“I have always been a massive kid!”
Kaley Owen is the author of Amos the Anteater, Benny the Beaver and Cleo the Camel. Collectively, the three books make up the beginning of the Animal Alphabet series. Released on October 5th – you can order the books here – the stories of Amos, Benny and Cleo have captured the hearts and minds of children across the UK.
Having made her debut as an author by releasing three children’s books in one day, we thought you might want to know a little more about Kaley Owen: How she got the idea for the series, her influences and even her new favourite animal fact!
Hi, Kaley! The first three Animal Alphabet Books were released on October 5th. How exciting was it to finally get your books out there?
It was extremely exciting; sometimes it still seems like it isn’t real! It is an amazing feeling.
At what point did you decide you wanted to write children’s picture books and become an author?
I can’t remember exactly but it is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I kept getting this nagging feeling to write a children’s book. I had written a few different stories in rhyme before I wrote the Animal Alphabet books and with practice and research every day it just happened.
When we received your manuscript, we loved the idea of the Animal Alphabet. Where did the idea come from?
The first story I wrote was actually for an Orangutang. One day I had the laptop out and my Nan, out of the blue, mentioned something about them. She’d put the idea in my head and I started writing. Writing this story was making me chuckle, and before I knew it I had written the whole thing! It just came to me there and then. It was very strange, but I’m glad it all happened.
Are there any other children’s books that influenced the direction of your writing?
I have always looked up to Julia Donaldson who wrote the Gruffalo, mainly for her use of rhyme. I love writing in rhyme. I remember reading her books for inspiration and from there I came up with my own style.
Before becoming an author you worked extensively with children, how does that affect your writing?
I have always been a massive kid! I taught dancing for many years to ages 3+ I do feel this has kept me young at heart. Working with children does take you back to being a kid; discovering what they enjoy and find funny. It’s had a good impact on my writing.
The idea behind the books is to blend traditional stories with animal facts in a way that children will enjoy. How important was it for you to have the educational elements in there?
The educational aspect of the Animal Alphabet was very important. I found these facts really fascinating and I’m sure the children will. A lot of adults seem to as well! I think it is valuable for children to learn about nature, the animal kingdom and different places from around the world.
“Be patient and enjoy the journey.”
You’ve done extensive research into all of the animals, of these first three which was your favorite animal to research?
Yes, I did a great deal of research to pick out interesting facts about each animal. It’s really hard to choose because every animal is so unique and they are all fascinating in their own way, but out of books A, B, and C, I would say I probably enjoyed learning about the Anteater most. I didn’t know much about Anteaters beforehand and they like eating a lot like I do!
Have you got a favorite fact about either anteaters, beavers or camels that you want to share?
I like the fact that beavers have see-through eyelids so they can protect their eyes and still see when they dive under the water, I thought that was really cool. I want a pair!
Amos the Anteater, Benny the Beaver and Cleo the Camel came out on October 5th. How did you decide on the names? Are the names, or maybe even the characters, based on anyone you know?
Different names just popped into my head! I wanted quite short catchy names that had a ring to them, I feel the names suit the characters well and their personalities.
Graeme Holding is the illustrator of the books. How was it to see your characters come to life in his artwork?
It felt amazing and really surreal! I adore Graeme’s illustrations. Since the day I started writing the stories, even before I knew they would even be published, I would think to myself I wonder how it would feel and look to see them come to life. When I first saw them it really was incredible.
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone thinking of writing and becoming an author?
Be patient and enjoy the journey. Even though the writing may come naturally to you, the whole process does take time. You really must review your work leave it for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes. As you start writing, one idea leads to another even if it doesn’t make any sense at first. When you send off your stories to a publisher you could be waiting for ages for a reply, and that’s even if you get a reply! But you should never give up or lose hope. You’ve got to believe in yourself and your work, and never let anyone put you down!
Amos the Anteater, Benny the Beaver and Cleo the Camel are the first three books in the Animal Alphabet series by Kaley Owen and Graeme Holding. They’re available now from our website for just £4.99 as well as all good bookshops, including:
And, of course, your favourite independent bookshops.