Aleesah Darlison is a children’s picture book, and novel, author who also reviews for The Sun Herald. Some of her books have been included on the Premier’s Reading Challenge list in different states, in the last two years she has published 15 children’s books with another due for release early in 2013. I was able to find out a little more about Aleesah and her work in this recent interview.
Welcome to Beauty and Lace Aleesah, thanks for talking with us.
Like many authors I understand you have always written, can you tell us a bit about your decision to pursue it professionally?
It took me almost twenty years to believe in myself as an author. I’d been told – and believed – for so long that it was too hard to get published and that I’d never succeed. Despite this, there was always something inside me telling me to write and to express myself. Even though I had a full-time job in marketing, I would spend every spare minute I had writing or researching novels. I wrote a lot of manuscripts that I never did anything with.
About six years ago, I was a full-time mum with two young children. As much as I loved being a mum, I craved mental stimulation. I needed something for myself. That’s when I decided – for once and for all – that I’d try my hand at writing. I’d give it the best shot I could and see what would happen.
Can you share a little about your journey to publication with us?
Once I’d committed to giving writing a go, I knew I had to learn how to do it properly. I attended workshops, spoke to authors and joined writing groups and networks. I wrote story after story – across all genres – and entered them in competitions and sent them to magazines and publishers. I even got myself business cards and started telling my friends that I was trying to get published. That was a huge step, announcing to the world that I wanted to be an author, even though I felt such a long way from actually becoming one.
I kept a spreadsheet of what I sent off and overall I received over four hundred rejections. At times, I thought maybe I should give up but then I’d win a prize or have a short story published in a magazine. Small encouragements like that kept me going.
After three years of trying, of ‘learning the craft’, I received my first publishing contract. That was the day that changed my life and got me believing in myself. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I’ve had fifteen books published in two-and-half years and I have more due for release. After all those knock-backs, it’s extremely satisfying to know that I’ve made it.
What prompted you to write children’s books?
At the start, I tried writing for various genres and age groups. But writing for children seemed to come the most naturally for me. I had young children of my own, I read lots of children’s books, I engage well with children, I had fond memories of reading as a child myself and I felt comfortable writing for the primary school age group. That’s where my inner voice sat best. Perhaps I just haven’t grown up! All of these factors led to me finding my niche in children’s writing.
Have you ever had an illustrator whose vision didn’t match yours?
So far, I haven’t. I’ve been very lucky in that respect. And I have a great deal of respect for the illustrators I work with. There is an element of having to ‘let go’ of preconceived ideas and hopes when you hand over a picture book text to an illustrator. I try to appreciate all an illustrator brings to the project because producing a picture book, or any illustrated book, really is a team effort. I like the illustrator to have ownership of the project as much as I do.
How does your childhood factor into the books you now write for children?
Like many authors, I write from experience. My childhood memories are often woven through my stories, sometimes more strongly than others.
What has been the most rewarding moment of you career to date?
I’ve loved writing the Unicorn Riders series, it’s a lifelong dream come true. I’ve collected unicorns since I was a little girl and now I write about them! The Unicorn Riders series is also important to me because it features strong, empowered female lead characters who I hope will be positive role models for my readers. Overall, I’d have to say working with the brilliant, amazing, supportive team at Walker Books who publish my Unicorn Riders series (and other books of mine) has been a career highlight.
Are your children your Beta readers and has there been anything they didn’t like?
My kids are always super supportive. They’re so proud that their mum is an author. I hope they might one day be authors or illustrators, too. When my advance copies arrive, they commandeer a copy each then insist on having the book read to them at bedtime. It’s very special to be able to share that with them. They always love what I write, although they probably are a little biased!
They’re so delighted when I weave their lives into the stories. They’re funny, quirky kids and I love to write funny, quirky stories so they’re an endless source of inspiration. They’re more likely to read the finished product, but I do show them draft manuscripts and illustrations so they can be involved in the process. Sometimes they’re more involved than others. For example, my next picture book due out in March 2013 is called Bearly There. The essence of the story is based on my son, Blake, and his favourite teddy so the child character in the story is called Blake.
Have they got a favourite book of yours that they brag about to all who will listen?
They love sharing all my books with their friends. Whenever they go to the school library in class there’s a rush to borrow my books. A lot of the kids at the school know me and are great fans. Boys will even borrow and read my ‘girl’ books. They don’t distinguish. It’s lovely to think my books are being shared and enjoyed among my children’s friends. That’s priceless.
Have you got a favourite place to write?
To be most efficient, I write in my study where everything is handy and where I can work on my computer. Other times, I make hand-written notes in my notebook which I carry everywhere, or add notes to my Blackberry or voice record ideas. Anything so I don’t lose the idea!
Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere: my life, my children, my imagination, my dreams, the newspaper, in stories I hear from my friends. The trick is turning those tiny sparks of inspiration into a good story.
What does being a woman mean to you?
I’m proud to be a woman, a mother of three, a wife, an author. Women have amazing skills and instincts and they all come in handy for the busy life of juggling and multi-tasking and coordinating and creating and everything else that goes into being a full-time mum and a full-time author. I know how lucky I am.
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!