Today I chat with Tania and Riley as part of their Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne BLOG TOUR.
They have just landed. I am so excited.
Welcome Tania and Riley. Come sit down.
Congratulations on your fourth book in the Riley series: Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne.
It is lovely for you both to visit again. Wow! You have both been soooo busy.
The cover looks great.
Helen: First, tell me about the inspiration behind Riley’s latest adventure. I am from Melbourne so I can’t wait to buy the book; I’m sure I will feel a little nostalgic.
T: Hi Helen – thanks for having us!
R: Hi Miss Helen, it’s really cool to be here.
T: There’s actually several reasons we were inspired to send Riley to Melbourne in book four. Firstly, it’s a gorgeous city…
R: And the second-largest city in Australia, so it really should come after Sydney!
T: That’s right. And also – it’s my home town. Well, I wasn’t born there, but I really love that town – it’s where I met Riley’s Dad and where Riley was born, and where we bought our first house.
R: And don’t forget Ford Street.
T: Of course – my new publisher, Ford Street, are based in Melbourne, and publisher Paul Collins was really interested in having Riley visit. I was more than happy to do so!
After self publishing your first three books in the Riley series, your fourth book is published by Ford Street Publishing. Congratulations! Can you give a little insight into how that came about?
R: Paul’s a cool guy!
T: Well, he’s alriiiiight… We had been cyberfriends for quite a while, and in December last year, when visiting Melbourne, we got together with his partner, Meredith Costain, and had a good chat.
R: They’ve got the coolest house and Paul makes a mean coffee. But I don’t drink coffee. I do like lemonade, though.
T: I had talked at length with Paul about the Riley series and how well it was doing, and sort of semi-suggested he might take on the series one day. Nothing was ever really confirmed or ‘cemented’ and then one day he sort of said “send me the manuscript”. The rest was history. Now I have to convince him to do Book 5! We shall see how Wombat goes …
R: I think it’s the coolest adventure yet.
Did you take the photographs for this book?
T: I usually take them all but, being a Melbourne girl (now currently living in Canberra), I didn’t have a huge catalogue of pictures.
R: Mum says you don’t really have a lot of pics of your own home town.
T: That’s right, so I contacted the good people at the Victorian Tourism Board, and they provided the photos gratis. Around 60 per cent of the shots come from them, some are mine and some belong to the book’s graphic designer, Grant Gittus.
Having been so in control of all facets of the book production for the first three books in this series, did it feel a little strange letting go of the production reins?
T: It did feel strange but I was really blessed to work with a publisher who was willing to create a book that tied seamlessly with an established series. Paul, naturally, wanted Grumpy Wombat to be a stand-alone Ford Street title, and we have definitely done that (particularly as the book is in hard cover for the first time) …
R: We were so excited to see the hard cover!
T: It does look fantastic. So yes, Paul was also happy to tie the book in with what I had already self-produced, in terms of book specs and the look of it all. We even put a ‘seal’ on the front cover saying it was the 4th Riley adventure.
R: Can’t believe it’s already four!
T: I know. And Paul was a dream to work with – he really allowed me creative license and gently guided me to improve the fourth book to even higher standards. Meredith Costain also gave me priceless input, so the collaboration was perfect.
Did you still have any production input?
T: I did. I worked with Kieron on illustration/photographic placement. The layout of the books are quite specific and I also worked with Grant Gittus to guide him on placement of text, photos and illustrations. He took care of all the final PDF specs for printing, but otherwise, I did a lot of what I used to do when self-publishing.
Is there anything that you really missed?
T: Not at all. Paul didn’t in any way ‘take over’. Everything he added was enormously constructive, and the process was a joy. I haven’t missed being crushed with having to Do It All! I still do a heck of a lot to promote my books, but of course, Paul complements and adds vastly to everything … it’s so fantastic to have that ‘help’.
What are the advantages of having a publisher take control of the production and marketing?
T: So many. The book has only been out a few days and I’ve already had foreign rights and educational distribution interest. I’m on the Pan Macmillan website and have enjoyed much more far-reaching media and industry saturation.
I’ve also gained some more ‘credibility’ as an author – which is kind of sad in a way because I do feel I produced professional-quality books before I went with Ford Street. Having said that, Paul has absolutely added even greater depths to my professionalism and scope as an author – and I’m eternally grateful for that.
Has having a publisher allowed you to focus differently on how you can contribute to the marketing and promotion of your latest book?
T: Not really. I mean, it’s added stupendously to my saturation and industry cred, for sure – but I’m still working just as hard. I do feel that once the launch party is over, I can – dare I say it – slow down a little more than I normally would have, because my book is in Ford Street’s ‘stable’ and will continue to have far greater impact there than I could have provided it. This will allow me to spend more time writing, for sure, which I SO need to do!
R: And kicking the footy with me! Mum – I’m just going out to kick the footy. Bye, Helen!
Okay Riley, but don’t forget to come back soon for the last part of the interview.
