If you have ever wondered where authors get their ideas, this is your chance to find out. We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses!
Machines and Me: Boats is a finalist in the picture book category of the awards.
Thank you to author/illustrator Catherine Foreman for her responses:
1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
When my oldest son was two, like a lot of toddlers, he was obsessed with planes, (helped by the fact that we lived in a very noisy flight path!). This led me to write Planes, which I submitted to Scholastic.
Years later, they suggested resurrecting the manuscript and we thought it would be a great opportunity to do a series, for all those plane, train, boat and tractor loving pre-schoolers out there.
2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
It was actually all pretty smooth sailing! (Pun intended.) When it was determined I would also be adding Boats, Trains and Tractors to the existing Planes, I knew I’d have to now come up with three extra manuscripts that would all follow the same format for the series, but could also stand alone as a good read. I locked myself away in a room for a day to write the other manuscripts, and they all came relatively easily. With Boats it really helped that I by then had another toddler who was obsessed with boats!
3. Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
Aside from the fact that I don’t think there’s any upper age limit on picture books, I believe Boats is a great preschool book. When I received my own advance copies, my youngest was 18 months old and he wouldn’t let me stop reading them! I’ve had a lot of feedback from parents saying the same sort of thing, which from my point of view is probably the best bit of the whole process.
4. Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
I have lots of books that inspire me, but for this series in particular I was inspired by Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins. We’d been reading it at the time I wrote Planes. It is a big celebration of fish, and it’s this celebration of a topic, with lovely rhymes, lots of pictures and a simple nicely resolved ending, that I wanted to achieve with Planes, and subsequently Boats, Trains and Tractors.
5. Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
Last year I couldn’t believe my luck when I found about a dozen Trixie Belden novels in The Piggery Bookshop in Whangarei. I took them home to read and was instantly teleported back through time to when I was maybe ten or eleven, reading on my bed after school with a pile of Mum’s biscuits whilst I solved crimes with Trixie, Honey and the other Bob-Whites! So while I’ve enjoyed many a book in all sorts of relaxing places, my favourite book-reading days were when I was a lot younger and I could lie in the sun all afternoon and read.
6. What are your favourite things to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Hanging out with my family. And though I’m not much of a gardener, I love being outside in the garden, pulling out weeds where I’m told to, pushing a wheelbarrow around, picking up (and eating) fruit or feeding the chickens. Boring, but true!