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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Kid's Books Are For Adults, Too: An interview with B.C.R. Fegan

Your bio shows that you have a great love of reading the classic fantasy books that have stood the test of time. Why did you choose to write picture books where your full story has to be limited to just 32-pages of a short paragraph or two per page?
When I was young, I really enjoyed reading imaginative tales that captured the mind and sent it soaring into the realm of infinite possibilities. Now that I’m a little older, I still enjoy these kinds of tales. In fact, you’ll often find me in bookstores and libraries perusing the picture book, MG and YA sections. I think fantasy and classic fairy tales have an incredible way of giving us a world that our minds long to linger within.

I believe that well-written picture books don’t actually limit an author’s ability to write a compelling, imaginative, or even deep story. In fact, I would go as far to say that well-written picture books can be just as entertaining for adults. The beauty of only having 32 pages (generally speaking) is that it forces an author to distill a narrative into its most potent elements. This is what made the early fairy tales (and even nursery rhymes) so magical. I try to capture some of that magic in my own stories and hopefully those who read them will agree.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Who helped you with the editing? Who encouraged you along the way?

I have written a number of books throughout my life, although most of them probably won’t be published. The first book that I ever published was The Grumpface and it took around three months to complete. At the time, I was working in a fairly demanding job, so I only had very small pockets of time to complete the manuscript.

When I was finally happy with it, I was fortunate to be put in touch with an editor who had previously been a judge for a number of major literary awards. He was able to iron out a few grammatical wrinkles and was actually very encouraging with the book as a whole.

How did you go about finding an agent/publisher? Did you go to conferences? Send out queries? Introduced to someone in the business?
The quest to find an agent and publisher was actually a very short one. When I first decided that I should begin publishing my stories, I sent a quick query letter to an agent and another one to a publisher. I had read that a response could take a while, so I wanted to make a start.

While I waited, I began researching the publishing process so that I would have at least a little bit of knowledge about the industry. By the time I received their responses (which turned out to be six months later), I had conducted so much research, that I had already decided that I could start my own publishing company. I think it turned out to be a good decision because I now have control over the entire process (which works well for my perfectionist nature).

What does your editor remind you to do most often?

I have an excellent editor who constantly surprises me with her breadth of knowledge of all things grammar. Despite her ability to track down the smallest errors like a bloodhound, she has reminded me on a few occasions to be less rigid with my own sentence construction. I think when you know your work is going to be scrutinized, you try to conform to writing standards that are no longer an imperative. At the end of the day, punctuation and grammar exist to help readers understand the text in the best way possible.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
I would have to say the best encouragement I’ve had only occurred recently. I received a notification that a 4-year-old boy in the UK had dressed up as a character from the book Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 for World Book Day. Apparently, his mother had suggested Batman, but he was passionate about his choice. That was a pretty amazing compliment to receive. Aside from that, I’ve been overwhelmed with encouraging remarks from parents and teachers about the new book.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of one you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.
I’m not sure if I would call it rejection, but I have certainly received criticism about some of my books. However, what one person doesn’t like, someone else loves. I think this is important to understand when it comes to moving past any criticism or rejection. At the end of the day, if you understand your motivation for writing and realize that you won’t please everyone, it’s not such a big deal.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing? What frustrated you the most?
I think what has surprised me the most is also what has been the most frustrating. The amount of time that an author is expected to put into publicity is astronomical. On one level it can be enjoyable yet, I suspect like most writers, I’d prefer to be writing.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
That’s a difficult question. I guess one thing that I had always suspected, but hoped I could avoid was the importance of the author’s platform. I actually have no interest in becoming well-known, but I think these days, an author has to sell himself as much as the book. If I had known long ago that this was imperative, I probably wouldn’t have resisted it for so long.

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
If I could encourage anyone who is looking to write, I would say understand your motivation for writing and write according to your passion. When you understand your motivation, you not only have a clear goal, but you have a way of measuring your success. When you write according to your passion, your writing will be authentic.

Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
I think writing is one of the most exciting things someone can do – and writing children’s books can be very rewarding. If anyone reading this has set their mind to becoming a children’s book writer, I implore you to heed C.S. Lewis’ words, ‘A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.’ It’s a great filter for each book you write and every parent who is forced to read the same story for the umpteenth time will indeed thank you!

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
The next picture book to launch will be an alphabet book that tackles learning the ABCs in a slightly different way. It centers around a young boy who hasn’t finished his homework and comes up with a plan to try and get out of any punishment. It should be out around mid-year.

That’s all for today’s interview. If you’d like to learn about this author’s books, here are some links to get you started.

Newest book:

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