Author Interview Series (15): Francesca Watt
You can read the full interview with pictures and videos HERE
I'm so thrilled to take part in another Book Tour this month for a fantastic book by the super talented author-illustrator, Francesca Watt. She is another wonderful friend I have come to know on Instagram. I really admire her work as an illustrator and had the opportunity to beta-read her brand new release 'The Crafty Chameleon' and seeing this amazing book come to life! Scroll down and get to know Francesca and her new book.
Hi Francesca! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? F: Hi, I’m Francesca Watt and I live in Staffordshire in the UK, where I write and illustrate children’s picture books. I am a mom of two boys and love books, music, exploring new places and drinking green tea! What you might not know is that I used to be a fashion designer and once dressed a famous popstar and an England footballer. Wow, a fashion designer! That's really cool! I bet that helped you a lot to develop your illustrations too. So, what inspired and motivated you to write your first book and how long did it take from the initial idea to publishing? F: I have actually been writing for many years, trying my hand at different genres and poetry too, but I didn’t start writing children’s books until I’d had my first son 8 years ago. It was actually during a day out in Scotland visiting family that I disappeared into my own head and started writing and rhyming. As soon as we got back to the house I ran upstairs and began scrawling it all down. That very story was the original incarnation of my new book, The Crafty Chameleon. It’s not the first book I have published, but it’s very special to me and I’m so pleased I let it breathe for a while and took the time to make it what it is today. Oh, I didn't realise you'd been working on it for so long! It really is a special and wonderful book. Your hard work definitely pays off. What are some of the challenges you have encountered on your author and self-publishing journey? How did you overcome them? F: I think the hardest parts for me are dealing with technical difficulties, which make me extremely frustrated, and the marketing side of things. I’m very introverted and have never been big into social media. I found it extremely hard to begin with to put myself out there and share my true self with strangers. But I have found some incredible people, especially on Instagram, who are so wonderful and supportive. We all help each other and it’s such a great community to be a part of. I’m so grateful to each and every one of you who help and guide me through, even on low days when everything seems impossible! I'm exactly the same - I have a really hard time putting myself out there, but slowly taking it one step at a time. I'm so glad we have this wonderful community to support each other! What is something you wish someone had told you about self-publishing before you started? F: You are responsible for absolutely everything on your publishing journey. If there is something that is not your strong point, don’t be afraid to ask for help or outsource to a professional. Your book needs to be the best it can be! What was it like launching your first book? What did you learn from the experience? If you could do it again, what would you do differently? F: I really didn’t think past the, write, illustrate, print, aspects of publishing a book. I hadn’t even been on social media for a few years and I didn’t do enough research regarding marketing or getting my book out into the world by other avenues. I think the best thing you can do is to be part of a community where you can learn as much as possible and guide each other along the way. If I could start again I would share my journey with friends. I'm definitely with you on that. Building a social media presence and marketing is a huge part of self-publishing. I wish I had started earlier. What has been the most rewarding experience since publishing your first book? F: I don’t think there’s anything more special than finally holding your book in your hands for the first time! My first author visit with The Christmas Crew was pretty special too. Having a room full of children who are so excited to hear you read your book is a special experience for sure. I also love hearing feedback from the parents and children, and of course seeing pictures of my books being enjoyed. What advice would you give to other aspiring writers or authors? F: Read as much as you can in the genre you want to write in. Think about what’s great about them and what doesn’t work so well. Learn about creating well-rounded characters and a proper story arc. Learn as much as you can about the writing process and then write! But don’t rush to get your writing out there. Leave it for a while and work on something else instead, then look at it with fresh eyes. You’ll find issues you were blind to when you first wrote it. Find a trusted group of author friends you can share with and learn from. Only when you know you have something you can truly be proud of and is edited properly should you send it out into the world. Most importantly though, don’t forget that the real work begins after you hit publish! So make sure you do your research on marketing too! It’s definitely the hardest part as far as I’m concerned. Anything you can do to make yourself knowledgeable and organised will help you greatly! That is excellent advice! I think a lot of people rush into the publishing process and miss a lot of things that could have been improved. Marketing research is definitely needed and very often overlooked. And the market is constantly changing and evolving too. So how do you go about marketing? Do you have any tips for first time authors? F: Learn from others! This time I am lucky enough to have an awesome team