Sir Winston ChurchmousesmallKatie Stewart is both author and artist, and has combined these talents in her latest book, Famous Animals. This is a wonderful combination of humour and history, giving well-known human faces a counterpart in the animal kingdom.

I own a copy of this book which is permanently on my coffee table. I am frequently picking it up to admire the gorgeous art and chuckle at the puns! The chap to the right, for example, is of course Sir Winston Churchmouse. Brilliant!

As part of her blog tour, Katie writes about the help she received finding inspiration for her fantastic characters.

When ‘Thanks’ Is Not Enough

They say the hardest part of writing a book is doing the blurb. In my case, the acknowledgements always prove just as difficult. How can you possibly condense all the help you get on a book into a few lines?

In the case of Famous Animals, it was especially hard. Once I had come up with the original idea of Luciano Pavaratti and spent a few sleepless nights trying to think of a list of other famous people I could turn into animals, I realised I was running out of ideas. My list was very male-heavy and I wasn’t going to have enough to make a book. For a while, I considered maybe just making a calendar, but I was sure a book was the best idea. So I went where all good writers go when they need help – to the internet.

Now, there are internet groups and there are internet groups. Some are good and some have more trolls than a slimy hole in the side of a mountain. You have to be careful where you utter the words ‘I need help.’ Fortunately, I belong to a wonderful group where, I am happy to say, I have never met a rude or offensive person. Conversations are fun and informative and everyone is pleasant. That place is the UK Kindle Users Forum. Being British, they love their puns, so when I asked for some suggestions of famous people that could be turned into animal puns, I was inundated with brilliant suggestions. I got so many ideas, in fact, that I had enough to do this first book plus a couple more!

Interestingly, some people came up with the same suggestions as others, missed in previous posts, causing a little light-hearted banter about who could claim credit. (I would just like to confirm for the record though, that I had thought of Joan Aardvark before either Kath or David!)

Not only did the group offer their help with the names, they also offered something else, something that was invaluable in keeping me going – their interest and encouragement. Often when you explain what your latest project is, reactions can be little more than, “Oh, that’s nice.” With this, though, I was made to feel that the idea really did have merit, that I wasn’t totally wasting my time carrying on with it. Every author needs that kind of support.

Something else that came out of discussions with this group was the way the book evolved. At first, I’d thought it would be just a book of the illustrations, an ornate joke book for a coffee table. That might have worked, but would have been best in a large-sized, glossy format and the cost of producing that would have been prohibitive. It was suggested by a few people on the forum that making it into a book for children would be better – with information about both the animal and the person. That way children would learn a little history, a little biology and appreciate the humour of the illustration. Adults would enjoy the humour, too. A win-win situation. So that’s what the book is – a humorous, historical, biographical nature book, a conundrum for librarians everywhere to solve before they can shelve it!

Like the Little Red Hen, I kept calling for help, but unlike the Little Red Hen’s so-called friends, these lovely people kept answering the call. Hence, I have been on a blog tour with my little book and many of the blogs I’ve visited have been those of KUF members, like this one (thanks, David).

Cover8x10smallFinally the folks at KUF did the ultimate in encouragement – they bought my book. Not all of them, of course, but quite a few. They bought my book, shared it on Facebook, retweeted it. They were and are wonderful and I only hope that I can repay each and every one of them someday. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a great place to hang out with writers, head over to KUF. As long as you didn’t come out of a slimy hole in a mountain, you’ll be made very welcome.

Famous Animals is available to order from Amazon and Book Depository.

Find out more on Katie Stewart’s blog. You can browse, buy and even commission original artwork and book covers from Katie at Magic Owl Design.