We’d like to warmly welcome Joanne Lecuyer today – she’s a children’s author and owner of Topsy Books. In this interview, Joanne gives us a little insight into the world of children’s lit and publishing. Also covered: why community matters, how to get beta readers, and why Joanne skipped the traditional publishing route to bring her stories to life with Topsy Books.
And now, let the interview begin!
Ottawa Writes: Joanne, you are both an author and a publisher of children’s books. Can you tell us why you gravitate to children’s books for storytelling & about your two latest releases.
Joanne: Why write stories for children – I think it’s a combination of the Disney picture books I read when I was young, wanting to be an illustrator in high school, and loving animated kids’ movies. It’s fun. I love writing fantasy chapter books because there is no real limit to where my imagination can take me.
My 5th book, My Friend Merlin, is the story of a druid boy named Merlin who shows a young Prince Arthur that magic can be used to do good despite what King Uther and his followers have come to believe. I’ve always loved the character of Merlin, and wanted to make him more accessible to kids by having him and Arthur meet when they are both in their early teens. The Witch, the Cat and the Water Dragon is the sequel to my first book The Witch, the Cat and the Egg (2009). I just loved writing about Juliane and her cat Magicus, and all the magical forest creatures. It reminds me of the storybooks that I read when I was young, so I’ve decided to turn it into a series. Of course, I had to show and tell my young readers what was in the egg!
Ottawa Writes: I’ve noticed some glowing reviews for your new novels My Friend Merlin & The Witch, The Cat and The Water Dragon, that are from families on Topsy books for your novels. How do you find folks to read and review your novels?
Joanne: I’m always thrilled to get the feedback from kids, parents and teachers. They know what they like. I’m writing for them and I want them to have fun reading the stories.
I started by testing my first story with colleagues at work who read the manuscript to their kids and gave me feedback. I continue to do this with each manuscript. I’ve had a teacher read the manuscript to her class, a daycare worker read to the kids before and after school, and someone in Greece who says the stories are great for learning English as a second language. I always ask to get written comments. They are so fun to read. I have made changes based on reader comments. In fact in these two new books, I added the phonetics for character names, a map of where the story is taking place and highlighted some tricky words and provided definitions at the end of the book. I want my young readers to enjoy the story and also learn to read at the same time.
Ottawa Writes: Why did you create Topsy Books? Do you see it growing as a publisher to bring in other authors?
Joanne: I originally created Topsy Books so that my books wouldn’t seem self-published. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I’m quite happy to have full creative control! Less bubbly after I pay all the bills. After the first 2 books, I started thinking that I might like to help kids publish their first books down the road. More recently, other authors have been asking me if I would publish their books. It’s got me thinking. But before I commit to anything, I’d like to have my own publishing and marketing process well developed. I feel that I understand the writing and publishing part. I’m still working on marketing.
Ottawa Writes: Joanne, we met in person while at a CAA meeting. What does community & writing mean to you as an author, and as a business person. What does the CAA bring to you, and can you recommend any other organizations?
Joanne: I consider myself an introvert. As an author, I spend a lot of quality time alone at my computer writing.
Being part of a community of authors is great for learning, sharing, and getting out of the house! I am also a member of the Ottawa Independent Writers and I just joined the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. I’m looking forward to my first SCBWI Conference which is in Ottawa next weekend. Just for the heck of it, I’ve requested a critique of one of my new stories. I’m hoping that it might be by an agent or publisher! I’m curious to get their feedback, since I’ve already gotten comments from my test readers. There’s no stress – I’m self-published!
Ottawa Writes: What tips can you give to aspiring children book authors?
Joanne: My tips for any writer are to write your story and don’t be afraid to share it with others and get their feedback. A good editor is your greatest asset. Don’t fret too much about the rest. Take it one step at a time. You will never know if you can, if you don’t even try!
“Joanne Lécuyer is a Canadian independent author who loves writing positive fantasy books for kids (early chapter books). Joanne has always loved books, especially how the stories and images can create a whole new world. As a teenager, she enjoyed drawing her favourite images from fantasy books and posters. She now feels she’s having even more fun telling the stories! As author and owner of Topsy Books, Joanne gets to invent characters and places and works with different illustrators to help bring her stories to life.” ~ from Joanne’s Topsy bio page.