behind me helping me to launch with a Bookstagram Tour! If you see something that other authors are doing that you love, and it works, find a way to do something similar for your books! I really love the Bookstagram Tour idea! I will definitely try it for my next book launch! What’s the best thing someone has said about your book? Or something they said that made you really happy. F: I think reading in reviews that 'The Christmas Crew' is now part of so many people’s Christmas bedtime routine is a really special thing. I only hope 'The Crafty Chameleon' will create special moments for families too! I definitely believe it will! It's a brilliant book! Would you consider traditional publishing? Have you tried reaching out to or pitching to agents and publishers? F: I would never say never to anything, but I do like having control over my own destiny. For now I will stick with being Indie. Who knows what the future will hold. What was your favorite book growing up? Why? F: George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl. I think everyone was concocting their own marvellous medicine after reading that, weren’t they? What is a good book you have read recently which you would recommend to others? F: So many! Some great picture books are: 'Dogs DO Look Like You' by Victoria Smith because it’s so funny; 'Stardust' by Jeanne Willis which is just so beautiful with a great message; and 'Leo and The Octopus' by Isabelle Marinov which I have found really useful for explaining my eldest son’s Autism to my youngest son. I also recently read 'Azalea Fern and The Last Ruin of The Extinct' by Becci Murray and it blew me away! Such a wonderful story for around 8 years +. Great picks! 'Azalea Fern' blew me away too! Francesca illustrating in the sun room What is your favorite place to read or write? F: I love to read outside, in bed or in the sun room, although really I will read anywhere! I tend to gravitate towards the sun room to write or illustrate though, as it’s comfy and has a great view of the garden, which relaxes me and helps me to focus. What a gorgeous view! I would love to have a sun room! It definitely looks relaxing. What are some of your hobbies besides reading or writing? F: I just love getting outside and exploring. We always go off the beaten path on walks with my eldest son in the lead! It’s so much more fun than sticking to the main paths. If the park is quiet when we go, I am definitely going on the zip wire! So much fun. I’m still a kid, really. I’m always first on the floor to build Lego too! What does ‘a day in the life of an author’ look like? Describe your typical day. F: The first thing I always have to do is catch up on social media, replying to people who have been in touch or commented on my posts. Then it’s preparing for the day and getting the kids to school. Once I’m home, it depends what stage I’m at whether I’m writing or illustrating, but it’s always accompanied by a cup of tea! If deadlines are not imminently looming, I try to get out for a walk to clear my head and work though plot or rhyme issues, or figure out layouts, or how a character will look. If I’m deep into a book and it’s getting closer to publication day, I often forget to look up until it’s time to fetch the kids! It’s not ideal but it does happen. I’m a bit of a stress head! Of an evening, once the kids are in bed I will quickly go through my social media again to catch up. Between all of this, I also have to create my own social media posts and deal with advertising. The publication jobs take over fully when the time comes and then I can’t wait to be in the creative process again! That’s the best part after all! Yes, the social media, advertising and marketing are never-ending and extremely tiring! It's hard to find time to do it all. What are you working on now? What’s your next book about? F: I have a couple of books ready to be fine-tuned and illustrated, but I’m not sure which one will be next. I think that will be decided organically when my head is on straight again after the launch madness of The Crafty Chameleon! Well, I'm looking forward to whatever you publish next! Let's play a game. Finish the following statements: If I had never published my books... I would not be living my dream! If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, it would be... The Labyrinth of The Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I love beautifully written books that help me to escape into another world for a while. I would love it if ... (someone famous) could read my book. Dave Grohl. I heard him on Radio 1 many years ago reading The Grinch and it was amazing! He’s such a cool guy and a great sport! I’d love him to read one of my books to the world. I dare say that will continue to be a dream though :-D If I could only write one more book... it would be awful! I want to get as many great books out into the world as possible! Yes, that would be tragedy. I hope to read many many more books from you! Finally, can you tell us a bit more about the books you have written? F: As an autism mom and someone who struggles with self-esteem and anxiety issues myself, I am passionate about creating picture books that can make children and parents laugh together and encourage important conversations towards improving mental health. My latest picture book, The Crafty Chameleon, is an inclusive, funny, rhyming picture book about kindness, friendship and learning to love yourself just the way you are! I’ve also created a free teaching resource and activity pack to help promote empathy and self-esteem in children, to be used by parents and in schools, alongside the book. Thank you so much for sharing all about your author journey and books with us! I loved learning about you and all the great advice you've shared with us. We look forward to your future releases!