I asked. She answered. Natalie Reeves Billing shares her story. From ways Mum's and Dad's can make reading fun for their children, to exclusive information about her new book 'My Mummy is a Monster' which will be available to order May 5th. Mum's and Dad's everywhere, this one's for you! You can also keep up to date with all thing's Natalie Reeves Billing at her website or find her on Twitter here.
So Natalie, tell us a little bit about yourself and your author journey.
I've always been a bit of a daydreamer. I had a formidable collection of journals by the age of ten. Poems, short stories, and observations. Anything really. Downloading my thoughts from the tangle of my brain was the only way to lessen the noise in my head.
I became a lead singer in a signed, touring band, and was the primary songwriter. I moved into professional songwriting for many years.
When the kids came along, I found that many of my bedtime stories came out in rhyme. My sense of humour is a little batty, and I found that it actually helped hold my children's attention. After putting a few stories down on paper, my friends insisted I do something with them, and the rest, as they say, is history.
You have a children's book coming out May 5th, what can we expect from that?
The Monstrous Me collection shows us that there is a little monster hiding inside us all. The books are what I call 'Split Perspective.' They look at both sides of a story, from alternative angles and viewpoints. They highlight the importance of thinking carefully before making decisions and judgments. Although that may sound heavy, they are actually loads of fun and totally relatable to any modern family.
'My Mummy is a Monster' is the first in the Monstrous Me collection. First, we look through the eyes of our child protagonist, who takes us through a regular day, and all the reasons she suspects her mother of being a monster. But then at the halfway point, when we literally and figuratively turn the story on its head, we hear the very same scenarios, this time from mummy's point of view. The accounts are totally different, so who truly is the monster?
The books are a great jumping-off point for sessions covering the 'two sides of every story.' And when you finish, start again, this time looking for all the hidden monster items in the pictures.
What advice can you give to other author's out there?
Staying true to your own unique writing style is key. It's great to practice and improve our skills, but not by losing what is different and quirky about our own offering. There are so many writer resources out there, and they have their place, but at some point, a writer needs to dig deep and reach down inside and pull out the magic. That comes from a deeper, intuitive place, and not from rules and systems. Write it first, then put your editor head on.
How can Mum's and Dad's reading your book, make it extra fun for their children?
With children's picture books, it's nice to give children time to look carefully at the pictures before turning the pages. Visuals are so important, and Lisa, my illustrator, is second to none.
Try reading the passages and then talking through the pictures and words together. There's no rush. It's the perfect time to have fun together and to be inventive.
Why not try some monster activities right after? Make your own monster masks or monstrous meal making. There are loads of free downloadable materials for little monsters on my website. www.lollipoplodge.com
What are your interests outside of writing?
I love imaginative play with my little ones. It takes me back to that special time when the world was full of wonder and awe. It keeps me fully loaded with all sorts of zany content.
I love singing, playing guitar, reading, metal detecting, and map-making. I just wish I had more time to fit it all in. It's so sad we only get to be one or two things in this life. There's definitely another one of me somewhere, waist-deep in dessert sand looking for ancient tombs. And another that should have made it to Mars by now, too.
Do you have any book tours or special promotions planned for your book launch?
I do. I was meant to launch a month ago, but when the world stopped, I took a pause to figure out what to do. That launch was based on lots of fun, physical, in-the-room events. I wanted to recreate that connectedness in a digital manner. I am going to be talking live all through May 5th on my various social platforms, with all kinds of monstrous competitions and activities. I'm sure some of it will be on YouTube for our readers to see. (I've never truly explored live interviews before, so this should be an interesting experience)
What can we see from you in the next year?
That's a good question, and I wish we had that crystal ball to really know, but what I can tell you is that I will be releasing my second book in the Monstrous Me collection later this year. That one is called 'My Teachers are Monsters.' I will also be publishing a book called 'Ben and the Bug' pretty soon, which tackles the Coronavirus and includes a great mix of entertainment and facts. I have also booked on to a book blog tour for early July, so watch this space.