I chatted to Jules Richman about writing, her books and future projects. I have had the honour of illustrating two of Julia’s enchanting books and look forward to creating future stories with her.
Celeste: Hello Jules! Congratulations on your latest book ‘A Huddle of Hippos.’ Before we chat about it, can you just tell us a little about yourself?
Jules: Thank you, Celeste! And thank you again for your fantastic illustrations – collective nouns have never been so exciting, vibrant and fun!
I’m Jules Richman. I live in the glorious Mother City (Cape Town) with my husband – Tim, son – Nicholas, and cat – Katya. Nicholas is 18 months old and loves exploring and being outdoors, so I spend most of my time these days running after him making sure he doesn’t swallow a stone or pull out my pansies…
I love writing colourful stories for children and I also love art, interior design, flowers, food and wine! I am an animal lover and a sensitive soul, in search of kind, caring hearts.
Celeste: Your first book, Katya’s Hairy Tales: The Bacon Chase was published last year. What lead you to try out for children stories?
Jules: I was writing for food and décor magazines, and had a column in Designing Ways magazine for several years. After a while I got tired of the more rigid, formulaic structure of non-fiction magazine writing – I wanted to freely express myself and be playful and have fun with my writing. Tim suggested I try a creative writing course, so I went on to complete the online Get Smarter creative writing course with UCT and Penguin Random House. As part of the course we could submit a manuscript and I was lucky that Katya’s Hairy Tales: The Bacon Chase was accepted for publication.
Celeste: Your first book was for children aged six and up and your latest book is a picture book for a younger audience. Can you tell us a little about what the differences you experienced between producing these two very different books?
Jules: The Bacon Chase is an early reader chapter book, about 65 pages long, and I had to get the grammar spot on for children just starting to read on their own. It had more depth to the story, dealing with plot, dialogue and characterisation, for example. For A Huddle of Hippos, I focused on a simpler (yet as imaginative) storyline but with everything in rhythm and rhyme. The illustrations – thank you, Celeste! – are prominent and tell a lot of the story. Though a picture book, which is geared to a young audience (2-5 years), it’s a great read and learning tool for older children who are learning collective nouns at school.
Celeste: Then the other difference was that the first book was done through a large publishing company and your second through a small, independent company. Can you tell us about your experience between the two?
Jules: It was a great honour to have had my first children’s book published through Penguin Random House, and I am very thankful to them and the brilliant course that set me on track. But I always wanted to have a book published through my husband’s publishing company, Burnet Media. This year, the opportunity came up for me to do a book with Tim, and it has been such a rewarding experience, from start to finish, working with publisher, illustrator and art director in such an interactive, fun, hands-on way. I have loved the process.
Jules: My first piece of advice to aspiring children’s authors is: prepare! There are skills and ground rules that you need to learn – about how to write the book itself and about the industry in general. From that point, before you even start writing, it’s best to have a very good idea of what your story is about. Then write it all down, and read it over and over again, and cut, cut, cut! Till it’s pencil sharp! Read your sentences aloud and get others to read them too.
The next advice is: once you’ve finished your book, realise that there is a lot more to do! The publishing industry has changed dramatically in recent years. It’s not just about getting your book into bookstores any more and sitting back. It’s about thinking how to set your book apart from the tens of thousands of books out there. It’s about finding your audience and doing events, storytimes, markets, school visits…
Celeste: Do you have a favourite children’s author or book that inspires you and your writing? What books did you enjoy as a child?
Jules: Yes, I loved – and still love – the Roald Dahl classics. Fantastic Mr Fox is especially clever and inspiring, with its grotesque humour and punchy, rhythmic text. I was a big fan of Winnie-the-Pooh, Angelina Ballerina and Enid Blyton’s The Magic Far Away Tree. And I’m sure I would have loved the amazing Julia Donaldson books if they’d been around when I was a kid.
Celeste: Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you can give us a sneak peak on? What else can we expect from your colourful characters?
Jules: Yes, A Huddle of Hippos is the first of The Sam Series, and I’m aiming to put out at least one of those books a year. But I have so many other ideas that it’s tough to decide which story to follow next. Let’s see what happens… !
Celeste: Thank you so much for taking time out with us today, Jules! Where can people find out more about you online and information about your book?
Jules: I do storytimes and fun events to market my books at various schools, stores and festivals, and you will find all the info on both titles at www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za and www.burnetmedia.co.za
My email address is email@example.com. If there are any questions I’m more than happy to chat.