Meet Aleesah Darlison!

 It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome author Aleesah Darlison to Running With Pens!  In her first year of being a published author, she sold an amazing fourteen books. With the addition of her latest series, The Unicorn Riders,  that number has even grown higher! My previous blog entry was a summary of Aleesah’s brilliant talk on how to Break into Picture Books, and now we have an idea of how to do it, let’s have a look at what Aleesah has achieved and how she’s done it.   

 Kerri: Hi Aleesah and congratulations! You’ve achieved an enormous amount in a short time, however things are rarely as easy as they seem. How long did it take you make your first sale? Would you like to share something of that journey?

Aleesah: I was writing for children for three years before I had my first picture book manuscript accepted for publication. Sometimes I thought I’d never get published, but grim determination made me hang in there. I’m glad I did. In the last 16 months I’ve released 9 books and have been contracted for 7 more.

Kerri: Wow! That’s an amazing succes rate! So, of those, you’ve sold picture books and series for young readers?

Aleesah: My picture books tend to focus on Australian animals. Puggle’s Problem (Wombat Books) is about a baby echidna and Warambi (Working Title Press) is about a Little Bent-wing bat. I simply LOVE writing picture books and having them illustrated by talented artists/illustrators, it’s a real joy. My series are Totally Twins (New Frontier) and Unicorn Riders (Walker Books). It’s been great fun writing both those series. Totally Twins is written in diary format by the main character, Persephone Pinchgut. She’s a real sweetheart, but a bit of a worrier. She tries so hard to be perfect! Unicorn Riders is a fantasy adventure series. The books are written from four different main character viewpoints. They’re all strong female leads, loyal friends and soooo courageous.

 Kerri: That’s a huge output. Do you write daily? What would a typical writing day entail?

Aleesah: I do try to write every day, but lately I’ve been so busy promoting my new releases, I haven’t always got there. I’m refocusing this month to find more time to write. Once I get the kids off to preschool and school, I come home, sit down at my desk and work pretty much flat out until 3pm when I have to rejoin the world. Some days I get so lost in my stories I almost miss pick-up time! After dinner and a play, the kids go off to bed at night and I usually write for a few more hours. There never seems to be enough time to in the day…

 Kerri: Oh, Amen to that!  The person who invents the 40 hour day will be my forever hero. Aleesah, what’s your favourite thing about being an author?

Aleesah: Having people read and enjoy my stories.

 Kerri: And your least fave thing?

Aleesah: Admin associated with the ‘business’ of being an author. I’d love a PA, but I think that’s just a pipe-dream!

Kerri: What are you working on right now?

Aleesah: I’m editing Book 5 of Unicorn Riders, Quinn’s Truth, and currently planning Book 6, Willow’s Chase, which I will start writing in the next few days.

 Kerri: Hey Snap! The heroine of my latest book is named Willow!  Good choice! But Book 6! Really? That’s amazing and you must be so excited! Again, huge kudos to you. So, the unicorn series has recently been released. How many books do you envisage in this series and are they being released together? Or as staggered individual releases?

Aleesah: So far, there are six books earmarked for the series. Four books were released in one hit on 1 October: Quinn’s Riddles, Willow’s Challenge, Krystal’s Choice and Ellabeth’s Test. I’m writing two more books that will be released in July 2012 and hopefully – fingers and toes crossed that readers like the series – there will be more books to come.

 Kerri: I’ve had a sneak peek and I can tell you that all my fingers and toes are crossed. Painfully! Brilliant. You’ve earned bragging rights, so would you like to tell us about this series? Targeted reader? Your inspiration for the series?

Aleesah: The series is perfect for girls aged seven and over. They’re fun, feisty fantasy adventure stories that are ideal for young girls starting their reading journey and also for older reluctant girl readers. The books are beautifully illustrated throughout by Jill Brailsford, which adds that extra visual impact. They look stunning and are the perfect ‘collectible’. I always wanted the girl characters to be strong and empowered role models. I don’t write down to my readers or pander to them. These books are for smart, savvy, modern girls. Oh, and there are some gorgeous unicorns in Unicorn Ridersof course! – each with their own special magical abilities. There are lots of cliff-hangers and twists and turns. I’m hoping to keep my readers enthralled from start to finish.

