Six Questions with Evelyn Bookless
Evelyn Bookless grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland, where she loved to build forts and play in the trees with her siblings. A longing for adventure brought Evelyn around the globe for both travel and work. She spent ten wonderful years living in Asia, before returning to Europe to be closer to home. She is now lives in Spain with her family and two beautiful but suspicious bunnies. Her favourite place to be is in the sea, dreaming up silly stuff. Evelyn has written an award-winning picture book series about Captain Green, a superhero on a mission to save the planet. She has presented at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content on writing to inspire the next generation of environmentalists. Her forthcoming stories focus on bringing big belly laughs to readers of all ages. Her next picture book will be announced in 2023. Evelyn is represented by Becca Langton at Darley Anderson. Visit her website to learn more about Evelyn.
1. What three things bring you joy?
What a great question. For me, it’s my son. He’s just turned 10, and I really enjoy giggles and goofy good times together. He’s a hoot and he makes me proud in so many ways. Second, is travel. Whether it’s to somewhere near that I haven’t been before, or visiting another country, I love to experience new places, people, and food. I have travelled and lived all around the world and those memories are priceless. Finally, it’s swimming or generally marinating in any warm body of water. I live in Spain now, so that’s an option for several months of the year and I feel very lucky for it.
2. Do you work on multiple projects at the same time?
Yes. For me, it’s crucial. I need some distance from a story to be able to look at it objectivity again. And some days I feel more drawn to certain stories, so it’s good to have an array of work to choose from, or else to start something new.
3. What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring kidlit authors?
Be patient with yourself. It takes time, as well as inspiration and creativity, to develop the craft of writing for children. Give yourself that time. Work on lots of ideas instead of just one or two, as that work will strengthen your skill and give you a large body of work to draw on when you do decide to submit to agents or editors. Take part in courses, conferences, and critique groups to learn from others (and make lovely ‘kitlit’ friends). Time and experience are important factors in the process as well as being kind to yourself along the way.
4. Where did you get the idea for your Captain Green books? What was your inspiration?
Trees and forests have always been special places for me. I played for hours in the trees at the back on our house growing up in Ireland. Thirty years ago, my father decided to grow a forest that is now maturing nicely. I love to visit and learn about the different trees, plants and animals living within it. I am proud of this little green ‘lung’ that has been nurtured by my family. While living in Asia for 10 years, where I worked as an international school teacher, I had the opportunity to visit Borneo and other parts of Indonesia and witness some of the intense deforestation of ancient rainforest, often to make way for palm tree plantations or farm land. I experienced weeks of intense air pollution in Singapore when the burning of rainforest in the region prevented people from safely leaving their homes. So many aspects of my childhood and travels have fed into this story. Tress are vital to our survival and I hope this story will inspire more trees to be planted and protected. As with Captain Green and the Plastic Scene, I wanted to shine a light on an important issue in a way that is fun and engaging for children. The back matter presents some simple facts on the topic and real ways that families can help.
5. Did you have a lot of collaboration with the illustrator?
Yes. I was lucky to work closely with Danny Deeptown and offer some input along the way. He is an incredible illustrator and a joy to work with. He has done a truly outstanding job of portraying Captain Green's emotions towards the animals that are in danger. Danny's love of nature and wildlife shines through in the way he has illustrated both of the Captain Green books. I adore all of the illustrations, but my favorite is a double page spread where Captain Green has rescued all of the animals and they are safe again among some stunning rainforest. The character's emotions are shown so tenderly and I was truly blown way when he first shared it with me.
6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
I wrote CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE TREE MACHINE as a light-hearted ‘way in’ to the problem of deforestation, that offers a happy ending and positive solutions. I love to look at the little faces in front of me as I read to groups and see the genuine concern for the animals in danger. Children are usually buzzing with information to share afterwards, and most importantly, go away feeling empowered with a variety of real ways in which they can help to reduce deforestation. In the words of Jane Goodall, I truly believe that, “Children can change the world.”