Today I am excited to welcome to my blog another special guest. This time one of my favourite picture book writers, John Condon.
When John was a child he was always drawing. So much so that his mother and most of his teachers assumed he would one day become an illustrator or a designer; certainly not an author. Okay, technically he did become a designer… but he’s an author too. Which doesn’t surprise John in the least. John was born and raised in London, but he currently lives on its outskirts where it’s a little leafier. Importantly for him though, it’s just a train ride away from the buzz of town. His favourite holidays involve the sea, which inspires many of his story ideas. Although he doesn’t like to swim in it, he finds the sound of the waves calming and life affirming. He hopes one day to live close enough to the sea to hear it always.
I absolutely loved John’s picture book, The Pirates are Coming – a hilarious retelling of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, with not one but TWO twists! I was hooked to the end of The Wondrous Dinosaurium about a boy searching for the perfect pet. So I am thrilled to be able to interview John about his latest picture book, The Best Bear Tracker.
The Best Bear Tracker by John Condon is illustrated by Julia Christians and due to be released by Templar Publishing tomorrow on the18th August 2022.
Thank you John for agreeing to be a special guest on my blog today. It is a great honour to have you here. Let’s dive into the first question.
Q&A with John Condon
When did you first realize you wanted to write picture books?
Relatively recently. I first conceived the idea of writing a picture book about 11 years ago, when I was still trying to make films. I wanted to create a gift (or perk) for investors in a planned film project and for some reason or other I decided that a picture book was the solution. I then set about converting the screenplay and loved the process. I didn’t manage to turn the script into a successful text, and eventually put it in a drawer, but the spark had been lit and I knew then that I wanted to write picture books. I actually dug that story out not too long ago and have decided to have another go at it. Watch this space.
My favourite bear tracking rule is Rule Number 5: Lure the bear into the open! What is your favourite bear tracking rule and why?
Hmm, I hadn’t considered it but looking at them all now I think it would be RULE 8: Always be brave. Bravery can take many forms, and it doesn’t have to mean wandering alone into a dark cave looking for a bear. To me in means feeling fear or apprehension about something that you want to do and not letting that fear dissuade you. I’ve often found that by being brave I’ve more often than not benefited in some way, whether big or small.
The Best Bear Tracker relies heavily on the illustrations for the humour. Did you have to write extensive illustration notes?
I tend to do that anyway. I know it’s frowned upon by many but I’m quite visual and I can’t help myself. Occasionally they prove to be very useful to editors but if they decide to ignore them, I have no problem with that at all. I just put them in to give an indication of what might happen rather than with any expectation they should be used. In this instance they were necessary, as you know, so there were notes for every spread. They weren’t always extensive, just clear. And, I would still say they were suggestions rather than rules. If the Templar team had other ideas, or Julia Christians my brilliant illustrator had other ideas, I wouldn’t have had an issue with that. Producing a book is without doubt a team effort, and I embrace that process wholeheartedly.
Do you have any rituals or routines that are part of your writing process?
I don’t have any rituals or superstitions and I’m still trying to figure out a routine that works for me. At the moment I tend to bounce between a few ideas, adding little bits to them as I go, until they are in a place where they more or less resemble a coherent story. Once one does, I’ll decide whether I actually like it enough to keep developing it. This is a tricky point in the process because I’ve found that the stories that excite me won’t necessarily appeal to an editor just as the stories that appeal to them don’t necessarily blow my socks off. As a result, I’ve stopped trying to predict which texts will be winners and just submit stories that I feel have value and then let the editors decide. Occasionally I’ll pin my hopes on one but very seldom do those get picked up. The Pirate story was one of those, but the bear story was not. Having said that, Julia Christians and the Templar team have done such an amazing job with it that I have finally fallen in love with the story. I think it looks gorgeous.
What was your favourite book as a child and why?
I honestly don’t remember many books from my childhood. I think I was a bit of a reluctant reader. I was more of a TV and movie person. I absolutely adored the cinema, which was why I eventually began trying to make films of my own. If you had asked me what my favourite film was as a child, I’d have a long list for you. If you asked me what my favourite TV show as a child was, we’d have to debate the multitude of options. Books took a while to capture my heart, but, of course, they eventually did.
Is there anything else you would like to tell readers about the best Bear Tracker and writing for children?
Only a request that anyone who reads and enjoys this book (or either of my other books) please leave a review on Amazon. Even if it’s just some stars, rather than a written review. It’s hard to know how effective any of this is but I know that I look at reviews and check the star ratings of any book I am considering buying. I also leave reviews for books I have enjoyed. It’s so important to authors to know their work has found an audience. I make very little money as an author (and it’s currently my only form of income) so that feedback gives me encouragement to continue writing. That goes for all children’s authors, I’m sure.
Thank you John for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog.
You can read my review of The Pirates are Coming! by John Condon and Matt Hunt here: Book Review: The Pirates are Coming!
You can discover more about John and his writing tips in another interview I did with him, this time for the September 2019 Writing for Children slot in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum: An interview with… John Condon
Also discover the highlights of John Condon’s book launch for The Pirates are Coming! here: John Condon’s book launch
John’s books are available to buy in any good bookshop and online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.