|Posted by Matt Posner on June 5, 2013 at 5:25 PM|
I interview authors in many genres and from many parts of the world. Today's guest star is the UK's own picture book genius David Chuka.
Who are you, where do you live, how do you like it there?
My name is David Chuka and I’m a children’s book author. I live in London in the United Kingdom. If you’ve lived in London or the U.K. for any period of time, then you know that one of the top ten topics of discussion is about the weather. London is a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities and no matter where you come from in the world, you can always find somewhere that reminds you of home.
What are the origins of your decision to write and publish books?
I have loved reading and writing since I was a whipper snapper. As I look back on my life, I have to admit that the moments that stand out for me were when I was being celebrated for either something I had written or said while on stage debating or acting. I knew I always wanted to write and I’m very glad I’m now in a position where I can self publish my books.
Why did you select children's books for your first few offerings?
I have actually written and published non-fiction books previously. However, I am absolutely proud to be called a children’s book author. My daughter was at an age where she was learning how to read and even though I had downloaded hundreds of books to my iPad, there was only one book that was structured in a way that an early reader could easily handle. The joy and pride I saw in her eyes as she read to her grandparents this book was one of the major things that led me to write my first book ‘If You See a Doctor’ and more titles have followed since.
Describe the process of producing a picture book, with an emphasis on the illustration end of things.
The process of writing a book especially when its fiction usually begins with a ‘what if’ scenario. I toss around this ‘what if’ scenario or big event in my head for a week or two and it slowly crystallizes into the story my fans read in the very near future. Once I have a fairly basic outline of the beginning, middle and end of a story, I start writing. During the writing process, it’s almost like putting flesh to bones and it gets pretty interesting as new characters might evolve or the plot might take an unexpected twist. Once the story is completed, I send it to my editor who ensures that my punctuations and grammar flow nicely. Once she sends back the edited manuscript, I get in touch with my illustrator. At this stage, I brief my illustrator on what the book is about and what I’m trying to achieve. I then give her a detailed description on what I want done on each illustration. Even though I have worked with my illustrator on five projects, I cannot take for granted that she’ll know what I’m talking about if I’m vague. I really have to express in as many words as possible what I want conveyed on every image. Once the images are completed, there’ll usually be a couple of illustrations that need tweaking. Once she sends back the edited images, I’m ready to publish.
Talk about your books so far.
So far I’ve written 7 books and book 8 is currently with my illustrator. There’s a theme that runs through all of my books and I hope one my fans will pick up on – a desire to entertain and educate. One thing I always stress to my illustrator is that she has to make her images funny so a child reading will be drawn towards and engaged with the story. Children think differently to adults and what makes a child laugh is very different to what gets an adult going. In my most successful series ‘The Fartastic Adventures of Billy and Monster’ we see how a six year old with an invisible monster gets into different funny situations that ultimately lead to a lesson being learned. The books in this series are:
The fifth book in the series is going to be titled ‘Billy and the Monster Meet the President.’ This should be ready by the end of June. The other books I’ve written are If You See a Doctor (a fun rhyming book for children), I Love Baby Animals (a books with amazing pictures and facts about baby animals) and Counting to Ten and Sharing my Easter Eggs (Counting book for children).
What kind of character is Billy? What makes him relatable for children?
Billy is a 6-year old boy with no brothers or sisters. He creates this Monster character who can only be seen by him. Billy has a wonderful relationship with his Dad and in the midst of the shenanigans he gets up to in every story, there is always a tender moment where his Dad explains to him the error of his ways and tells him the correct thing to do. Children can relate to Billy because like them, he makes mistakes and does silly stuff that they’ll find funny.
The decision to have farts in the first book was never a conscious one. I wrote the first Billy and Monster story on Boxing Day 2012 very early in the morning. The whole house was silent and I had been wide awake for a couple of minutes. Instead of laying there and counting sheep jumping over the fence, I decided to get out of my bed and do some writing. My first impressions were to write a story about a boy who was an only child and put him in a an embarrassing situation where he would be blamed for something that wasn’t his fault. These ‘what if’ scenarios led to the creation of the fart episode that served to share a lesson on good manners with children.
Tell an interesting story from your writing life.
I have to say I am really grateful for the ability to self publish my books as it’s given me an outlet to share my writing gift with the world which wasn’t possible a few years ago. Just this week, I was searching for a letter on my hard drive to do with a service I wanted to discontinue. In the midst of searching for this letter, I saw a document titled ‘Kojo the Dinosaur.’ I opened it up and it turns out it was a story I had written about four years ago about a sea dinosaur and his friend a sea turtle. I emailed this story to my wife and asked her what she thought. She gave it the thumbs up and I’ll be tweaking and publishing that story in a couple of months. Always save your ideas as you never know when they could become relevant.
Tell an interesting story from your non-writing life.
I’m currently reading the book ‘Coming Back Stronger’ by Drew Brees, the NFL Quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. It’s given me a greater respect for Drew as an individual and a better understanding and appreciation for the game. Living outside the U.S. where soccer is the most popular sport, it’s nice to see why Americans are fanatical about football.
Any final words to readers to close the interview?
I would like to quote a phrase I read in Drew Brees biography. He said sometimes we’re so focussed on the mountain in the distance that we stumble over the molehill right in front us. What that means is you have to take life one step at a time. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…and then another…and then another. Enjoy the beauty of each moment. I’d like to thank everyone whose taken the time to get a copy of my book, read and reviewed it. It really does mean the world to me. You can get in touch with me via twitter @davidchuka or sign up to my newsletter on my blog at www.davidchuka.com