Q&A: Zanni Louise, picture book author

Picture book author Zanni Louise interviewed by a kid book bloggerMy first interview (with illustrator Jules Faber) went so well that I thought I’d give it another go. This week, I’ve got picture book author Zanni Louise in the hot seat. Her new book Archie And The Bear, illustrated by David Mackintosh, is out now.

I thought it would be quite a helpful interview for lots of kids, as many of us have to write a picture book for a school assignment at some point or another. I’m sure Zanni’s answers and tips will help!

Have you always loved writing?

“Yes. I am sending you one of the first stories I ever wrote (see below).

“I think I was about six [when I wrote this]. Before computers were cool, I sat at my dad’s clunky typewriter bashing out ‘literature’. I wrote stories and plays all through school, and university. I even studied some writing subjects. But I never entertained the thought of being a professional author. I just sort of rolled into it.

“I began writing training and education material when I moved to the North Coast NSW about eight years ago, then I began blogging, and one thing led to the other, and now I write thousands of words a day, in some capacity.

“I do love writing, yes. I love the rush of it, and the ease of it. I am quite expressive, and writing is my preferred tool. When I got into fights with mum or dad as a kid, I used to write lengthy letters to them to make up for the fighting. They’ve kept them all.”

What made you decide to write picture books?

“I was blogging about parenting, when someone contacted me to see if I’d be interested in interviewing [famous Australian children’s author] Mem Fox. I did the interview, and it got me thinking that maybe I could start reviewing books and interviewing authors on my blog. I was being sent box loads of picture books a month, and the more I read to my children, the more I wanted to write them myself.

“A picture book is a very clean format. You can express a big story, and beautiful story through very few words. The pictures  say so much, and add something that words can’t. Most of my favourite books are picture books.”

How many picture books have you written?

“Many. Two published, one coming out with Scholastic in the next year or two, and hundreds more in manuscript form on my computer. Too Busy Sleeping was my first picture book.”

How do you go about writing a picture book – where do you start?

“I like to free-write. I start with an idea, and start writing. I see where the story takes me. Sometimes, it has a natural story arc, and the story comes to life on the page. That happened with Archie.

“Sometimes, though, the story takes years to tease out. I’ll have an idea, and will try it in one way, but nothing comes of that. Then I try a new direction. And another. And then at some point, it may be a story I’m proud of. Many of those works in progress are idle on my computer.”

When you wrote Archie and the Bear, did you have an idea in your head of what Archie would look like? Does he look like that?

“Not really. I kind of imagined him in a full body suit I think, but it’s hard to remember. David has illustrated the real Archie now. It’s a bit like when you see a movie of your favourite book, and then you can’t remember how you used to imagine the characters.”

Are you working on any new books at the moment?

“Always. I am sketching out new picture book stories most days, and am waiting on feedback for some longer stories for independent readers. I am also in the very early stages of nutting out a middle grade fiction.”

You can find out more about Zanni Louise on her website here.

You can buy Archie and The Bear here.