Jane: Amy, before we begin on the story of your books, please can you fill in the background on how you came to be a full time carer at your relatively young age of 31?
Amy: Dad was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy five years ago.….It was such a shock to learn about PSP and what would happen to Dad. We knew that Dad would get progressively worse over time and in July 2010 we accepted that he would need a full time carer. Mum had been caring for him for 5 years, had given up her job to do just that. So we decided that we would do all we could to make it so that I could care for him. In March 2010 my Mum, Sister and I opened a shop in our local town called The Blue Room – we sell local art and craft, a creative family you see! So, I gave up my day job and took a huge pay cut to care for Dad. This worked well for all of us as it gave me the time to write and gave Mum the much needed focus.
With regards to writing the children’s books, I woke up one morning a year ago and thought ‘why are you just dreaming about being a writer – let’s make it happen’. This was all well and good but obviously I needed to be able to pay the bills/mortgage etc and have the time to write. At the same time it was becoming increasingly difficult for my Mum to care for my Dad so to cut a long story short,we decided that I would be his carer.
This worked on many different levels. I was able to be paid to care for Dad and write at the same time. I started my own company Hartland Creative, which is a copywriting and proofreading service and it developed from there. Through Hartland, I met a chap called Jeff Bartlett who was interested in working on a new project. I told him about Ping and Pong and what I was writing; he loved it so we set up a publishing company with a relatively small investment from him and my Mum…
You’ve said before that Ping and Pong came about because of imaginary friends in childhood. Can you tell us a little more about that, and also, do you still have an imaginary friend? (Sometimes I think we should all have one!)
It was always a family joke that I had two imaginary friends who lived in a clock! According to Mum and Dad they came about when I was about 3 years old when I would go to the carriage clock on the top of the TV and ask Ping and Pong if they were coming out to play. This was before my sister was born so Im guessing it was a way of me expressing myself without playing with someone else! Mum and Dad actively encouraged me to have them as I think they saw it as a bit of fun and kind of company for me!
How do you motivate yourself to put pen to paper and actually get writing?
I think of my family. I think about what an amazing childhood I had and how I would love to share Ping and Pong with others. Recently I have seen the kids faces when I read it to them and they smile…that’s what makes me want to write more…We have faced some tough times over the past year but writing about Ping and Pong makes me smile, even when Im feeling low.
Once you’d written your first book, what did you do then? How did you get it out there to readers?
I used Twitter and Facebook to get it out there. When you self publish, it is all down to you…the PR, marketing, advertising…everything! Recently I have been going into schools and readings to lots of kids who I have to say have fallen in love with the characters.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep going…sometimes being a write can be isolating. I have so many ideas in my head that sometimes I think it will explode – so I write it all down. Use your imagination to create story lines, characters etc…and make sure you get it all down on paper! You learn to be quite tough being a writer and you have to accept that not everyone is going to like what you write. Also self publishing is hard work so I would say as long as you are determined then you can push yourself forward.
If you could have any career you wanted what would you choose? What does your dream look like?
I would like to be able to write full time…I would like Ping and Pong to take off so that I can make sure my Dad is looked after. I would like to develop other ideas I have for childrens books and even TV shows. I would like to own and run my own publishing company and help others to see their words in print.
Who has the most significant positive impact on your life to date?
My Dad has had the most impact on my life – we were always close but as he deteriorates I see that he is a fighter – he wont give in to it and that spurs me on. My Mum and sister are also a massive part of my life, we are the best of friends which helps when it comes to the tough times and also when you run a business together! Also my husband, he is the one who has to deal with me! Although on the surface I am a positive person he is the one who picks me up when I fall apart which is quite often! He brings me back down to earth (sometimes with a bang) but he is also my biggest fan. We lost a baby in November last year but have really become so much closer because of it.
Are there any children’s writers that you admire, that have inspired you to write?
I used to love Beatrix Potter. I recently watched a programme about her on TV and saw similarities in some of the things she said about writing for children, she also had a vivid imagination like I do. You have to admire JK Rowling for what she has given to the world of Childrens literature – if I can inspire even 1% of the people she has inspired then Im onto a winner!
As a child what were your favourite books?
Peter Rabbit and any of Molly Brett’s picture books.
How do you like to relax and unwind?
I like spending time with friends, going for dinner with my husband and have recently discovered the gym, which Im finding surprisingly enjoyable!
What’s your favourite piece of advice/tip for a great life?
If you always give what you always give, you will always get what you always got. Also, my own tip: Life is too short to wonder what if…if you want something, try as hard as you can to get it…if you fail, so what, at least you tried.
Amy, thank you so much. You’ve had some hard times but have great inner resourcefulness – and a lovely family too, by the sound of things! Good luck with Ping and Pong; I hope it goes from strength to strength.
And if you’d like to buy a copy of Ping and Pong, (and there’s more than one adventure now) you can get them through Amy’s web site
Posted on April 14th, 2011 by Jane