Self Published Sunday: Interview with Leyland Perree
April 7, 2013
We are delighted to welcome Leyland Perree to Self Published Sunday to talk about his children’s book, The Great Reef Race. Leyland Perree is a freelance children’s’ author. His illustrated picture books include Frog on the Log, The Goat that Gloats and Toad’s Road Code, all of which have achieved international success.
The Great Reef Race is his first book by Ghostly Publishing, and his first collaboration with illustrator Stuart McGhee, who, we’re happy to say, survived the ordeal
Leyland’s inspirations and ideas stem from a childhood love of rhyme and imaginative storytelling from the likes of Dr. Seuss and Spike Milligan.
Leyland lives in Devon with his wife and son. Tell us about your book?
It’s about an annual underwater race that takes place on and around a reef. The story features many different humorous and colourful sea-creatures bought to life through Stuart McGhee’s unique illustrations. The story itself is written in verse (which I tend to fall naturally into – again, a throwback to my love of Dr. Seuss and Julia Donaldson). The two central characters, Eel and Ock, are (for me) reminiscent of Morecambe and Wise, but the real show-stealer has to be a certain sea-snail – I shall say no more!
The Great Reef Race is published by Ghostly Publishing, and is available from their online bookshop. You can also pick it up from Amazon and Waterstones. What was your inspiration for The Great Reef Race?
All three of my previous children’s books contain a moral of some sort. For my next book I wanted to tackle the notion of working together to achieve great things, so I began to think about creatures that could have different skill-sets. I settled on an octopus (many limbs, but potentially clumsy) and an eel (no limbs at all, but fast and agile). How could they help one another? I had an idea about them collecting clams from the seabed, and a title came to me: “The Great Clam Caper”. But after that I was fairly stumped and struggled to find a starting point. Still, I liked the title and began to bounce a few others around of much the same ilk. “The Great Reef Race” came quickly and naturally, as did the first verse;
“Far beneath the ocean waves
And in the underwater caves
Exciting news was spreading fast:
‘The Great Reef Race is here at last!’
After that, the rest rolled along nicely without many bumps and ruts. The moral, incidentally, of this one is that playing fair and having fun are sometimes more important than winning.
“The Great Clam Caper” may still happen. In fact, I know it will. Some ideas I have fade with the passing of time. Some, like that one, remain vivid in my mind. For now though, it’s in the bank for another day. Why did you choose to write children’s fiction?
I didn’t, so much as it was an experiment of sorts that turned into something I seem to be fairly good at. As I said, the sideline took off. Now my adult fiction has become the sideline.
How did you choose the genre you write in? What inspired you to write it?
I always loved rhyme and verse when I was young. The sillier, the better. I guess I just fell into it naturally being a bit of a silly person myself. What are you currently working on?
The next children’s picture book (Which Witch is Which?) is already written and with Stuart McGhee for illustration. Also written is the third Perree/McGhee collaboration “The Magic Custard Factory”, although I’m still tinkering with the ending of that one.
I’m also working on two children’s novels;
“Captain Mandible and the Deadlings”, is about inept pirates, annoying grandparents, ghosts, time-travel and cats that go “WOOFF!
“Roy and the Magic Wish Machine” (working title) is about a Toyland elf trying to track down a missing Santa Claus. What inspired you to become a writer?
As a child I loved stories, from the nonsensical rhymes and wacky illustrations of Dr. Seuss to the fantasies of Enid Blyton and the blackly comic books of Roald Dahl. I tried my hand at writing, on-and-off, when I was young, but didn’t really find my confidence with it until I was in my late-teens/early twenties. Around that time I started writing roleplaying adventures to play with friends. Although I struggled to get to grips with the rules of the game for which I was writing, I found I enjoyed the writing aspect immensely. In the end I ditched the game and spent the next six years writing my debut novel; a sizeable tome of something like 287,000 words.
I continued writing adult fiction until the time my son turned one. Having become, at that time, a huge fan of Julia Donaldson, I decided to write a story for my son (and my own amusement). Having never intended to sell it, I decided in the end to “throw it out there” ¬¬– to see what happened. And it just so happens that the “sideline” took off. The Great Reef Race is my current (and fourth) children’s picture book. I still write fiction for adults, and in a way this has now become the sideline. I suspect that the two aspects of my career are destined to orbit each other forever. What is your writing process?
Having slipped out of a routine for a while, I’m now back to writing three evenings a weeks, plus whatever I can grab inbetween times. I write in my office (spare bedroom) on my PC with the door closed and a hot (or cold) beverage within arm’s reach. What do you do when you are not writing?
I work full-time and have a six-year old lad, so by the time I’ve got home, spent time with him, put him to bed and eaten, it’s often a good way towards what should be my own bedtime. Then comes writing or writing-related stuff like research, promotion, editing etc which often takes me into the small hours of the morning. Do you ever experience writers block? How do you overcome it?
As humans we can be so quick to compartmentalise things. At the risk of being controversial, I think sometimes writers whip out the old writers block trump card when all that is happening is that they are struggling a bit. More often than not, writing will be a struggle. It’s a deeply personal craft that often won’t flow as freely as you want it to. Now I’ve never experienced writer’s block, and I’ll bet that a good many writers (especially those just starting out) who claim to have had, haven’t either. According to my research, real writer’s block is, apparently, a deeply debilitating and mentally crippling condition that can cause gross anxiety, phobia and an inability to function creatively.
It is perfectly natural to hit a wall, now and again. It’s okay to struggle a bit. It’s not okay to keep banging into that wall like a fly against a windowpane. Try something else. Try going around – or going back. I’ve thrown a good two or three chapters away before now when I reached a dead-end in one of the novels I wrote, because I just couldn’t see a way forward. It wasn’t writer’s block. It was poor management. I lost sight of the horizon, got so caught up in the here-and-now that I allowed the plot to steer itself away from the point I should have been heading towards.
I guess until I experience it for myself, I’ll remain fairly sceptical that such a thing as writer’s block even exists. In the meantime, I’ll struggle a bit. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read “On Writing” by Stephen King. Love him or hate him, the guys knows his stuff. Nothing I can say here will outshine the gems of wisdom in that particular book. So I’m not going to try. What books have inspired you?
Anything with Dr. Seuss or Julia Donaldson on the cover. What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
Henry Hollins and the Dinosaur. I have fond memories of that book. What are you currently reading?
Dead Game by Claire Kinton. Just For Fun
If The Great Reef Race was made in to a film which actor(s), past or present, do you envision in the lead role(s)?
Ha ha. Samuel L. Jackson as Ock. Jason Lee as Eel. Steve Buscemi as Mark the Snail. Paper, Audio or eBook?
All three are valid formats. My heart lies with paper though. Tea or Coffee?
Coffee Slippers or barefoot?
Barefoot Shower or Bath?
Bath Marmite: Love it? Hate it?
Love it Email or postcard?
Email “Far beneath the ocean waves
And in the underwater caves
Exciting news was spreading fast:
‘The Great Reef Race is here at last!”
When Eel and Ock join a host of other memorable sea-creatures in a thrilling, madcap, splash to the finish line, they soon discover that friendship, fair play and having fun are sometimes more important than winning.
Join in the fun as they wriggle, jiggle and giggle their way from page to fun-filled page – like only an Eel and an Octopus can!
The Great Reef Race is available to buy now from Ghostly Publishing (click here to purchase), amazon.co.uk(here), amazon.com (here) and from Waterstones.com(here)
You can learn more about Leyland and his work by visiting his website(here), his Goodreads authors page(here) or by conversing with him on twitter(here)