Realising a long held dream of publishing her own book, UK based author Shama Perera creates a children’s character which takes readers on a journey across the world
Words: Tina Edward Gunawardhana
Who or what motivated you to write a children’s book?
I had been thinking about writing a book for a few years, I had the idea of the story in mind but my main motivation was seeing the political chaos that was happening in the world, Brexit, Trump etc and that was probably the catalyst that made me put pen to paper – it was time to appeal to the younger generation as adults couldn’t be relied upon to make sensible choices.
Is the character you created autobiographical or based on your own children?
Interestingly the character almost manifested itself, elements of Bunty’s character kept coming to me as
I wrote. Bunty was originally called Boris, but I wanted to change it to a fierce female character who didn’t look like a boy or a girl, if not for a couple of references here and there in the book you wouldn’t be able to tell what gender the character was. Bunty had a lot of insecurities about the way she looked and had not made many friends at school – I thought that it would be great to see the journey a kid could take to change their reality. The hope was that the story might reach a child who might be feeling a little different to others and make them feel good about themselves.
Who was your favourite childhood author growing up?
Roald Dahl, without question. I loved his books as a kid. I remember reading The BFG and not being able to put it down. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, another favourite where you were transported to another life and could really root for the main character. I’m so pleased that my own children have enjoyed his books as much as I have.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Honestly, not long. I think 3 or 4 weeks. I travel a lot with work and so I used to think of my kids and write while I’d be away from home, I would also use my commute to work on the London tube to pen ideas that would pop into my head.
Where did you get the ideas for this book?
Well, I work for an International Law Firm who have afforded me the opportunity to travel worldwide and I also travel with my family a lot for leisure. I started to think about how lucky we were and how amazing it would be if more kids had the opportunity to experience different cultures and a range of diverse foods and traditions. I often think that this is the best education you can give adults and children alike.
The opportunity to learn about people who are different to you.
So I thought about writing a book which would do just that, take the reader on a journey across the globe and teach a life lesson along the way.
What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
The main thing is to just do it, don’t hesitate, write your story. Put pen to paper. It took me a long time to get out of the “I’ve been thinking of writing a book” stage to the “I’ve written a book” stage. You will never regret writing your story but you may regret not ever getting to it…
How easy did you find the process of writing a children’s book?
To be honest the writing part just flowed very naturally, I really enjoyed penning the story and it took on an energy of its own really, the finished result wasn’t what
I thought it would be, but I was delighted with it.
How did you land a publishing deal for your book?
I would definitely say that I had imposter syndrome, I had never written anything before and I didn’t consider myself a writer. All I knew was that I wanted to commit the story to paper.
I hadn’t ever thought I would get a deal so I went about the process of finding my own proofreader, illustrator, sound engineer and voice-over for the audio book etc when a friend advised me to just send the manuscript to a few literary agents. I was advised that it was very unlikely that a publishing house would be interested in anything that didn’t come via an agent. I sent copies to a few literary agents and then a couple of publishing companies just for fun but soon went about planning to self publish. Just as I was getting the last of my illustrations finalised, I received a very elegant package to my door. It was a contract for a book deal!!! I called the publishing house up, they mentioned that they had been trying to call me and that they had sent emails.
I was completely stunned. After a few weeks of back and forth with the publishers I decided that
I would self publish. As attractive as the deal was, to go with the publisher would have meant losing the rights to the manuscript and I really wanted to keep the rights, promote the book the way I wanted so that I could make as much money to donate to children’s charitable projects as possible. So I self published, but I’m tempted to go with the publisher for other upcoming projects!