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 Riders – of 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!