AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Aleesah Darlison
Aleesah Darlison is one of the hardest-working authors I know, in addition to being a lovely person and a beautiful writer for children of many ages. While I've known Aleesah for a while now, it was fantastic to get the chance to interview her about the inspiration behind her latest picture book, Fox and Moonbeam, her writing habits, favourite books and more.
Can you tell us a bit about your book, and the themes/issues it explores?
Fox and Moonbeam is set in Victorian England. The story features a handsome but lowly fox and a famous ballerina rabbit called Moonbeam. It’s an unlikely pairing and from it springs an unlikely but valuable friendship. The story is about finding your place in the light.
What was the inspiration behind writing this particular story, and did it change much as you were writing it?
The first line of the story just came to me and I worked on it with my 9 year old daughter, Kasey. My children often help with ideas and inspiration.
From the start, I pictured a handsome fox winding clocks for the queen, but this fox has a problem in the way that he’s treated and viewed by the rest of the world. When he meets Moonbeam and she shows him kindness, everything changes. The story was quite a bit longer (they always are!) and slightly more romantic at the start but for our child readership, to make it more relevant, we shifted the focus to the values and importance of friendship.
How do you hope readers will connect with the book, and/or what do you want them to take away from it?
I hope readers will like the story setting of Victorian England and be able to enjoy the characters and fashions of that time. Narelda Joy’s illustrations are stunning and original with multiple layers and many things to discover on each page. I also hope that readers are inspired to find what they’re good at so they have the courage to stand in the light, just like Gerard Fox.
Do you have a favourite picture book that you can never get enough of?
Our house is filled with picture books so it’s very hard to choose. Forgiving its long title, I’ve always loved The Little Mouse, The Red-Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear. It’s funny, it’s different, it’s a great book to read out loud to your kids (which I have done countless times over the years) and the way it’s constructed, it really draws the reader in. The illustrations are beautiful too.
What about your biggest challenges in writing, or in getting published?
Finding the time to do everything I need to do. Getting all the stories in my head onto paper. There are too many to keep up with!
Are there any tidbits from the publishing process of this book that you could share with us, in regards to working with the publisher and/or the illustrator?
Be flexible and willing to learn. If you’re not willing to learn, change, and grow you’ll struggle. I’m still learning each and every day. It’s important to allow the illustrator to fall in love with the story so it becomes theirs too and so they will have the passion and connection to give their all to illustrating the book. Authors do need to let go a little so that a story becomes less ‘yours’ and more ‘ours’.
Can you let us in on any sneak peeks into your next book or other project?
My next picture book to be released in November is called Emerald: The Green Turtle’s Tale. It’s a story about a courageous baby turtle hatchling. It’s beautifully illustrated by Leanne White and published by Wild Eyed Press. I love turtles and while in Townsville recently I was able to visit the turtle hospital at the aquarium. I’ve also visited Mon Repos near Bundaberg to see the (loggerhead) turtles laying their eggs. I don’t think anyone will be able to resist Leanne White’s baby turtle illustrations!
What about a favourite word or quote?
'If you have made mistakes… there is always another chance for you… you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.' - Mary Pickford
I’ve had this quote taped up at my desk for years now. I think it really applies to our industry – and story submissions and rejections. If you get rejected or ‘fail’ with one story, you have to pick yourself up and keep going, move onto the next one and keep trying. You never know what’s around the corner!