 Kerri:  These releases are perfectly timed for Christmas and long, lazy summer holiday reading, so let me put you on the spot for a shameless plug.  It’s a totally selfish question – I mean, I can think of several on my list who are going to find Unicorn Riders under the tree on Christmas morning. So, where can readers get hold of their copies?

 Aleesah: Unicorn Riders can be found at all good bookstores, including independent  booksellers, Myer, David Jones, Dymocks, K-Mart and Newslink.

Kerri: Fabulous – I’ll be there! Aleesah, thank you for being my guest! I’ve loved  chatting with you. And again, congratulations and I hope the series sells zillions.

If you have any questions for Aleesah, please post them here. And don’t forget the October draw! Everyone who posts on any of my blogs during October goes in the draw. Great prizes and we’ll also see if we can find something extra for a lucky commenter on this particular blog!

Thank you so much for dropping by!

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44 Responses to Meet Aleesah Darlison!

  1. Kerri/Kaz says:

    Again, thank you for being here. Last night – when I was battling elusive sleep (again!) I was thinking about this interview, and I wished I’d asked how your first sale came about. So, if you have a moment, could you elaborate?
    And congrats again on the release(s)!

    • Hi Kerri
      Thanks for hosting me on your blog! I’m very happy to be here.
      My first picture book sale came from the slush pile and was accepted by Windy Hollow Books. That PB is yet to be published. It’s called Bearly There and it comes out September 2012. My second PB sale was for Puggle’s Problem with Wombat Books. Obviously, that one came out much more quickly and was released last July. That was slush pile too. When I started out, I didn’t have an agent, so I simply submitted ‘unsolicited manuscripts’. It really does work….

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

  2. Oh, Aleesah, I just love the name Persephone Pinchgut! And I love your description of her too. 🙂

    I’d love to know your inspiration behind the Totally Twins series. And do you always know how a book will end before you start writing it?

    Fab interview, Kerri!

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Michelle, I’m hoping Aleesah drops by later – because I want to know th answer to this as well! I have this series and it’s fabulous!

      Thank you so much for taking time to visit.

    • Hi Michelle

      Persephone is a rather large mouthful, especially for my younger readers. I call her “Perse” for short. I love unusual names and I think it helps make characters stand out.

      When I was a child, I’d get into trouble and get sent to my room. I’d wish and wish for a twin. At the time, I didn’t have any sisters (I now have 2 much younger sisters). I think I was just lonely and wanted to someone to share things with. I lighted on the idea that an identical twin would be the best thing ever. Now I’m older and writing for kids, I often look to my childhood for inspiration. Wanting a twin was one thing that stuck with me. And now, I can write as a 10 year identical twin. It’s lot of fun!

      I often know how a book will end before I begin writing, or at least have an inkling of how I want it to progress and climax. I plan all my stories before I start, but there will always be new things added or slightly adjusted as I work through the words.

      Thanks for your questions, Michelle.

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

  3. Thanks Kerri and Aleesah for a fascinating interview.

    Congratulations Aleesah on your new releases. The ‘other’ part of being an author can definitely interfere with your writing can’t it?

    Dee

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Thanks Dee, I know Aleesah will appreciate the support as well.

      And I certainly second your sentiment. I think a PA is on the wish list of every published author. Even though I’m always ‘lecturing’ on the fact that we must put our work first, there are times when I feel like a professinal social media person rather than a professional author! It’s very different being an author these days. Fun – but tiring, time-challenging … and different.

      Thanks for visiting.

    • Hi Dee

      In my case, yes, it does. My marketing training seems to take over sometimes. It would be nice to shut it all out, but there are certain expectations placed on authors – and that we place on ourselves. We want our books to do well and often we’re the only ones who can promote them.

      I really want to focus more on my writing. Being new to this ‘business’ I’m still learning so much about it and about that tricky thing called BALANCE. At the end of the day, though, I’m very, very happy to be where I am right now.

      Take care, Dee. Hope all is well with you and your writing…

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

  4. Hi, Kerri! Fantastic interview. Aleesah, congratulations on your publishing success! It just goes to show you really do need keep writing and to hang in there.