Tania, has being offered a contract made you feel any different as a writer/author?
T: I had already secured three publishing contracts (Hodder Headline, National Library Australia and Exisle Publishing) before Ford Street, so it’s not new to me and didn’t make me feel any more ‘accomplished’ but what it did do was make me feel proud that such a superb indie publisher (and Paul is truly one of the best in the biz) would take a gamble on my work, most especially because it was tied in with my established series.
I thought it was really insightful and brave for Paul to do this, and I hope it all pays off for him! I do feel a teensy bit of pressure because I consider him a friend as well as a colleague, but the book is already doing well, so I’m hopeful. I’m also hopeful he’ll do book 5. He wants to see the manuscript, so keep your fingers crossed for me!
Would you still consider self publishing any future projects? What would the criteria be for doing so?
T: I would. There’s a book I’ve worked on for ages and it’s a fiction/faction picture book cross. I was in final talks with a Top Six Publisher about it last year, but they wanted to change the format. I ummed and ahhed for a month before reluctantly changing it to their specs, but then a similar book (to their specs) came on the market just before signing… so, alas, the contract didn’t come through. I’m trying other publishers with my original book format and if someone doesn’t take it on, I’ll probably do it myself because I so totally believe in it and there’s nothing like it on the market.
So, if I self-publish it would have to be something I totally believe in and that hasn’t been done before. It’s expensive to set up self-publishing, and it takes a heck of a lot of work, but this book – I would do it for. I know I would be guaranteed fast return for effort. And I KNOW kids would love it.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
T: I’m working on several picture books, the next Riley book, a faction novel on Caroline Chisholm (which I may get a contact for – hoping!) and two lifestyle books. I’m also blogging and reviewing for Kids Book Review, as usual and other sites/mags. It’s always full on.
Since our last chat, have your five year writing goals changed?
T: I love this question! Well, I’m still (hopefully) make children’s hearts soar through Kids Book Review, which is stronger than ever. I have been published in other genres – lifestyle (Handmade Living, Dec 2010) and also history – Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline with the National Library of Australia (early 2012). I have worked solidly on two lifestyle books this past year, which I hope to sign for eventually, and I’m about to start a junior fiction series, so yes, I’m achieving the multi-genre thing!
I still so badly want to start a children’s literature festival but my time is not my own with two primary school-aged kids… maybe when they’re in high school. I have recently volunteered to work on a possible festival through the CBCA, so maybe that will be my short-term festival goal for now.
CBCA Notable Book – still working on that! But I did receive a Highly Commended last week for my short story for the National Year of Reading, so that was exciting.
R: Hey! I’m back! Just been kicking some goals.
Great, Riley. It’s your turn now. Has this adventure been any different for you in any way?
Grumpy Wombat has been a different journey because it’s the first time we’ve used our plane contraptions. Panda, illustrator Kieron and I worked for nine (9) months on these. They are just the coolest, and great for wombat-seeking. Wombats live underground, you know – so we really needed these contraptions. I particularly love the ground-hugging projectiles. And the fandangled, highfalutin, patented doodad. It’s patented.
Did you enjoy travelling around Melbourne?
R: I did. My Nanny lives there, and my Granny, too. And my aunts, uncles and cousins. I was born there but haven’t lived there for a while now. Since I was two.
What were the highlights for you in this adventure?
R: I love the Great Ocean Road. That’s awesome to fly over. And the penguins on Philip Island were funny! And I really really love Lygon Street because it has the best pasta and the best cakes.
Were you ever scared?
R: Never. I have my friends to watch my back.
What keeps you interested in flying and going on adventures?
R: Oh – everything! I love learning about new places. Love the wind in my hair, the sound of the engine prop. Love the antics Lion gets up to. It’s just so much fun. Love sampling all the new food in new places, too. Panda really loves that. He also loves jam sandwiches.
What are your top three travel tips before embarking on a new adventure?
R: Don’t forget your stripey scarf and aviator goggles. Always check your contraption control panel before taking off. And don’t forget to ask mum to pack the jam sandwiches.
Well, Tania, I can see Riley is itching to go on the next leg of your blog tour. Thank you both so much for sharing the journey on your latest exciting adventure.
T: THANK YOU Helen for hosting us today. We had fun !! xx
R: Yes, thank you Miss Helen. I had a cool time. You ask great questions!
Well, as they take off again, here is a little more about Tania.
Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher and founder of well-respected children’s literature site, Kids Book Review. She is the author of the popular Riley the Little Aviator series of travelogue picture books, and is both published and self-published in children’s fiction and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne (Ford Street, 2011), Beijing Tai Tai (Exisle Publishing, 2011), Handmade Living (Handmade Press, 2010) and Australia: The Timeline (National Library of Australia, 2012). Currently working on several children’s books and adult lifestyle books, Tania lives in Canberra with a husband, two kidlets and a mountain of books.
Author | Editor | Publisher
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