Interview With Author Camilla Chester

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Camilla Chester, self-made, successful Children’s Author, writing for 8-12s, who also walks dogs to boost the income and keep the creativity flowing. I have three books, Jarred Dreams (the creepy one), EATS (the ridiculous one) and Thirteenth Wish (the adventure one).

What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?

My debut, Jarred Dreams, is the story of a ghoul who steals children’s dreams and keeps them in jars in his cellar. Think, the dark BFG. My second, EATS, is about a budding vegetarian chef called Lucas Larks and his mate, Brian Tucker who win a competition to cook with celebrity chefs but the prize isn’t what they expected. The third book, Thirteenth Wish starts with Jayden disappearing from our world on this thirteenth birthday, it’s all a big mystery that has to be solved by Sally and her dog Fuzzles. 

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I’m a playful person who has never really become a grown-up in lots of ways and so I just think of fun ‘what if’ scenarios and go from there. I have lots of false starts and often ditch ideas that aren’t working.

How do you deal with creative block?

I don’t really get it because if I don’t feel like writing then I don’t force it. I just do something else instead and wait until I want to write again. I never worry that it won’t come back as writing is just a part of who I am.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Loads of stuff, from gaping plot holes, to boring, laborious details – I’ve done the lot. The trick is to really redraft, not just tweak. Be brutal and when you share, take people’s feedback onboard. It is hard to spot stuff in your own work, but listen when others do it for you.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

This is so important. Let the cover and title work for you – it has to convey the tone, genre and feel of the book. Jarred Dreams is black and creepy looking, but the jars are bright and colourful, indicating magic will be in the story. The title is also a double meaning – dreams in jars and stopping a dream. EATS is an acronym – I won’t tell you what it stands for as that will spoil the entire story, but it was suggested to me by a member of my writing group. I kept the cover simple and bright, with the quotes in comic splodges, to show that it was supposed to be a funny book. Thirteenth Wish is full of beautiful illustrations and the letters in the title are overlays of them. The smoke from the candles is a big clue and shows that the entire story is a puzzle for the reader to work out along the way.

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

Thing is, it’s all so subjective. Not everyone is going to like my books, they are quirky and different, I accept that. If someone doesn’t like my books, that’s fine, they are talking about my stories, not me personally *breathes*.

How has your creation process improved over time?

I’m learning my craft continuously. I’m a member of both NAWE and SCBWI, attending regular salons, talks, masterclasses, conferences. I’m signed up online to a children’s fiction and screenwriting course, but mostly I listen to other writers, particularly when they are trying to help me grow. It is for that reason that I have a writing mentor. When I first started sharing my work I found it difficult to take on board what people said about it, but now I totally get feedback and am always really grateful. 

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

Best – when children read them and love them. I’ve had children dress up as my characters for World Book Day and overheard them talking about my stories in the playground. Nothing tops that – nothing at all.

Worst – trying to get noticed. Getting my books recognised and taken seriously, particularly as I’m self-published is an uphill battle. Hello – I’m over here, buried under all the David Walliams titles!

Surprising – how few people within your own circle are interested enough to want to read your books. If I had a mate that published a book I’d be first in the queue to read it, but then I guess I love books.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

Luckily the two things generally go hand in hand. I only ever write what I would want to read myself. I love children’s fiction and read it all the time. I constantly write for myself and luckily the readers love it too (on the whole).

What role do emotions play in creativity?

I heard someone talking about how the creator and the editor are two different beasts and I really agree with that. During drafting and creating all kinds of emotions needs to be poured into the writing, but not when the editing is happening.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

I was once told a quote, ‘Write like a reader and read like a writer’, don’t ask me who said it, but it really works for me. When I’m reading I look for the techniques the writer has used and I tend to write a paragraph when I’ve finished about whether I liked/disliked the book and why. When I write I try and get lost in the writing and just let it flow out. I can worry about tidying it up later.

What are your plans for future books?

I am currently editing a fourth book entitled Darna’s Sky, again for the same age group and have been told that it’s a finalist in the 2019 Mslexia Children’s Novel Award which I am beyond thrilled about. I’m going to be sending the book out for representation very soon as my overall aim is to become a hybrid author (both self and traditionally published) to increase my distribution. I’ve had a tentative idea for a teen novel that I have plotted out and another idea for another middle grade book. I get pictures book ideas all the time and forget to write them down. I’d love to write picture books, but that’s something for the future. If I ever get around to finishing my screenwriting course then I might also have a go at turning one of my books into a play too. 

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

Hmmm. Well, I like to eat a bowl of cereal before I go to bed, my kids say I love the dog more than them (he probably gets more cuddles), I became an orphan at 44 and I was once in a film called Waterland alongside the now mega-famous Lena Heady. Will that do?

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