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Thanks Vanessa! And you’re dead right – I think it’s all about hard work and ‘keeping on keeping on’! (as the ad goes…LOL) Aleesah has had amazing success, but to sell books we have to write them – and she’s putting in the hard yards it seems. Good on her!

      Thank you so much for dropping by and good luck with your own fabulous books! You, too, are a goddess!

    • Hi Vanessa

      Yes, one key thing I always tell new writers is ‘never give up’. You just dont’ know what’s around the corner. It could well be an acceptance. Many times I thought I’d never get published, but I kept going back to the writing and trying again. Sometimes, it’s all we can do.

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

  5. Sue Roser says:

    Hi Aleesah! I’m fascinated by your new series and by your amazing number of books. Did you have any of the others already written when you sold your first? or have you written them all since that sale?

    Thank you!

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Hi Sue, thank you for dropping in for a visit. Good question, I’ll pass this on to Aleesah.
      Cheers.

    • Hi Sue

      In the three years before I got my first acceptance, I wrote many manuscripts (novels, picture books, short stories). A lot of these are still to be picked up.

      I had written two books in the Totally Twins series when I was contracted for the first two. But I had to rewrite them quite extensively. They were written as novels and had to be converted to diary format. I’ve since written a third, which has been published. I have a fourth still to write.

      For Unicorn Riders, I’d written two stories when the series was accepted. One hasn’t been published yet. The other, was Quinn’s Riddles and became the first book in the series – which also had to be re-written before it was ready for publication. So far in the last year, I’ve written four news books in the Unicorn Riders series, three of which are published already, the fourth will come out next July along with another book I’m currently working on to make six books in total for the series.

      I hope my unpublished manuscripts do eventually get picked up, but I realise there is always going to be an editing process I have to go through. And then, there is a long list of new books that I want to write and just have to find the time to get to. So many ideas, never enough time!!

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

  6. Therese James says:

    Hi Aleesah and Hi Kerri, Good interview. I enjoyed it. The Unicorn Riders sounds like a great series. I think my niece will love them.

    Congrats, Aleesah.
    Terri

  7. Angela Sunde says:

    Hi Kerri and Aleesah,

    I’m very keen to buy Unicorn Riders for my niece, who seems to be stuck on fairy books. What she really needs are some feisty modern characters to read about like the Unicorn Riders. Congratulations!!

    • Hi Angela

      Thanks for your comments. You niece should definitely enjoy Unicorn Riders. No pink tutu-wearing fairies here. Only good, strong female role models who kick a little evil tush now and then!

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Thanks Angela. Aleesah was a great interview subject. And it sounds like these books are perfect for your niece. And I love that there are four of them! When I was a kid, and got (naturally) books for birthdays and Christmas, it was always so hard to wait for the next ones to come out a year later. Four at once is genius. As a kid wanting more, I’d love it.
      Lovely to see you here. Thank you.

  8. Mary Brehe says:

    Unicorn Riders! What an interesting idea. I would have loved that as a young reader. I will look out for them in the shops. Hope you sell heaps.

    • Thanks Mary – and keep an eye out of the unicorn display stands in the bookstores. My publisher, Walker Books, created them and they’re fantastic – the stands and the publisher!!

      My childhood love of unicorns, something that was a dream, has been turned into a literary reality. I have to pinch myself sometimes.

      • Kerri/Kaz says:

        Display stands! Sooooo jealous! How wonderful! I can’t wait to see them – I’m hunting down a bookshop to see them! Have you taken a photo of the stands? That’s a HUGE deal. Congratulations.

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Thanks for coming by Mary. These books would be right up your alley! They’re gorgeous. I’m sure they’ll sell well.

  9. Thanks Kaz and Aleesah with this awesome interview!
    All I can say is WOW!

    Aleesah,
    you’ve inspired me NOT to give up but keep on rewriting and sending them out.

    Thanks so much 🙂

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Thank you Karen! Yes, it certainly IS an inspiring story. And I’m so glad it helped you – though I have to say you are one of the most determined people I have ever met, Karen, and I so hope good (well, better) things happen for you soon.

