Welcome to Justin’s Debut-Dance Ball, a virtual party to celebrate SCBWI-BI members’ debut publications. This month, Justin welcomes debut picture book author Cath Jones to his ball, and invites her to take a turn on the dance floor, whilst he asks the questions only a newly published writer can answer!

Bonkers about Beetroot by Cath Jones, illustrated by Chris Jevons, Maverick 2017

Welcome to the ball Cath. I took the liberty of pouring you a beetroot schnapps. Prost!

Beetroot schnapps! That’s a new one on me. I thought I had tried everything beetrooty. I’ll just have a little sip. Wow...

Cath, this is your party and you get to choose the tunes. Is there a piece of music you like to dance to, or perhaps a song that gets you in the mood for writing?

For writing, I usually prefer silence so that I can really focus and get into the zone. But before I settle at my desk or when I need a break I like to go a bit bonkers to old disco classics and some great dance anthems from the nineties; think Chic or Ministry of Sound. Gosh, I think I’m showing my age! (Boogie on down with Cath and Chic by clicking here!)

Many congratulations on your debut picture book Bonkers About Beetroot. How does it feel to see your work in book form?

When the first hard copy arrived in the post, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was a real thrill to be able to turn the pages. At last I could share my story with children and see them react and enjoy it. The illustrator Chris Jevons has done an amazing job with Bonkers About Beetroot and only when I saw a hard copy could I truly appreciate his wonderful use of colour. So many people have described Bonkers as warm and that’s down to Chris.

How did you celebrate landing your publishing deal?

I had always imagined that I would pop a bottle of bubbly with my oh-so-patient and supportive partner, Moi. But the reality was a bit different. It was just typical that it was the first time in years that we were apart. So what actually happened was that I phoned her with the good news, and then went out for a coffee with a couple of old friends. I took my knitted zebra from Bonkers with me too!

Personally, I don’t think root vegetables feature nearly enough in children’s writing, but there’s one thing we all want to know… why beetroot?

For a number of years, I managed a community allotment on the outskirts of Margate. We ran some really fun projects there, including story sack making for families. I made a purple stripy zebra out of Fimo with the kids to go in a story sack. I instantly knew he had eaten too much beetroot. The idea of a beetroot-eating zebra stayed in my head, quietly composting while I got on with life, growing more vegetables and writing many, many more stories, until finally Bonkers About Beetroot emerged.

Bonkers about Beetroot by Cath Jones, illustrated by Chris Jevons, Maverick 2017

Ten seconds to tell us about Bonkers about Beetroot. Go!

Ten seconds! Blimey. Basically, there’s an optimistic zebra with a pessimistic penguin friend. Their safari park is threatened with closure, so the zebra grows a giant beetroot to save his home! I would say it’s perfect for beetroot lovers, gardeners, and anyone who likes a quirky, feel-good story.

Bonkers About Beetroot isn’t your only debut with Maverick this year. Can you tell us about your other project?

Bonkers About Beetroot was accepted for publication in July 2016, but since then Maverick accepted two early readers which ended up being published before Bonkers About Beetroot. I really love The Smart Hat as it’s also a very quirky story with fabulous illustrations. I won’t give away the story, but it’s about a queen who orders a new hat, but when it's delivered it’s not what she expected! I’ve already done a bookshop event with it and love the quirky hats that we get to make.

The Smart Hat, by Cath Jones, illustrated by Paul Nicholls, Ransom Publishing 2017

If that wasn’t enough, you’ve added to your “year of debuts” by working with Ransom Publishing, producing books for reluctant readers. How did this come about?

Yes, it really has been a bonkers year for me. I’ve actually had eleven stories published in 2017, with another coming out online next year. I have a dear friend, Jill Atkins, to thank for my Ransom book. She regularly writes for Ransom and suggested I write for them too, as I have a background in education, in particular with literacy and reluctant readers. Writing for early and reluctant readers is quite tricky; it’s like solving a puzzle. You really have to know the different levels that are used when teaching literacy in school, and then come up with a good story using the words that are allowed in a particular level. I love the challenge.

With all these strings to your publishing bow, what can we expect from you next, Cath? Will it involve more oversized vegetables?

Definitely! I’m working on three different stories at the moment, and carrots, beanstalks, and pickled onions have starring roles.

Bonkers About Beetroot is vividly illustrated (beetroot has never looked so tasty!) by Chris Jevons. How closely did you work together on the book?

I’m so lucky Maverick matched me up with Chris Jevons. He has created a dazzling picture book. His amazing use of colour leaps off the page. I think the shade of pink he chose for the beetroot will really appeal to any youngster who likes pink! Creatively, we actually had quite a lot to do with each other via email. Once I had seen his initial sketches he was really open to all my ideas. I don’t think I could have wished for a nicer author / illustrator experience. It was just perfect.

Finally, Cath, the most important question of all: How do you like yours? Beetroot, that is. Blitzed in borscht? Plucked from the pickle jar? Or like Adrian Mole’s Grandad, sliced in a sandwich?

I’m certainly partial to the odd bowl of borscht; must be my Austrian heritage. But if I had to pick just one dish there’s absolutely no choice. It has to be beetroot chocolate cake every time. You can be sure it will feature at the party to celebrate the publication of Bonkers About Beetroot!

Thank you, Cath, for joining me at the Debut-Dance Ball. Bonkers About Beetroot is out now, published by Maverick Arts Publishing.

Cath Jones
Cath Jones' whole life has been about books. As a librarian, teacher, editor, community gardener (vegetable storytime anyone?), and now a literacy specialist, she aims to inspire a love of books in everyone. As a child, her fascination with story was encouraged by a wonderful English teacher (Miss Storey!), local librarians, and an amazing children’s bookshop (The Lion and the Unicorn) where authors met their fans. Cath now loves sharing her own stories with children of all ages. She lives in Kent with her partner and a high-maintenance cat. When not writing, she grows mutant vegetables on a windy allotment overlooking the sea.

Follow Cath: Facebook, Twitter, Blog

*'Justin's Debut-Dance Ball' illustration credit: Louisa Glancy

Justin Nevil Davies

Justin Nevil Davies leads two distinct lives. In one, he flies around the world as cabin crew. In the other, he writes middle grade novels with the aim to make kids laugh. Sometimes, his lives converge. Justin is part of SCBWI South East Scotland.
Follow Justin: Twitter, Instagram, Blog 

Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures.
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Justin. It was a pleasure being part of your debut dance ball. Cath


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