Author Interview: Michelle Sloan
Michelle Sloan was born and brought up in Edinburgh but now lives with her family in sunny Broughty Ferry near Dundee. She trained as a primary school teacher and has also studied drama and arts journalism. Her debut book, The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee has just been shortlisted for this year’s Bookbug Picture Book Prize.
We caught up with Michelle to find out more about her writing and her brilliant bonnie baby book.
Hi Michelle, thanks for talking to us today. Many of our authors have been avid readers and writers since they were children. Have you always been a writer?
An avid reader, yes, but not quite so much when it comes to writing. I suppose I always wanted to be a writer but in my earlier years whenever I wrote something, I couldn’t bear to read it! I had no confidence in my own work. After I returned to university in my late twenties, I was taught a little about scriptwriting and theatre critiquing. As well as learning both these skills, I also had to read over my work meticulously and share it in a (thankfully) kind, supportive environment! It was a real learning curve and it gave me the confidence to get going.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
I work in fits and starts. I can have an incredibly creative burst where I write and write and write. And then there are other points when family life intervenes and there’s simply no time. A large part of my writing process is thinking. I do a lot of thinking whilst walking the dog, cleaning the house etc. Thinking is crucial to my process and having the peace to do it – that’s the tricky part when you have three young children and two dogs!
Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get writer’s block?
Research, going for a walk, cleaning out the fridge. You just need time. Give the mind some space and often the ideas begin to flow…
Where did you get the idea for The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee?
My son! When he was around six months old I entered him in a Bonnie Baby competition in my home town of Broughty Ferry during the annual gala week. I thought it would be fun, and it really was. Needless to say he came fourth!
What does your wee boy think about being in the book?
He’s four now and doesn’t quite understand that it’s really about him – but he likes the story thankfully! He likes the puppet too. I visited his nursery last year to read the story to his class and he took it all very seriously!
The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee has just been chosen for this year’s Bookbug Family Pack. How does that feel?
Oh, it’s just amazing! I am truly over the moon! I couldn’t have predicted such a fantastic honour. And it’s just so lovely to share it with Kasia who is hugely talented and brought my ideas to life on the page with her wonderful illustrations. I am delighted too that children all over Scotland will get the book and to have it translated into Gaelic is wonderful. What an absolute thrill!
Are there any other authors that inspire you?
So many! I read lots of books to my children so I’m constantly inspired. As a child myself some of my favourites were Enid Blyton, Jill Murphy, C.S. Lewis, Frances Hodgson Burnett and John Masefield. Now, as a parent I can revisit all of these with, of course, the addition of some wonderful new authors – many of whom are published by DiscoverKelpies!
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
- Make time to do it (don’t procrastinate)
- Don’t be put off when you read back your work – learn to embrace your own style
- Write what you want to write – what interests you; what challenges you; what excites you
- Experiment! Try poetry, short stories, flash fiction, picture books, ghost stories!
- Never be despondent if your work is rejected; believe me, we’ve all been there – many, many times
- View it as a constant learning process
- And finally and frankly most most importantly… never give up
What’s next for Michelle Sloan?
More writing when I can squeeze it in! As well as The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee, I have an adventure thriller published for children aged 12 upwards called The Revenge of Tirpitz, but I would like to have a go at something for a slightly younger age range. It would be a new challenge! So watch this space.
More about Michelle Sloan
The contest for the Bonniest Baby in Dundee is here, and one very grubby baby brother is scrubbed, dressed, combed and taken by his mum and big sister to charm the judges. By the time they arrive, their bonnie baby is sticky, claggie and clarty. His chances of winning are dashed – especially when he blows a raspberry in the judge’s face! Or are they…?
With lively, bouncing rhyme from Michelle Sloan and bright, fun illustrations from Kasia Matyjaszek, cheeky picture book The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee will have mums, dads and kids chortling every time.
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