Today we’ll be meeting Sarah Hill, a small animal Vet and the children’s author and creator of ‘The Whimsy Wood Series’. She gained her Veterinary Medicine degree at Bristol University in 1999 and worked in practice for 10 years. At that point she had her second daughter and soon after, she decided to take a career break.
There are 35 books in her award-winning ‘Whimsy Wood’ children’s series for 5-8 year olds. Each book is written specifically for a month in the calendar, so the flora and fauna within the wood, change as you read through the series. Finally, there is a proverb hidden within every story for the reader to find, giving it real meaning. Please note that 10% of book sales is donated to The Wildlife Trusts, UK.
Hi Sarah. Please tell my readers why you decided to write the Whimsy Wood Series?
Well in truth, I didn’t! I went to Bristol University here in England to study Veterinary Medicine and I qualified as a Vet from there in 1999. I then worked in practice for 10 years and at that point our second daughter was born. My husband was travelling overseas quite a lot with work then and so I decided to take a career break to stay at home and raise our very young girls. Within 6 months of being at home, ‘Posie Pixie’, the main character in my first 7 ‘Whimsy Wood’ books, appeared in my head and she wouldn’t go away. She’s terribly persistent! So I really had no other choice but to start writing about her adventures in ‘Whimsy Wood’.
After 3 years of writing, editing, submitting to publishers, writing, editing and submitting some more, I finally received my author’s contract with Abela Publishing in January 2013. ‘Posie Pixie And The Copper Kettle’, book 1 in my ‘Whimsy Wood’ series, was published in July 2013. Book 7, ‘Posie Pixie And The Pancakes‘, was published in June 2015.
Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?
I don’t consider my books to be either, as each of my ‘Whimsy Wood’ books is written for a specific month in the calendar, so the flora and fauna change as you read through the series. If anything, they’re driven by the time of year that I’m writing the book for.
What makes Whimsy Wood Series unique compared to other book series for kids?
My ‘Whimsy Wood’ books are unique because they bridge the literary gap between picture books and chapter books. They are read to and read by children of all ages (and grown-ups!) and this is evident by the children’s comments on the back of all the ‘Whimsy Wood’ books.
There is a proverb tucked away within every story for the reader to find and at the back of each book, is a ‘Whimsy Wood’ map for the child to complete using their imagination and what they’ve learnt from the story.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
I tend to do a bit of both. I always use a mind map prior to writing the next book in my series. The title always goes in the middle. I may not have the actual title name until I’ve completed the book, but that’s where it goes when I’m mind-mapping! I have the month that the book is written for coming off that central title. Then there’s trees, plants, flowers and animals that would all be out and about during that month in a UK wood. I then consider what characters would be relevant to this time of year and the plot and finally I’ll hunt for a suitable proverb that I can weave in to the story.
How did you develop the names for your characters?
I like alliteration, so the ‘Whimsy Wood’ characters’ names tend to reflect this—Eg Posie Pixie, Raspberry Rabbit, and Wibble Woodlouse. Posie was always called this. I had no doubt over hers, or Raspberry’s names. I was initially unsure of a name for Posie’s woodlouse best friend, so I asked my oldest daughter Olivia. I gave her a choice of ‘Wibble’ or ‘Willow’ and Olivia immediately decided on ‘Wibble’. So that was that!
How did you decide on the setting for your books?
Again, I didn’t choose my books to be set in a woodland, or indeed ‘Whimsy Wood’. My imagination had decided, right from the start, that this was going to be where ‘Posie Pixie’ (the main character for my 1st 7 books) would come to live. She didn’t initially live here, as you will learn in book 1, ‘Posie Pixie And The Copper Kettle’! I’m guessing though that my imagination and subconscious have been heavily influenced by my own childhood books. These being the ‘Faraway Tree’ books by Enid Blyton and ‘Jill Barklem’s ‘Brambly Hedge’ series. We are also keen dog-walkers as a family and are often outside, exploring woodlands and the beautiful Wiltshire countryside where we live. I’m sure these have all been factors in my imagination creating the enchanting ‘Whimsy Wood’.
Do you have a writing mentor? If so, tell about them.
My writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance, sends me (and many other writers) positive, supportive and constructive daily emails called ‘The Morning Nudge’. Writing can be quite a solitary existence, so I find these daily emails really helpful. I am also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). This is a fabulous group of like-minded literary folk and their annual UK conference in Winchester is always brilliant.
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
I have 3 young children aged 7 and a half, 6 and 2 and a half years old, so I tend to write when the girls are in school and Monty, our son, is in nursery (2 days a week currently). I also write when the children are all in bed asleep 3 nights of the week, as my husband is also out working during these evenings.
I have to be very strict with myself during the times that I set aside to write. Like all creative activities, you can’t force writing. Sometimes it flows and sometimes it just doesn’t. On the days that it’s not flowing, I’ll still sit down and try to write something. It doesn’t matter if initially it’s not brilliant. At least I’ve got something down on paper and I can later review it, edit and rewrite it.
As for a favourite place to write, well I seem to write best in our office above the garage at home. But I’ll often get ideas and thoughts when I’m not writing, so I always have a notepad with me to jot these ideas down.
Book 8, ‘Fearne Fairy And The Dandelion Clocks’ is next and is due out this March! This book is the beginning of the second set of 7 books in my ‘Whimsy Wood’ series and sees the introduction of a new main character, ‘Fearne Fairy’. Now she’s not your typical pink and sparkly fairy. Goodness no! She has flaws just like the rest of us and as for what she’s really like? Well, you’ll just have to find out!
Anything else you’d like to add?
My first 5 ‘Whimsy Wood’ children’s books have all been awarded the ‘5-Star Seal’ from ‘Readers’ Favourite’ over in America. ‘Posie Pixie And The Snowstorm’ and ‘Posie Pixie And The Pancakes’ (books 6 and 7 respectively) have both been awarded the ‘Story Monster Approved Award’ and were recently tied winners in ‘The Royal Dragonfly Book Awards’ again in America.
Sarah, thanks for joining us at Pop’s Blog.
Many thank and with whimsical wishes, Sarah Hill.