Thanks for joining us Alice – tell us a little bit about Truth and Tails:
Truth & Tails is a joint venture between me (author Alice Reeves) and illustrator Phoebe Kirk. I first met Phoebe back in 2014 at an event for creatives at which she was speaking, and loved both her talk and her illustration style. When I had the idea for the Truth & Tails books, she was the first person I thought of to ask to partner with me… and despite having only met me once before she said yes!
Our mission is not only to create books that children love, but to create books that aim to eliminate prejudice, encourage acceptance, and aid understanding of others from a young age.
Through our stories, which are aimed at children aged 4-8 years, we want to be part of creating a culture of acceptance and understanding that celebrates the diverse world we live in. In our four books we address self-esteem (Molly the Mole), gender (Vincent the Vixen), disability (Roxy the Raccoon), and diversity (Carlos the Chameleon).
Initially we self-published our books and now, two years later and after a lot of hard work to build the brand and promote the books, I’m so happy to share that we have been offered a publishing deal by Jessica Kingsley Publishers for all four of our books which will be re-published next year.
Here are some questions from some Inkpots too:
Do you write in silence or do you need some noise around you?
I tend to listen to familiar music, have the TV on low, or sit myself down in a café when I write. I’m one of these people that can’t focus in silence and need some noise around me, even if I’m not paying any real attention to what’s going on.
How long do you write per day?
Writing the books isn’t my full-time job, as I also run a social media and content marketing agency, so I don’t sit down and write every day. When I’m writing a new book, I usually work for bursts of a couple of hours at a time, then look back on my work the following day with fresh eyes – otherwise it’s impossible to edit my own writing, as I get word blindness from reading the same thing over and over. When it comes to picture books though, it’s the illustrations that take the most time! Phoebe first creates the concepts for each of the characters, then spends around six hours a day drawing with breaks every hour or so.
Do you type or write?
I can think so much better with a pen and paper, so I tend to plan out the story structure on paper and roughly write the first draft. Our books are less than 1,000 words long though, so it’s easy to draft them out on paper before typing them up. I’m also a big believer in taking regular breaks from a computer screen – so any opportunity to be productive without staring at a screen, I take!
What is your favourite book that you didn’t write?
One of my favourite children’s books is Amazing Grace by Mary Ann Hoffman, and it’s one of the few picture books from my childhood that I have kept and still read every now and again. The story is about a girl who loves to dress up and her family empower her to believe that she can be anything she wants to be, even though there are people in the world who may seek to hold her back due to their own prejudice. I think the message stuck with me as a young reader, because I’ve been relentlessly imaginative and ambitious for as long as I can remember, and I try hard not to let others’ negativity get me down.
When did you start writing? Do you go to anything like Inkpots?
I’ve always been a writer. My computer is full of folders of unfinished novels, I jot down poems that pop into my head, and I studied English Literature at University then went on to qualify as a journalist. When I was young, I didn’t go to anything like Inkpots, but if I had I think I would have become more confident in my creativity earlier in life.
Do you have a journal?
I’ve kept a journal on and off since I was about 13 years old. It’s like therapy for me. If I have something on my mind or my day hasn’t gone too well, then before I go to bed I take time to write out all of my thoughts, fears, and worries. There’s something about getting all my thoughts out of my head and onto paper that makes me feel calmer and gives me perspective. The benefits of journaling are huge, and I would recommend it to everyone.
Who is your greatest critic?
Doesn’t every writer give the same answer? Of course, my biggest critic is me. I’m lucky that I have a fantastic partner in Phoebe though who reviews the stories for me, feeds back, makes constructive suggestions, and helps me get to a place where I’m happy with the text. Due to the subject nature of some of the books, and wanting to ensure that we address potentially sensitive themes in the most appropriate way, we relied on our network of friends and contacts to read through the stories and make suggestions as to how we could slightly tweak language and scenarios to make our point in the best way possible – and that gave me a huge amount of confidence in the books.
Are any of your characters based on real people?
Unintentionally, and I didn’t realise this until after I’d finished writing the book, Molly the Mole is very much based on my own experience as a child. For a lot of my childhood I had low self-esteem (even though I appeared confident) and felt different to the other kids around me. It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned to love myself and appreciate all the things that made me unique. With Molly’s story I wanted to help any children (or adults!) who feel different to know that they don’t have to be the same as everyone else in order to be accepted and loved by their friends. It’s so vital for your mental health and well-being to feel able to be yourself and love who you are. I wish I had learned that lesson earlier.
Thanks so much Alice – and also thanks for coming to visit us at Inkpots too!