It’s Day Five, the final day of Sid’s Big Blog Tour! To finish off for us, author Rachael Davis (Picture Book Perfect) has hosted a brilliant interview with Sid author Roo Parkin. Here’s what Roo has to say on topics ranging from favourite childhood books to the realities of breaking into the children’s book industry.
This is such a fun read and I can’t wait to find out more from Roo…
Hi Roo, please can you tell us a little bit about the book and the inspiration behind it?
Thanks for having me, Rachael! Sid’s Big Fib focuses on two children and their relentless efforts to out-do one another. Poor Sid can’t get the better of quick-witted Lulu who bats down his brags by going bigger and better – every single time. Desperate to impress, Sid turns to the dark art of fibbing – but keeping the lie alive brings him all kinds of trouble. It’s a light-hearted look at a troublesome issue which certainly isn’t unique to children!
I think that sometimes, it’s only once you’ve finished writing something that you start to see what inspired it. I certainly knew some very competitive children when I was young, and others who told some hilariously tall stories. Social media often illustrates adults still doing these things, and I thought a silly story showing how it can all go wrong might chime with kids and their parents, too.
Can you tell us a bit about your debut experience? How long did it take from idea to publication day?
The story came about as a result of a writing exercise in late 2018. I submitted it to publishers early 2019. In 2020, I found out Maverick was interested, and after numerous tweaks, I signed later that year. Simple, hey? Not really – there lots of other stories and slews of rejections along the way. By the time Sid comes out, approximately four years will have passed from its inception. A mentorship with Amy Sparkes in the middle of all that definitely kept me going.
Nothing happens for ages when you have a PB coming out and then there are huge flurries of activity. I particularly enjoyed seeing the roughs and how Irina Avgustinovich’s brilliant illustrations evolved. I’ve received my author copies, but I’m not opening them until publication day. I’ve waited a long time for this moment, and I want to make publication day extra special! I only wish I had this degree of self-control with snacks.
What is your favourite part of the book?
I was asked this recently, and I picked a particular point in the story arc and also a favourite illustration. So, this time I’ll give a favourite line – it’s the description of Sid’s fateful lie careering around his mouth before fighting its way out into the world: “Whoosh! It whizzed up his throat and bounced around his mouth. Sid tried to lasso it with his tongue but BAM-BAM-BAM it hammered against his teeth.” Hopefully, this gives readers a sense of Sid’s inner turmoil. He knows he shouldn’t unleash that fib, but…
Did you always want to be a writer?
When I was young, there was not a single moment when I believed I could be a writer. English was by far my best subject – I read voraciously and wrote creatively, but I had no idea becoming an author was a feasible career option. I went down a very different professional route in criminal justice and mental health, which I still enjoy immensely, but writing was an itch that had to be scratched.
What are your favourite picture books (from childhood and recently)?
Quite honestly, I don’t really have a memory of any picture books when I was little. The memory is hazy, but I may have had something Womble-based! (I know, it’s sounding more bizarre by the moment that I have ended up publishing a PB.) I can remember lots of other kinds of books, but just not your classic picture books. We went to the library loads, so I’m not sure what I was reading instead!
These days, I always come back to Barbara Throws a Wobbler for humour, Bear Shaped for its beautiful, bittersweet heart, Zombie in Love to remind me that bold and bonkers still has its place and Al Rodin’s Little Echo for all round debut magic.
What’s next for you, in terms of writing?
Well, this is a good question. There is no second deal or imminent agent signing on the cards. I’ve worked very hard and submitted lots to publishers since Maverick accepted Sid and, while I’ve certainly not exhausted my agent wish list, no one’s bitten so far. I hope that’s not too gloomy a read for those trying to break into the industry. It’s an honest account of my slightly anxiety-provoking situation behind the excitement of debuting. The industry gets more competitive every day, and the stars definitely aligned for me and Sid. Timing counts for a lot – the right story has to hit the right desk belonging to the right person in the right mood on the right day.
I’ve been working on some spooky middle grade books and a few more picture books, but the thrill of debuting has definitely disrupted my writing flow a little!
What advice would you give to a debut picture book author?
A brilliant and very successful children’s author playfully remarked on Twitter that he never fails to be amazed by the amount of debut authors dishing out advice when they haven’t got as far as their next deal. I did think, “OMG! I have definitely been that doughnut”. So, all I’ll say is, as long as writing still gladdens your heart and quickens the pulse, then keep on doing it. Do it like mad.
Thank you so much for chatting with me!
Thanks Rachael and Roo! 🙂
Sid’s Big Fib is available to pre-order here.