seemingly being able to use smartphones and tablets before they can speak, how do you hope your books will help educate and inspire children to reconnect with nature?
Well, all my Whimsy Wood children’s books are available on kindle and in various ebook forms. So if there are 5-8 year olds who would prefer to read a Whimsy Wood story on a smartphone or tablet, then they can certainly do that. Whether they read them in the paper or hardback form, or off a screen doesn’t matter.
They should find that when they read a Whimsy Wood book, they are immediately drawn in to the wonderful world of Whimsy Wood. The descriptive language I use will stimulate their imaginations and the mention of different flora and fauna that I intersperse intermittently throughout a Whimsy Wood story, will trigger any child’s enquiring mind.
We include an incomplete map of Whimsy Wood at the back of each book for the reader to fill in, using what they have learned from the story and their imagination. This map can be used during imaginative play and if the child wishes, there is a dotted line on the back of the map which can be cut along (with the help of an adult if needed) so that the map can be taken out of the book if necessary.
Finally, we always ask various children to read the manuscript of the next Whimsy Wood book before it is published. Their comments are then included on the back cover of that particular book. Numerous children want to go outside and build houses and make clothes for animals and pixies, after reading my Whimsy Wood stories. I also know that a number of primary schools have used my Whimsy Wood stories for numeracy, literacy, geography and science lessons for their infant pupils.
How many more books have you got planned or written in the Whimsy Wood series? Do you plan to write any other books or series?
There are 35 books in my Whimsy Wood children’s series and these are divided into 5 sets of 7 books. I’ve written up to book 14 in my series currently and yes, I have already started writing another children’s book that is entirely unrelated to Whimsy Wood. This non-whimsical book is for a slightly older age group. My Whimsy Wood stories are for children aged 5 – 8 years old, while the new book in my head is for children aged 9 years +.
Who is your biggest inspiration for your writing? Any other authors or artists?
My biggest inspiration would have to be Terry Pratchett. I have been a huge fan of his Discworld series ever since I was a teenager and his books are still the most common ones that I read.
When I was a child, I loved the ‘Brambly Hedge’ series by Jill Barklem, Enid Blyton’s ‘Faraway Tree’ stories and Alison Uttley’s ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ books. I’m guessing these are lodged in my subconscious and perhaps this is where my ‘Whimsy Wood’ children’s series has manifested itself from.
You can pre-order ‘Fearne Fairy & The Dandelion Clocks’ now from Abela Publishing.