Unplugged now out in the UK and US!
A book release is always exciting and although this is my 12th release the feeling is still just as amazing as seeing my first book in print. But what's even better, and still something I find a little surreal, is seeing my characters take on a life of their own as they fly into bookstores, libraries, schools and the hearts of little readers.
This is my third stand-alone title. My stand-alone titles often explore themes relevant to our times. Green Lizards Vs Red Rectangles was my reaction to the world becoming a much smaller place and how humans from different backgrounds often struggle to share the same space. Monster in the Hood has a similar theme but focuses more on learning not to judge someone based on preconceived and ignorant notions.
The idea of Unplugged came to me when I almost walked straight into a lamppost. I was more interested in Twitter than where I was walking. I thought to myself, 'I seriously need to unplug!'.
Unplugged is my reaction to today's obsession with social media and viewing life through filtered screens. It seems that whenever I go to a concert, show or even a nightclub, people are literally viewing their experiences through tiny smartphone screens instead of actually living, which I think is quite sad. For example, just the other day I was watching a David Bowie tribute act with my Dad and noticed someone watching the entire show through her tiny little phone. Then I saw someone else doing the same thing. It was like playing spot the millennial! But why are we all so obsessed with recording moments, taking selfies (which 10 years ago would have absolutely been considered to be completely self-obsessed and narcissistic) and staying connected every waking minute of the day? Of course, all of the above relates more to adults than children, but I personally think the best stories come from real life. I have never once tested any of my books on a child. Not once. And that's not even a conscious decision. I just get lost in my own little stream of consciousness without ever feeling the need to 'test the audience' because I'm not even thinking about an audience, I'm just writing a story and enjoying the creative process. It's cathartic.
Anyway, so here we have Blip, the star of Unplugged. Blip is a She. Is this important? No. It shouldn't matter if Blip is a boy or a girl but I guarantee you that most people would make the automatic assumption that Blip is a boy. Heck, people who have read and reviewed the book have even misgendered her. Is this because all female children's characters need to have eyelashes and bows and dresses? "But how do you know Blip is a girl?", a boy asked. There's possibly a conversation to be had here (I might blog about it) and we haven't even touched on the actual theme of the story yet.
The story is ultimately about how great 'screens' are, but also how 'unplugging' is fun, too. Don't get me wrong, I love computers. When I was a kid I enjoyed playing Mario and watching my brother try to defeat the nefarious Mother Brain in Metroid.
But my fondest and most treasured memories are of building forts in the desert, walking barefoot on hot concrete in the height of summer, discovering unusual animals amongst the tumble weed, pretending to be superheroes in the back yard, inhaling fresh mountain air for the very first time before stumbling upon the most beautiful waterfall I think I've ever seen. The list could go on and on and on. I was lucky.
In Unplugged Blip lives in a black and white world of computer activities. She sees and does literally everything through a screen. She visits faraway places, listens to music, does aerobics, solves problems, plays games and so on. But one day all of this changes when there's a power cut. Blip trips over her wire, accidentally unplugging herself, and tumbles into a world of bright, fresh colours where she makes three new friends: a fawn, a duck and a bunny rabbit. The two halves of the story mirror each other, only the first half takes place in black and white pixels and the second half takes place in glorious technicolor, with friends. As with most of my books, much of the story is in the drawing. When it gets late Blip realises it's time to find her way back home. But will she plug back into her giant computer?
I recently discovered that McDonalds now have little smart tablets filled with games, so the kids can now glue their little eyes to vivid pixels, while their parents catch up on Facebook. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that's actually quite sad. I recently read an online review, possibly on Goodreads, in which someone said something along the lines of 'Get with the times. Screens are here and make life better...'. I'm badly paraphrasing, but I actually agree with the reviewer. My book is quite simply a playful reminder of all the wonders that exist just beyond the screen. I think the best childhood memories come from exploration, adventure and the great outdoors, all of which I believe are good for the soul. Computers are amazing and they've revolutionised our lives in so many brilliant ways. Smart phones, iPads and games consoles are all valuable in their own way, but childhood memories of building forts with my friends in the desert?
Priceless. I'd rather have that than an iPhone 10.
All of my picture books are first published in the UK.
Buy in the UK: Waterstones, Foyles, WHSmiths, Amazon, Hive
Buy in the States: Barnes and Noble, Amazon
Buy in Australia: Booktopia, Dymocks, Angus & Robertson
Buy in Canada, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Taiwan. For other countries, please visit your local or online bookstore.