The Storyworld is available for download for the iPhone on the App Store here: Bedtime Stories — read & tell App.
Thank you for joining us and welcome to my blog. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you.
I’m a dad to two children and a step-dad to three more. I’m also a granddad to one, with a second grandchild due in a few months. Having been a parent, and with the addition of hindsight, I feel I have a lot to offer new parents bringing up children in the 21st century. I know how powerful storytelling is, and how much children enjoy being told stories. Through this traditional approach to sharing knowledge, experience and learning — storytelling has taken place ever since man could speak — information and wisdom are passed from generation to generation. And that’s what I find so exciting about writing the Billy Growing Up bedtime stories — the lasting positive impact I can make.
After spending over thirty years in the computer industry, I took up writing in 2009, and I’m currently on my fourteenth book. With regards to the Billy stories, I wrote them with the aim of making it easier for parents to address challenging issues which their child will encounter as it grows. Negative behaviours taint young individuals and often can last well into their adult years. Over and above this, how parents perceive the challenges and what they say to their child will impact how the child deals with the incident now and into the future.
What’s the name of your Storyworld and what is it about?
Billy Growing Up. In these stories Billy is just ten years old. His best friend Anthony or Ant is still only nine. And Ant’s sister Maxine is eight. Along with Billy’s dog Jacko, the three children encounter many situations where negative behaviours are displayed, including bullying, false pride, jealousy, lying, and stealing.
For everyone, their behaviours reflect their values. And since values underpin who we are throughout life, it’s essential to establish positive values in children from an early age. Each story addresses one of the negative behaviours and suggests an approach to dealing with it. Without preaching, every story has a takeaway for the child and opens the door for parents to hold a wider discussion on the topic.
How did you come up with the stories and characters?
After deciding which negative behaviours I wanted to address based on those most commonly expressed, it was a case of drawing on observations from my own childhood or those of my children and their friends. My intention was for each tale do reflect what actually happens in childhood, and for the characters to be relatable to, or for a child to identify with. Similarly, for parents, I need them to feel comfortable with the stories so they sound credible when reading them aloud.
Like all fiction writers, characters are an amalgam of people you know or have met or seen on TV or read about. Yes, the characters probably do exist in real life but as a writer, you need your characters to exhibit behaviours or traits which fit with the arc of the story while maintaining an element of believability — unless you are aiming for something totally whacky which is not what was required in this case.
Tell us about the themes in your Storyworld. Why are they important?
Billy Gets Bullied, revolves around Billy’s tenth birthday. His granddad gives him money as a present but the local bully steals it off him. The story is about how children cannot tackle somethings by themselves and need adult intervention to right the wrong, and in this case, making sure the bully gets his just deserts.
Billy and Ant Fall Out, is about friendships and how important they are. After Billy’s birthday he feels more grownup and wants to befriend older children, but soon realises in long term friend is more important.
Billy is Nasty to Ant, brings to the fore the idea we are all different, and as we get older these differences become more obvious. The story is about jealousy, whereas Billy should be praising Ant’s successes not being envious of them.
Billy And Ant Lie, is how people use lying to save themselves from trouble or embarrassment. But lying has consequences which outweigh the initial benefits.
Billy Helps Max, deals with stealing. When Max wants to give her bike a makeover she feels a set of stickers would be a great edition but she hasn’t the money to buy them. Stealing isn’t acceptable, and to learn the lesson Billy helps her own up and apologise.
Are there educational aspects to your work? If so, what are they?
Parents, teachers, guardians cannot leave the development of values to chance and need to take an active role in promoting positive values like friendship, trust, peace, integrity, honesty, and respect. Each story can be read just for entertainment only, but within the stories are messages hopefully clearly stating negative behaviours are unacceptable and positive outcomes are the preferred option.
Bullying — bullies are notorious for their ability to recognise weaknesses or shame in others. They have a capacity to empathise. However, they destructively use their empathy to manipulate, control, exploit, or cause pain to others. One of the most effective tools that children have in dealing with bullies is to join together with an attitude of intolerance for popularity that is earned with destructive, hurtful behaviour.
False Pride — There are two different kinds of pride. The first is selfless and based on a person’s achievements and qualities. Being proud of how we look, being part of a team or of one’s country is a feeling that comes from deep within us; it uplifts us and makes us feel confident. The other type of pride comes from our ego, which is arrogant, selfish and gives us an inflated opinion of ourselves; a sense of superiority. In reality, it makes us feel insecure, jealous and has us need to prove ourselves and impress those around us. Our ego thinks we are far more important than we actually are, and therefore won’t allow us to admit we’re wrong or that we’ve made a mistake. We justify our actions even when we know they are flawed.