      Thank you so much for dropping by – and Loads of good luck with your proposal.

      • Hi Karen

        Definitely don’t give up! While ever you’re writing and sending your work out, your writing is improving. You never know what’s around the corner. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have anything else to do anyway, if I wasn’t writing. Like they say, it FULFILLS me.
        Best wishes
        Aleesah

  10. Good interview Kerri and Allesah. Great to see hard work and persistence pay off.

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Thanks Dale! It IS all about hard work and persistence isn’t it? I think we all need that eminder every now and then, no matter what we’re doing or how successful we are. What’s that old saying, ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get?’. Doesn’t always apply to us poor writers who are at the mercy of so many other factors, but the one truth in that is that if we don’t work hard, it’ll never happen.
      And now I think I need to go and have a lie down! The thought of all that hard work… Wore me out! LOL.

      Thanks Dale!

    • Hi Dale

      Thanks so much – it is hard ‘work’ in one way, but in another way, writing is so much fun. I can be a 10 year old again. I can create my own fantasy worlds. Use names that I love for characters in my books that I’d never have enough kids to be able to use!! Meet fantastic authors. Have lovely people like Kerri run interviews of me… It’s a fun life. Well worth the hard work and persistence. I’m just thrilled I have a job I actually enjoy doing!

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

  11. Sorry Aleesah about the dyslexic fingers spelling your name wrongly

  12. Annie West says:

    Hi Aleesah,

    Congratulations on your success. You must be one hard working woman!

    I’m going to look out for the Unicorn Riders – it sounds like just the sort of book to appeal. (So glad you invited Aleesah here, Kaz). And congratulations too on the name Persephone Pinchgut. Love it! Great to see the name Persephone getting used.

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Thanks Annie! Persephone is such a great name isn’t it? And I love the shortened ‘Perse’ as she appears in the books. That is a very cool name.

      It was so nice of you to drop by Annie. Both Aleesah and I really appreciate your time and interest. I’m thinking that Unicorn Riders is going to be a hit. It’s certainly stirring interest. Wonderful!
      Hugs…

    • Hi Annie

      Thanks so much for your kind words and support. I just LOVE unusual names, probably springs from the fact that my name is a little unusual. I even named my sister (14 years younger than me) by making her name up – and my parents went with it. Her name is Arnique. Our maiden name was Smith, so you had to dress that up a bit…

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

  13. Thank you Kerri and Alessah, Great interview and congratulations on your huge success and launch into publishing, Alessah. Truly impressive and much more to come.
    Wishing you every continued success and more writing time.

    Best wishes, Chris

    • Hi Chris

      Thanks so much for your support! I think Kerri is right, I should put ‘more writing time’ at the top of my Christmas list. A few more hours in every day wouldn’t hurt, either. Or perhaps the world could just stop spinning so fast!!

      Best wishes
      Aleesah

  14. Kerri/Kaz says:

    Thanks Chris! I know Aleesah will appreciate your kind words. And more writing time? Now that’s the gift that has top ranking on my Christmas list! Oh the bliss!

    Enjoy your writing time my friend!

  15. Doz says:

    Very inspirational, Aleesah! Your story will give hope to all those still trying to get published. Thank you for the interview, Kerri!

  16. Lorraine says:

    Hi Kerri and Aleesah,
    what a storm your writing is making Aleesah- so great you are with Walker too- well done and great to know that the slush pile can become the published pile! all the best for the next books.

    Lorraine

    • Thanks so much, Lorraine. Walker are a fantastic publisher to be with. VERY supportive. All the best, Aleesah

    • Kerri/Kaz says:

      Thanks Lorraine! That’s a great description of Aleesah’s success in the industry. She’s certainly causing a storm. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to have her as a guest on my blog. I’m, personally, in awe of her successes and I felt others would be helped and inspired – and at the very least, interested. Congratulations on your own successes, and again, thank you so much for dropping by for a visit.

  17. Caroline Andrews says:

    Hello Aleesah, I just wanted to thank you for your books. I’ve collected your picture books for my children and look forward to Bearly There. I know they’ll love your older books as well (when they get a bit older), so I’ll be collecting those in preparation. Book are so important in the development of children. Thank you

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