DEBUT JOURNEYS Leisa Stewart-Sharpe


Welcome to this virtual landscape where SCBWI-BI members share their debut journeys with us.
This month Helen Victoria steps out with author Leisa Stewart-Sharpe, whose debut Blue Planet II is out now. 

Let’s begin our journey... 

 There’s nothing like a good walk to fuel creative ideas and give us inspiration in our writing. Where are you taking us on our walk today? 

 Let’s go home, to Bundaberg in Australia, and we’ll clamber down to the secret rockpools. When the tide is low they reveal hidden worlds, where corals shimmer in every colour of the rainbow. Keep your eyes peeled… humpback whales are on the move, loggerhead turtles are scrambling up the beach, and if you look really closely you may even spy a dorsal fin. It’s always a good day when you spot a shark. 

 What about the landscape in your book? 

 It’s the Big Blue! Blue Planet II is a celebration of the wilderness beneath the waves. We venture into The Deep, where creatures beyond our wildest imagination live in the dark. We explore coral reefs, peek past the tangled fronds of our green seas, join in all of the commotion of rockpool rush hour and leave the hustle and bustle behind for the wide open waters of the open ocean. 

 As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand steps starts with one. Tell us about your inspiration for your novel. 

 This book came about a little differently to my other non-fiction titles. My writing had caught the eye of an editor at Puffin, who approached me to see if I’d be interested in working with them, on a brand new non-fiction series based on the BBC’s blockbuster nature documentaries. We’d start with Blue Planet II and then work closely with the BBC Natural History Unit to bring out three more books to coincide with their new documentaries. I can let you in on a secret… I’m all but finished on the next book in the series, The Green Planet which will publish / screen in January. I’ve been writing it at the same time as the producers filming it – IN A PANDEMIC. It’s been a wonderful adventure! 

 Now we have got into our stride, can you tell us what you loved most about writing this book? 

 Blue Planet II first aired in 2017 – it was so popular it slowed down the internet in China! Revisiting a show that’s universally adored and being given the opportunity to retell those stories your way, for kids, is a huge honour. The show also brought the world’s plastic problem into sharp focus, so it’s been great to build on those conservation messages in a way that empowers, rather than alarms kids. Of course, I’ll never forget the day I found out Sir David Attenborough had written the foreword. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall off my chair. 

We seem to be lost in the woods now. Can you describe your most difficult moments when you were writing …, and how you got back onto the right path? 

 There is an army of scientists, researchers, producers and fact checkers behind the scenes that scrutinise every word in these books. It’s the most amazing safety net so that you know every fact stands up. But you can imagine that taking in the views of so many people can amount to a lot of comments and tracked changes. They don’t always agree with each other. You just have to pour a big cup of tea and work through them one at a time. 

 As we reach the summit, can you tell us how it feels to be a first time author? 

 Like so many authors and illustrators, my book came out on November 5, 2020 – the day that Lockdown 2 began, and the bookshops closed. There was no launch party. There were no author signing events or school visits. But there were tailgate book signings in laybys off of A roads, and I single-handedly filled the mailbag at the local post box with signed book plates for indies. I even had a go at making videos… dressed as a shark (of course). In the end, the most important thing was that the book was enjoyed by lots of little Ocean Heroes. It was a total thrill to see it become a best seller in three categories online. It’s the stuff of debut dreams. 

 We’ve finished our walk and now so I think we deserve to celebrate with tea in a cosy inn. As we warm our feet by the blazing fire, tell me where you think your writing will take you in the future? 

 We’ve finished our walk already? But I brought my wet suit… I thought we’d be going for a swim! What’s next hmmm.... well, you know how publishing is… it’s full of secrets! And it just so happens I’m a terrible secret keeper ;) I’ve got a small pile of non-fiction books on the way in the next couple of years, plus two GORGEOUS picture books out next year. All of these books are inspired by the natural world and the strange and wonderful creatures that call it home. Weird fact… I’m arachnophobic, and yet two of my illustrators went ahead and hid spiders on every spread. Go figure! 

 Finally, I have really enjoyed walking and talking with you today. Can you give us one take away tip for yet-to-be-published writers? 

 I think it’s fair to say, that as much as they love you, your family probably don’t want to hear you read your stuff to them… AGAIN. When their eyes glaze over, it’s not whimsy, they’re not lost in the words, it’s a silent cry for help! I’ve found it’s best for everyone if you surround yourself with a few illustrator or writer buddies that you can trust. They’ll be your rock on the journey – because in publishing the road is nearly always long and bumpy and it’s good to have someone to share the ups and downs with.

Leisa Stewart-Sharpe grew up in Australia near the Great Barrier Reef. She studied journalism and at the age of 24 she set off to explore the globe, bussing through Europe, climbing over the Alps and tracking through rainforests.She now lives and writes at her home in the Chiltern Hills. 

Follow Leisa:
Twitter: @leisa_stewart


Helen Victoria is a writer of YA fiction, a full-time drama teacher and a reader of anything and everything. When she is not putting on shows, reading or writing, Helen loves to walk in wild places, or hang out with her family and friends in London, France and Cornwall.

Follow Helen:

Imogen Foxell is an illustrator with a particular interest in creating intricate imaginary worlds. She illustrates English literature revision cards for, and interesting words for Her website is Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. 

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