Congratulations on your brand-new junior fiction series Evie and Pog. Can you introduce us to the wonderful Evie and her dog Pog?
Evie and Pog are very best friends. Evie is a girl who wants to be a dog. And Pog is a pug who wants to be human! They live in a tree house in Granny’s back yard.
Evie loves cake and daisies. Pog loves tea and veggies. They both love books. But very best of all, they love having fun. The series is an adventurous romp of three stories per book—with themes including friendship, food, puppies, knitting, creativity, dress-ups, STEM topics, parties, play, school and a granny who can’t stop cleaning!
What was the inspiration behind this new series?
Like many of my books, Evie and Pog just came to me one day, and they spent a decent amount of time clamouring to get onto the page! They came as a voice first, then their cheeky faces popped into my head, and I got sketching.
I guess, if I think back, I was actively looking for a book idea that combined real life with magical realism, with a girl as its main character. Girls are still vastly unrepresented in children’s books across the board, and I feel strongly about the need to push for female characters with a strong presence, who can inspire girls to be the best version of themselves. I also wanted Evie to be ‘different’, to be totally herself, and to be a little flawed. She certainly sits outside the square, and Pog does, too. I mean, do you know any pugs who like to read the newspaper and hammer nails?
What would you like young readers to take away from these stories?
I want them to be taken on a journey outside their own world—to take delight in fanciful happenings, to laugh, have fun, and still see their own world reflected back. I would love them to relate to the characters, to feel for them, to want to be their friend. And most of all, I’d love them to feel inspired to be themselves, to be silly, to be compassionate and inclusive. I think these elements are core themes in the books.
You are an author, illustrator, writing teacher and editor so the perfect person to offer advice to aspiring young writers. What are your top tips for getting started?
My best advice is to daydream. Think about stories when you’re walking the dog or cleaning your room! Or just close your eyes and let the stories and characters to come to you. Don’t try too hard. Just let it flow.
Also, go BIG. Be dramatic. I find the best stories come when you ask yourself some kooky questions. Like, what if a banana got a job in a department store? Or what if you woke up one morning and the sky was where the sea is and the sea is where the sky is? How would it rain?
Lastly, just write. Just do it. Sometimes when I look at the blank page, I panic! But if I just start writing, some kind of magic happens, and stories start to flow.
Finally, what were the children’s books that made an impact on you when you were growing up?
It’s so hard to choose. I would say the work of Dr Seuss deeply impacted my fresh little mind. Kids adore rhyme, and his language and concepts were so brilliant, so clever, and so uplifting and enriching. I loved all of his work.
I also adored The Very Hungry Caterpillar when I was very young. Of course, back then I had no idea I’d end up being a children’s book creator, but even as a toddler, I can still remember how amazing that book was – from a concept perspective, a design perspective. Even the language was so different. So lyrical. As an adult, I’m still attracted to books that are different. The Evie and Pog series is certainly different to any other junior fiction series I’ve read. And I’m really proud of that. Evie and Pog would be, too.
Author photo credit: Martin Ollman for HerCanberra