Six Questions with Caroline L. Perry
Caroline L. Perry has never lived in a palace, but she has lived in four countries (and visited more than sixty others). Caroline is a British-born journalist and documentary producer who currently lives in California with her husband and three budding bibliophile kids. The Corgi and the Queen (Godwin Books/Macmillan) is her first picture book. Visit Caroline's website to learn more about her and her work.
1. How do you know your idea will make a good book?
When I’m sorting through my picture book ideas I try to seek out the beating heart of the stories, the part that will really make the book shine. If a concept is interesting but ‘dry’ and lacking in emotional resonance, I usually move on to the next project. I gravitate towards books that evoke strong emotions so if my critique partners tell me my manuscript has made them laugh out loud or cry into their keyboards, I know I’m on the right track!
2. What are some of the key ingredients that make a great book for kids? I’ve read so many picture books (well into the thousands now) and I like a lot of them, but when I borrow a new title from the library that brings on ‘the feels’ I immediately buy a copy for my burgeoning home collection!
I think a truly great kids’ book has to have a fresh concept, or at least a new take on an evergreen subject. It has to pass the ‘re-readability’ test–as a perma-tired mum of three, is it one I’ll be happy to pull off the bookshelf multiple times a week? It also has to leave me and my kids with something, whether it be questions (sometimes existential ones!), sore cheeks from Cheshire cat-sized smiles, or a newfound sense of wonder or empathy. When a book can do these things, without being predictable or didactic, it’s a special kind of magic.
3. What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has given you?
The best advice came from an editor who said, simply, “dig deep.” I went through some very challenging childhood experiences and because of this I have a sizable well from which to draw. Plumbing the depths and pouring your heart onto a page may seem intimidating but chances are if you felt, or feel, something, a good number of young readers will be experiencing those exact same emotions. Don’t shy away from creating the books you wish you’d read as a kid. Books can be incredibly healing to read, and to write.
4. Was this always the title for this project? If not, what other titles did you consider and how did you land on this one?
The manuscript I submitted was called: The Queen’s Favorite Corgi. My brilliant editor, Laura Godwin, came up with The Corgi and the Queen. It’s simpler yet more powerful than the original as it invites the reader to draw their own conclusions about Queen Elizabeth’s relationship with Susan once they’ve digested the story. Spoiler alert: the Queen had more than 30 corgi companions over the course of her lifetime, and 14 generations of those royal dogs were directly descended from Susan. I still think she was the favorite!
5. What’s a particularly striking or memorable reaction someone has had to this book? Gosh, there have been so many special moments! I would say one of the most unexpected (and delightful) reactions came via an Amazon review from a gentleman who wrote: “Both my wife and I are in our late 80s, and we totally enjoyed reading this book targeted at little children.” I was over the moon when I read this as I firmly believe that picture books are for everyone! At signing events I have written book dedications for such a wonderful variety of readers… kids, of course, but also grandparents, dog parents, uncles, aunts, teachers, pets… I’ve also had quite a few people tell me that The Corgi and the Queen made them cry. Seeing mine and Lydia Corry’s book getting such a warm reception from readers across the age spectrum is an absolute joy, and a great privilege.
6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
When I wrote the book I really wanted to make it relatable. I think it humanizes the Queen as it shows her in a light many won’t have seen her in before, but beyond that I hope that it highlights our universal need for unconditional love. Whether we live in a palace or an apartment, each and every one of us experiences the same spectrum of emotions, and we all want to feel safe, seen, and cherished. Sometimes human relationships fall short of fulfilling those needs, but the love of a pet is steadfast, and often life-changing. Queen Elizabeth once said; “My corgis are family,” and I think anyone who’s had a cherished animal companion in their life would echo that sentiment.
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