SSP caught up with author and filmmaker Samantha Hale, to talk about her debut picture book Sparkle’s Song.
Aunt Millicent does not allow music in her house, so when Sparkle hears a beautiful song coming from the forest, she wants to find out where it is coming from. Following a songbird, she discovers something magical
that will change her life forever.
Thank you very much for this interview, Samantha, and congratulations on the publication of Sparkle’s Song.
What inspired you to write this story?
I was asked to come up with a story involving music and inspired by my passion for it. I believe first time writers tend to write what they know about, and being that I am one, I decided to examine my own love of music. Music is ultimately what helped me get through my father’s passing, so I knew I could write an honest story about a little girl who suffered a loss, and found relief in music. Sparkle’s journey is a magical version of my own.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
I have always loved writing. When I was a child I came up with dozens of short stories. Mostly about animals. And I drew all the pictures with my crayons and markers. My imagination was a dear friend to me as a child and I wrote all my ideas down. I am not sure I wanted to be an author though. It was just something I liked to do.
What were some of your favourite books to read as a child? What made the stories so compelling?
I loved the more mysterious and dare I say darker books as a child. Anything with ghosts or monsters. I still do actually. I loved “The Witches” by Ronald Dahl. “Where the Wild Things Are.” I quite enjoyed the “Goosebumps” series by R.L Stine. I even attempted to read a Stephen King book once, but realized I was in over my head and it was too scary. I watched his movies though. Probably shouldn’t have done that!
Can you tell us about your path to publication?
I actually am very lucky and grateful to say that the opportunity really came to me.
I am actually a documentary filmmaker – making films on the importance of music. My first film “Map the Music” is really what opened up the door to my becoming published.
Steve Bicknell of
Maverick Books saw the film, and recognizing how much music meant to me, he sent me a message introducing himself and asking if I might want to come up with a music related story and see what happens. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, and when I sent it over to him, I think we were both surprised at how nicely it came out. I am not sure of the exact timeline, but maybe over the course of a year or so we did several edits and then found our amazing illustrator Mariana. It was an amazing process to see the story and the characters come to life both through the written word and through her beautiful artwork.
What has been the most exciting part of the publication process?Well, I was doing a bit of filming over in the UK last November, and I got to meet Steve in person. He was so lovely and it was very exciting talking to him and truly realizing that I actually wrote a book that people would see. But the day a finished copy arrived in the mail for me was very special. Holding this beautiful book in my hands that we had all worked so hard on was amazing. It became real.
What did you find easier, writing the manuscript or the editing process?
Definitely writing the manuscript. I think I had the first draft written in a day because it was kind of a stream of consciousness. At that point I had no idea what I was doing so I just went with whatever popped into my head and figured I could sort it out later. I just wanted to find the heart of the story. I wasn’t thinking about how it would translate to a certain age group or if parents would like it at that point, so it was easier to get it out. Going through the editing process taught me so much about how much goes into a children’s book.
How involved were you in the transformation of Sparkle’s Song from manuscript to picture book?
I feel that Steve and everyone at Maverick really took charge of transforming Sparkle’s Song from manuscript to picture book. They all worked so hard, and sent me samples along the way. I did of course bounce ideas around with them after I had a look at the samples, but really they were so amazing at making it all happen.
The illustrations, by Argentinian artist Mariana Ruiz Johnson, are beautiful. When you first imagined Sparkle’s world and the magic of the music she encounters, did you ever think that they would be brought to life in this way?
I gave Steve a breakdown of how I had envisioned Sparkle. I tried my best to explain her essence and who I thought she was. I also explained how I thought the personality of each instrument differed from one another. He then sent me samples from three different illustrators. They were all wonderful, but Mariana’s work truly blew me away. When I saw her drawing of Sparkle I thought “That’s her. She found her.” Once I saw her work we let her run with it, and I really can’t say enough how impressed I am with her. We absolutely found the best illustrator to bring Sparkle and her world to life.
What do you hope readers will take away from Sparkle’s Song?
I would like readers (and especially children) to take away the feeling that sometimes dark or tragic things will happen in our lives, but there is always a way to find the light.
Are you working on any new stories?
I actually am not working on any books at the moment, as I am working on my second film. It’s about the connection between music and love, and why so many songs are written about it. I am about five months in on it, and am hoping to have it out by late this year or early next year.
Can you offer a piece of advice for writers trying to get their picture books published?Well considering I had the wonderful fortune of having this opportunity come to me, I am probably not the best person to ask for advice on that. I can tell you how to go about working on getting your documentary out into the world though, ha. Overall I would say, if you have an idea you are passionate about, let nothing get in your way. If you make a mistake – learn from it. If you are scared – keep going. Don’t just say you want to do something… actually do it. Even if it takes longer than expected. And do it because you love it.
Thank you very much for such an insightful interview Samantha.
To find out more about Sparkle’s Song visit the Maverick Books website.