Book Chat: Kelly Louise Jarris
Kelly Louise Jarris is the author of two picture books. Her first book, Wonderful Wishes, is a rhyming bedtime story that encourages child-parent discussions about sleep and dreams. Her most recent title, Imagine Our Special Place, will be an invaluable resource for parents in discussing issues around palliative care with children.
Hi Kelly, and a very warm welcome to Book Chat. I felt extremely privileged to read your latest book, Imagine Our Special Place, knowing that it’s dedicated to your late sister, Sharlene, and clearly inspired by real experience. I’m grateful to have the chance to learn more about your writing, and about your journey as an author.
To begin with, could you share with us a little about your journey to becoming a published author?
Thank you so much, Cameron! I am honoured to share my experiences so far. I guess, trying to navigate my way around the industry by myself has been a massive, but very rewarding challenge. My first task was writing my books and really trying to work with my target audience. I have a little advantage with having 4 children and 11 nieces and nephews to practice on.
From sourcing illustrators to finding a printer, editors, and with help from my husband (my designer), along with sourcing a print house that specialised in books, it has been a major challenge. Little did I know that would be the easy part. The marketing and promotion are the toughest part of this journey. Putting myself out there on social media, a newspaper photoshoot, radio and speaking with inspiring influencers has been out of my comfort zone, but I have met so many amazing, supportive people and I have loved every minute of it so far.
Tell us everything you’d like us to know about Imagine Our Special Place.
It's a book I wrote to help children and adults who may have experiences with palliative care. It was something my family and I went through on two occasions. Firstly, we sat with my sister; a mother of four at the time, who had cancer, and not so long after, my father. Listening to their take on how they were both coping inspired Imagine Our Special Place.
The book is about two siblings. Sophie is unwell and tells her sister some imaginative stories. One day she will get to ride a rainbow arch, meet a pink fairy and have a tea party up in the sky.
I’ve tried to use an imaginative take on a topic that can seem hard to talk about, even as adults. I enjoy making each book a little bit interactive, so I’ve made sure to place ‘Hope’; Sophie’s toy bunny, throughout each page.
I’d love to know about the process you go through when you write your picture books. Is there a particular method you tend to follow as you craft your text and visualise the illustrations?
I love to listen to people, including children, tell a story. Sometimes it’s just a conversation I’ve had with a friend or loved one about their experiences that gets me writing. Usually, once I begin a book I write until I’m done. I then put it away and go back to it a few days later. This helps me see if I still enjoy the story. I love to test a manuscript on my target audience without the illustrations just to see if they are engaged. Usually, my 6-year-old is my little helper. Once the book is complete, I run it by an editor - sometimes more than once. It really helps me shape my story and give it the best finish it needs.
Your illustrator Sandunika Dissanayake brings so much heart to the story and highlights the tender relationship between the story’s narrator and her sister Sophie. Could you tell us a little about the nature of your collaboration with Sandunika?
My brief with any Illustrator is thorough. When I am writing, I am picturing the complete book so I tend to send drawings that show references and explain my vision in detail. Imagine Our Special Place is a story that’s close to my heart, so I went through countless folios and paid for samples of work before deciding on the illustrator for this book. It's important that we are both on the same page, so to speak. I love the creative process and working with the illustrators. It is my favourite part, especially when they are easy to work with like Sandunika was.
Implicit in Imagine Our Special Place is a sense that Sophie may not be going home from hospital. Can you offer any advice for other children’s authors addressing these kinds of emotionally challenging ideas and truths?
I think it’s difficult to write about something so deep unless you have experienced it. The challenge was to make it a book that anyone could read regardless of experiencing what Sophie and her sister are going through. Parents and teachers can read the book and talk about Sophie’s vivid imagination without getting into any distressing topics.
By Sophie sharing all her glorious happy places, I hope that kids can find their own when they may be feeling sad, regardless of what might be triggering it for them.
How has being a mother of four children influenced your writing? Do you use them as a sounding board for your ideas?
Absolutely, 100%. My first book, Wonderful Wishes, was structured around all their little obsessions growing up. I made sure to add dinosaurs, planes, trains, fairies throughout. Children have an amazing take on the way they see things and most of all are pure and honest, so I usually know if I am on the right track with a story by running it past them first.
Has being a parent affected the themes and topics you gravitate towards in your writing? And have you found that being a parent has made it easier to write for children?
I’ve spent the best part of my adulthood raising my boys with my husband and I am definitely a better person because of them. Most parents would know that children have their favourite things growing up and can usually put an imaginative spin on things. My six-year-old has a monkey plush named Little Monkey. He adores it. He made his own book about Little Monkey that we printed out for him. His take on his adventures were so clever. He gives me some great ideas - after all, he’s my target audience.
What’s next for Kelly Louise Jarris?
I have two books nearly complete and I can’t wait to share them with children. The next two go back to my original love for rhyme. Fingers crossed my next release will be ready just in time for Christmas!
Where can readers find you and your books online?
Both books are on Amazon and Kelly Louise Jarris Books | Australian Children's Book Author (kljbooks.com)
Imagine Our Special Place: Imagine Our Special Place : Jarris, Kelly Louise: Amazon.com.au: Books
Many thanks for chatting with us, Kelly, and congratulations on the success of your books so far - very well deserved, and exiting to know that more is coming soon!
This post is part of a blog tour for Imagine Our Special Place, presented by Books On Tour PR & Marketing. Please keep following Kelly's journey on all of the fine blogs below.