Author of Olly and Lilly comes to CFC
We are delighted to announce the arrival of our new Trustee Matt who has also written a new book aimed at children aged 4 plus exploring important themes to help them process and deal with situations and feelings they may encounter during key life events.
Matt is a father of two wonderful children who he and his husband adopted nearly 5 years ago. Living in Timperley with his family and now four, yes four cats! They certainly keep him busy. Originally from Cornwall he visits as much as he can and really misses decent beaches.
Matt works as a VP of Sales for an international software company, managing teams across Europe. In 2017 Matt was diagnosed with Myeloma blood cancer, having a full stem cell transplant in 2018 and is having ongoing treatment. He likes to spread the word of how easy and important it is for people to register as a stem cell donor and potentially save a life at www.dkms.org.uk.
Matt has also documented and blogged his adoption journey and transition into becoming a parent www.fromsoftwaretosoftplay.com.
Matt has written and published a children's book about adoption, helping his children and other children in care understand and process their story www.ollyandlilly.com.
We interviewed Matt to find out more about what drives his aspirations as a writer:
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I have always enjoyed reading and literature and growing up found books to be a real escape, allowing my imagination to go wild. As a child I loved writing stories. It was until I had some time off work due to sickness that I actually had time to sit down and write. Having just adopted two wonderful children meant times were very busy.
What inspired you to write the book series Olly and Lilly?
My children. We adopted them not as babies and as such I found that a lot of books aimed at children and families regarding adoption were aimed at too young of an age. They didn’t resonate with my children and I wanted to write something to be a legacy for them both. During the adoption process we at a training session and you had to devise a way to tell your childrens’ life story. We came up with the idea of using off-road bikes as our children love cycling. The characters developed from there and I started building the story.
As I had received some devastating news about my health I didn’t want to waste time and I entered a competition to win the right to self-publish the book. This meant I could expedite it being printed and not go down the traditional publishing and agent route.
How long does it take to write a book like this?
It’s hard to say as I did this book in stages. After coming up with the characters I then left if for a while to allow ideas to just come to me rather than sitting down and forcing them to develop. I then mapped out on a storyboard my rough ideas for the story flow, taking into account the feelings and situations I wanted to cover. I then started writing. I would typically write a page or two and then leave it for a few days. Re-visiting and editing that page and then moving on to the next part of the story.
Once I had written the draft I was happy with I then asked for input and feedback from various individuals including other adoptive parents, KS1 teachers, social workers, parents, family members, friends and support workers. Once any feedback was given I then built this into the draft. Finally, the publishers FI&Books assisted with final editing and putting me in contact with their illustrator, Lucie Cook.
Working with Lucy took time but was amazing. She was quickly able to get into my head and develop illustrations that were perfect. I can’t draw and working with Lucie was great. I wanted lots of colour and fun illustrations.
All in all, from the original conception to receiving my first printed books was about 18 months.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I do it in fits and starts. I write a lot, flow and then walk away from it for a week or so. If I don’t it’s harder to edit and be critical. I also like going to a coffee shop, with headphones and listening to music when I write. You may see me in Costa Timperley.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Family time. Love doing things with my kids and husband. Love travelling, showing them different cultures, food and exploring. They are bike mad so we often go on bike rides or walks.
What does your family think of your stories?
The children were impressed I had written a book and it was their story. They were proud when I did an author’s day at their school.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How many superfluous words we use when writing or speaking. When writing a children’s book every word counts and I was amazed at how many ‘fillers’ I would normally use. Also, how long the process takes.
What advice would you give for anyone wanting to write a book about a subject that was close their heart?
Just do it! Put pen to paper, map out your story, don’t give up and write with your passion. Ask others for feedback and don’t be put off.
When can we see more of Olly and Lilly's adventures?
Well, I have written the second book. It is called “What is this feeling?” And it covers lots of feelings that children aged 5-10 can have and be confused by including fear, anxiety, frustration, jealousy, love, pride and others. Helping them with naming that feeling and techniques to deal with them. I am going to be approaching agents in the coming weeks as this time around I want to go down the traditional agent/ publisher route to hopefully get the books in front of as many children as possible. It’s impossible to get your books into large bookshops unless you are famous or have an agent.
What is your own personal favourite childhood book?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - I read this over and over again as a child and escaped into that magical world.
What’s the overall message contained in your first book?
That there are all different types of families. It is ok to talk about the past, understand it and to set your own goals. The love of a good family combined with your determination to succeed will always win.
How has your book helped others?
My first book has helped children from all walks of life, adopted, fostered and traditional families. I have worked with many schools and love nothing more than doing author reading days and assemblies in schools. Seeing the children come alive, ask questions about being an author and allowing them the chance to express their family situation is amazing. I have worked with various adoption agencies and social services as well as schools and have received some amazing feedback from parents, carers and professionals along the way, I want to do more and more school author days and have created a package to allow schools to do this easily.
Olly and Lily have their own website where you can find out more about this inspiring book and purchase your own copy. Visit: www.ollyandlilly.com