Jealousy — envy or resentment are very similar feelings. They are all based on wanting something for ourselves that someone else has, or feeling that we have lost something or are missing something we deserve. We see things only from our point of view. Children learn about themselves by making comparisons with what others have. It could be something physical, such as a new bike or the latest toy, or something emotional, like attention or love. We may not totally understand whether we actually want it for ourselves or simply that we don’t want the other person to have it. In either case all we know is that it’s not fair that they have it and we don’t.
Lying — lies are told to protect oneself or someone else from getting into trouble, to avoid punishment or embarrassment, or to have other people think you’re more interesting than you really are. It’s very hard to know when someone is lying. Nearly everyone has told a ‘white’ lie at some point, but lying becomes a problem when the person is compelled to frequently tell untruths and over time they begin to believe their own stories. Frequent liars quickly lose people’s trust as once a lie has been told, it becomes difficult for others to believe anything that’s said. Everyone hopes to get away with a lie — that’s why they are told — but there is always a consequence. Every lie has an impact not only on the person who has told it, but on others too.
Stealing — taking another person’s property without permission or payment, and without intending to return it. People see stealing in different ways. Stealing from a shop or company feels less impactful than stealing from an individual. Stealing from a shopkeeper is thought to make little difference as they have plenty. There are always consequences however; if no one pays for the shop items, the shopkeeper will soon go out of business. There is also a type of stealing that may not be considered as stealing, such as acquiring someone else’s idea, their music or their story. This is especially true today with internet downloads, but it is still theft.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing in the summer of 2009 whilst on holiday. I had no real intention of becoming a writer but in three weeks I’d penned over forty thousand words. Once I got that far I had to complete my first novel — all one hundred and eight thousand words. This book was not for children as such but for the inner-child in all adults. It’s a playful, humorous story about ‘hole farming’ — a very English farce. Writing for children came about six year later when my own children started to marry and think about having families themselves.
How many books have you written to date? What inspired you to write your first book?
I’m currently on book fifteen. It’s the third book in my hole farming trilogy and completes the story of Colin and his wife Izzy as they move from country yokel to sophisticated urbanite — well not really, they are just slightly less country bumpkins.
The kernel of the story came from a bedtime tale my mother told me many times about a farmer who had a load of holes on the back of his lorry. Going uphill they fell off and the lorry rolled back into them! The thing about inspiration is you’ve no idea when it will strike or where it comes from — and that’s what makes writing so exciting.
Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your genre that you find particularly challenging?
I call my writing style ‘active’ by which I mean, I like my characters to tell their own story using the full spectrum of their senses. Dialogue plays a big part in my writing, and the showing of feelings and emotions in response to events, keeps the reader in touch with the action, making it more meaningful, personal and bringing it to life.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself an author when I sold my first book on Amazon. Seeing your book in a shop window or on a significant book retailing website gives you a feeling of pride, a sense of achievement, and the motivation to continue pursuing your dream.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Inspiration comes from keeping your eyes and ears open; paying attention to detail and having a fertile imagination. Disparate things, people, places or events can be linked together in your mind to form whole new stories. The clever part is to capture these moments because as quickly as they come so they go, especially if it’s in your sleep.
What were your favourite books as a child and why?
Winnie the Pooh in all its forms. The stories are so heartfelt, beautiful, embracing and just go on giving. A must read for every child and adult. They never date, and are always relevant.
What book are you currently reading?
‘Scent Of A Killer’ by Kevin Lewis — The author knew terrible abuse as a child which comes out in his writing. A crime thriller but not for the fainted hearted.
What advice do you give to writers starting out on their career?
Writing is not a short-term undertaking. It requires dedication, persistence, and broad shoulders — everyone’s a critic, and if you’re precious about your work it will be hard for you. Don’t rely on your family they are not reliable critics but seek out writers groups for peer reviews, support and to learn hints and tips. And finally, never forget you’ll never stop leaning so read, read, read.
What are you currently working on and what is your next project?
‘Marmite Makes A Sandwich, Dynamite Makes A Hole.’ This is book three of my very English farce for the inner-child found in all adults. Happenstance, crossed-wires, double-meanings, and misunderstandings move the protagonist from buffoon to hero in an unexpected twist of fate.
Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Thank you for telling us about your Bedtime Stories Storyworld and your books! We can’t wait to read them!
Billy Growing Up is available for download on the Bedtime Stories — read & tell App on iPhone and iPad