'Billy and the Balloons' - Interview with Author Elizabeth Dale

'Billy and the Balloons' is a fantastic new festive picture book written by Elizabeth Dale and illustrated by Patrick Corrigan. Fly up, up, and away with Billy! When the wind takes Billy and his colorful balloons on a ride in the sky, he ends up having the most magical Christmas ever!

The tour, which starts on October 1st, lasts until the 7th October and you can follow along with what all the different bloggers thought by following the #BillyBalloonsBlogTour on social media. Without further ado, we hope you enjoy this interview with Elizabeth and enjoy the wonderfully festive new book too!

 

How did you become a writer of children's books? 

As a child I loved writing poetry and vowed I would always write. But then after university (studying physics!) I felt I had to get a ‘proper’ job as I couldn’t possibly earn a living as a writer. It was only when I was on maternity leave that I felt I had time to return to my passion, and I wrote my LONG adult novel that no one wanted to publish! I vowed then that I would only write shorter things and wrote magazine stories which finally gave me a writing income. But then, when I started reading children’s books to my own daughters, I realised just how wonderful they are, so I turned to writing them. And I found them such fun I never looked back! 

 

What was the inspiration for Billy and the Balloons? 

I adore the magic of Christmas and wanted to write a book with Santa and his sleigh that featured a small child helping Santa and proving to the reader and himself that it is brilliant to be little. It is one of those rare books where I had the basic plot worked out before I started writing, but the other animals joined in as I wrote it! All along part of the attraction to me was the potential for beautiful snowy Christmassy pictures, but Patrick Corrigan’s spectacular illustrations far exceed my expectations! 

 

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process and how you structure and write a children's picture book? 

The most difficult thing I find as a writer is getting a good, new idea! I am always particularly pleased if, as well as telling a fun story I can cover difficult issues children may face in a positive way. I start writing when I’ve thought up an interesting character or an intriguing beginning or satisfying end. Sometimes I’ve even thought up all three, but it can change as I write it -  my best stories seem to write themselves as I go along.  I love writing rhyming texts most of all, but they take far more time and thought! When I’ve written the story, I go through fitting the words to the usual layout – normally 12 or 13 spreads, trying to ensure that each spread has the potential for a fun illustration. If possible I try to end some spreads on a tantalising cliff-hanger, so the reader just has to turn the page to find out what happens next! When I’ve done that, I read through the text many times, editing and cutting where I can (to give the story greater impact)  and checking the flow, including reading it out loud – after all, that’s what parents/carers do! 

 

What do you think are the vital ingredients of a successful children's picture book? 

Wonderful pictures! From the writing point of view, it should tell a fun story with a satisfying end that resolves some kind of problem, either emotional or physical. If a child can try to guess what’s coming next and/or if the pictures reveal something that’s quite different to the words, then they can have great fun spotting this – and it makes the read even more satisfying. If the story is fun in itself but also subtly deals with resolving or feeling positive about a problem that children may face, it makes the book a valuable resource for teachers and parents. For example in Billy and the Balloons, at the start  Billy is frustrated that he isn’t allowed to do things because he is too small, but at the end he learns that being small is actually quite brilliant! Finally a good picture book must be fun to read as parents may have to read it to their child over and over! The rhymes and rhythms should work well and not be forced or ‘have to be read in the right way’. Oh, and if it’s funny too or has some kind of emotional tug at the heart-strings, that’s a real bonus! 

 

What are some of your favourite picture books and why?

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchings is a classic, clever example of how the pictures tells the story independently of the words.

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde – this is such a moving story with a great message.

The Jolly Chistmas Postman and Other People’s Letters – by Allan and Janet Ahlberg - this is such a clever, funny rhyming text with pretty snowy scenes and fun letters to open.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch - this was the first picture book that I read that conveyed a very important message in a really fun way.  

Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley - a really moving book that deals with death in a very sensitive way.

Hairy Maclary and Donladson’s Dairy or any other Hairy Maclary book by Lynley Dodd – these are such fun rhythmical and rhyming stories. 

Old Bear/Little Bear’s Trousers by Jane Hissey -  beautiful illustrations and lovely gentle stories that show such kindness between the toys.

 

We hope you have enjoyed reading this interview with Elizabeth. You can order your hardback copy of the book for £11.99 via our website here!