All the way from Nepal…
-What inspired you to become a children´s book author?
I have written children books but I’m not sure if I see myself as a children’s author. I am an author who has written children’s books. So far I have eight books published – all with exotic themes; two are principally for children.
My father – an Irishman with the gene for story-telling – used to make up bedtimes stories spontaneously when my sister and I were small and I thought it would be great to do the same for my children. I wasn’t so good at the on-the-spot creativity though and took to writing adventure stories featuring my sons as the central characters. My then ten-year-old enjoyed them and was always very impatient for the next episode and he gave me the impetus to keep writing. Some years later it occurred to me that other children might like the stories too so I fleshed them out and added in some girls – to give my heroes a hard time – and was lucky enough to find a publisher for them.
-Do you consider it more difficult than other genres? (If so why?)
I think it is general accepted that writing for children is like writing for adults only much harder. Most children quick tire of writing that is overtly educational, and long explanations that slow the action will lose young readers quickly. The story has to be pacey and there’s hardly time to paint in the background of the characters or the scenery. It has to be slipped in here and there so that no-one really notices. Depending upon the age-group of the readers, general knowledge may not be assumed but children will not be patronised either. In giving talks and readings in primary schools in England last year I was astonished at how much many of them knew but also I was surprised by where the gaps were too.
A children’s author always has to consider whether the vocabulary is appropriate. That is not to say difficult words have to be avoided but they can’t come in too thick and fast, and they have to sound right to the reader.
I’ve always loved reading Kipling for his mischievous use of language. My favourite is ‘Scuse me,’ said the Elephant’s Child most politely, ‘but have you seen such a thing as a Crocodile in these promiscuous parts?’ I’ve never been asked what promiscuous means but perhaps that’s because Kipling’s prose flows so naturally that the story isn’t held up by an unfamiliar word. When writing for children the poetry of the language must come through.
-Have you created a special character? Can you introduce this character to us?
The boy heroes for my books are based on my sons who have given me endless material and inspired dialogue. They are experts in insults but I had to take more time in creating the feisty Bimbini, a Nepali girl of about 16. She’s a similar age to the older brother. Bim speaks almost perfect English, is beautiful, clever and at first aloof. But the children develop a bond through the dangers they face; warmth and a fierce loyalty grows between them. Bim ‘isn’t a girly girl. You can have fun with her’, yet she remains looking considerably tidier and cleaner than her young male travelling companions.
There are also plenty of animal characters in the adventures and it has been a delight to see the wonderful line illustrations that artist Betty Leven created for the book. My favourite is the one where two golden eagles are swooping down on a hare.
-Which of your books did you enjoy writing most and why?
It is hard to choose but I wrote the first adventure story, Himalayan Kidnap, while my work life was pretty horrible. I would come home from an utterly awful day to plunge into the adventure and vicariously escape petty bureaucrats and sexist colleagues. And my son and I laughed a lot was we shared the story. It was he who encouraged me to put in rhino dug and deer-dropping fights between the brothers. But the younger always had to have the last laugh.
-For what age group would you recommend your books?
About 8 – 12 but younger if someone is reading to the child, and I have quite a few grown up fans of my adventure stories too.
-Is there a particular author that has inspired you in your journey as a writer?
As a child I was completely hooked on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and read all the Sherlock Holmes stories and lots more. I especially loved The Lost World and dreamed of becoming an explorer myself. Indeed, my first book – a travel narrative set in Madagascar – was called Lemurs of the Lost World.
-What can we expect from you in 2018?
Eifrig Publishing launched the first two books in my Alex and James adventure series. I have drafted a third tale set in Madagascar which I should try to go back to so that we can launch it soon although living – as I do now – with a Himalayan view from my study it is hard to concentrate on another country – however wonderful. I have started work on another novel for adults set in Nepal. That might take priority but writing for children is a joy and so it’ll be interesting to see which project wins.
Jane’s authorial website is www.wilson-howarth.com
I made a little video clip about the books here https://youtu.be/1HdNu5Z1MHw
The adventure books are available in electronic form only from the publisher:
Physical books are also available direct from Eifrig Publishing in the US but are widely available in bookshops in the UK and US as well as via amazon too.