Peter Gouldthorpe – Tasmanian author and illustrator is a guest writer on our blog this week and shares with us his writing experiences with his daughter, Lucy.
2015 has seen two of my books published and they could not be more different if I had contrived them to be. One is fiction, the other is non-fiction; one is for the very young and/or early readers, the other is for older readers; one required enormous amounts of research and re-writing, the other came naturally; one has an incredible load of visuals and design whilst the other could hardly be simpler; one is intended to be warm and gentle while the other has its heroine killing Nazi soldiers with her bare hands. They are emblematic of my career, nothing if not diverse.
The White Mouse: The Story of Nancy Wake, was released in August and this month, Our Dog Knows Words, was unleashed and, strangely, I am not the illustrator. Instead it is my daughter Lucy who provides the pictures. The release of ‘Our Dog’ has a wonderful circularity for me because on the first day my wife Jennie went off to work, leaving a still breast-feeding Lucy and I home alone (no car, no phone and in the countryside), I asked her: “What will we do?” Her calm answer was to read books. It was during that time, as Lucy and I bonded over books, that I came to an understanding of the role they play in a child’s development and that perhaps as an artist maybe I could even make them. Jonah and the Manly Ferry was begun sometime after and remained my only fiction title as author until ‘Our Dog’, thirty-two years later.
Lucy now works in the film and television industry and it was while she was back home on a working holiday that she planted the seed for ‘Our Dog’. We were walking Otto off-lead when a passer-by commented on his exemplary behaviour and asked how we got him to be so responsive and I replied: “That’s because he knows words.”
Lucy declared on the spot that she would write a book about it, so we had the title long before the story! But she didn’t write it. About a year later, I did. Fortuitously, Suzanne O’Sullivan at Hachette rang to ask what I was going to do after I’d finished my book on Mawson. I sent her the manuscript fully expecting rejection but she thought it had legs. I explained that whilst I could illustrate the story, it was my daughter who had provided the inspiration and that she had expressed a strong desire to illustrate it. Suzanne went to Lucy’s illustrated blog, ‘The Earwig’ and came back enthusiastic. And now ‘Our Dog’ has been born. I think we have created the perfect little book for those parents and children who are just beginning their own relationship with books.