As 2017 kicks off we are delighted to have International award-winning children’s author CL Bennett, creator of the ‘Bugglepuff’ series with Lulu publishing, join us for an author interview.
CL Bennett has already sold 1000’s of books online, gone on UK book tours, and started Bugglepuff Fun Days. A way to engage kids in 100’s of schools and libraries. She also made audio recordings of her books with the famous actor Brian Blessed OBE. Finally, CL Bennett won children’s books awards in both the USA and Europe.
Bugglepuffs And The Magic Key
Jungle bedrooms, pirate treasure maps, a chocolate bath, little people with flying boots, a crazy parrot and a Magic Key can all be found in the first of a series of books about the Bugglepuff family. Captain Bugglepuff, his mad wife Delirious and their four rascally children Anenome, Compass, Rocky and Seasea live a haphazard day to day family life in the little English fishing port of Brixham, Devon, until the arrival of a mysterious crisp white letter in the post. Nothing in the Bugglepuff’s lives after this letter will ever be the same again.
Why did you start to write?
My family was the inspiration behind my award-winning book series ‘Bugglepuffs and the Magic Key’ and newly published through Lulu, ‘Bugglepuffs and the Magic Quest – PART 1’. My four hilarious children’s day to day dramas growing up gave me so many scrumptious stories, that after several years and a lot of persuasion from friends and family I felt it was time to put pen to paper and bring them to life in an animated adventure.
It’s the drama and excitement I can create as an author putting my family into the world of the Bugglepuffs which is an absolute joy and delight. What will they do next? Who will play the lead role? Sometimes if one of my children does something naughty at home I make them do something terribly silly in the book to make me laugh!
What inspired you to write a children’s book in particular?
The natural choice was to write a children’s book that my own children could read for six to eleven-year-old boys and girls. But I think the whole family would enjoy the series and can laugh at the Bugglepuff family’s daily chaos and sometimes the dream of escaping to a new life full of magic and wonder! Heartily I wanted to write books to create tremendous worldwide fun and to send sparkles into the imaginations of children. If I can achieve a sprinkling of this, that would be gloriously special!
Where did the tremendous word ‘Bugglepuffs’ come from?
I was travelling home from school with the children last spring and I said to them, “Well if I’m going to write a book I need a name for the family. Our surname is Bennett so I think it should start with a B.” “a B,” they all said then ‘splat’ a bug hit our windscreen. ‘Bug,’ shouted my youngest son, they all laughed, followed by my oldest daughter replying, ‘Buggle’ and then my youngest daughter roared with giggles and screamed, “puff, puff puff.” At that moment, I nearly went into the hedge as I realised the animated family name had been born. That was the start of the ‘Bugglepuffs.
We hear that the character ‘Delirious Bugglepuff’ is based on yourself? What is the silliest thing that has ever happened to you?
Well there are many silly moments but I guess probably the funniest was when my kids were very young. I was very tired with sleepless nights and crying babies and I was ferociously late for school. I’d been folding up the washing and then raced out the door with pram in toe and whizzed up to school. I got to school with five minutes’ spare in a frazzled state but happy I’d made it on time. Suddenly I heard a laugh, followed by another laugh and another and I didn’t know what my friends were pointing at.
I looked around then realised they were pointing at me, at my hair. In my rush to get to school I had left a fresh pair of twizzled up knickers in my hair. It was my most deliriously silly moment as a mum to date but one I’ll always happily remember and giggle about!
What makes creative writing so exciting for you and what else inspires you?
Oh, where to begin with this one! Creative writing is like having a canvas in front of me and putting hundreds of colours together through writing. My pen is like a paint brush. I want every child and every adult to see, touch, hear, smell and taste the magical world of the Bugglepuffs and travel excitedly on the adventure series with me.
Children are my inspiration and not in a corny way. They have the most sharp, unreserved minds and come out with such genuine and inspiring suggestions when you least expect it! This has led me to starting ‘Bugglepuff Fun Days’ in primary schools and it’s been like sitting in a bath of delicious ice cream! I love animating the children with creative writing, the joy of reading and the delights of dream bedrooms and chocolate doors. Taking their minds into a world of adventure is so much fun! For older children, I talk about my writing and publishing experiences so far, and in return the children ask me brilliant questions about what it’s like being an author and creating the Bugglepuffs. Fun is not enough of a word it should be ‘Fundeliciouslywonderfullystupendous!’
Why did you choose self-publishing instead of a traditional publisher?
It took me six months to write the first book and when I got to the end of my scribbled pages, I sat there with an enormous pile of papers and wondered what do I do next? If I want it to be presented in the best possible way, then maybe I should create a finished book. I still had a long way to go developing the characters, bringing them to life through illustrations, and putting the series together from hundreds of muddled up pages so I decided to work with an indie-publishing company to bring the ‘Bugglepuffs and the Magic Key’ to life.
What made you decide to indie-publish? Did you enjoy the process?
Publishing a book is very hard work and I now hold great respect for traditional publishing houses and the process a book goes through from a manuscript to the finished book on a shop shelf. I naively thought it was easy – not! To create twenty-four illustrations for the book I had to go into exquisite details to help animate the Bugglepuff characters. My husband and I managed to miss this fun but my children very kindly dressed up as the Bugglepuff children with their own pets from the book and acted out silly Bugglepuff poses until I got the right photos for the first illustrations!
This was a lot of chaos, chasing chickens around the garden and getting our pig to carry a basket without eating it, was tremendously entertaining. Then I had to sketch out the basic illustrations, with other pictures and wait and wait and wait some more. When I got the first email saying the first few illustrations were ready to view I was so deliriously excited I nearly cried, in fact I think I did. The illustrator at Lulu captured my family and their personalities. I chose black and white sketches for the interior because I love the simplicity of them and they’re so deliciously crisp and timeless.
The editing process was a long, complicated and sometimes frustrating time but I was well supported throughout by Lulu Publishing. It took eight months from August 2013 to April 2014 to complete but I know it was all worth it when I finally got to hold my first ‘Bugglepuff and the Magic Key’ on the 10th April 2014 – my animated family was in print – yippee!
As an author is your job done after you finish the book?
Goodness me no. There is a slight breather when you feel complete holding the first copy of your first book. A sparkle of pride and something inside shouts, “YES!” but then the hard work really starts. Some writers write for the sheer personal pleasure but if you want to reach a wider audience you must look at the readers your targeting. Their age, interests and social media is a massive portal to share your book all over the world. Make sure your up to speed or have an indie-publisher like Lulu on hand to give you marketing guidance. Share the book in the local community and shops.
The stigma that used to go with a self-published book in the retail world is getting less biased. If your books are good enough and they catch a retailer’s eye you may be able to launch your book in a bookshop. Online booksellers, including Lulu’s own online shop, are very fast to deliver your books whether you live in China, Europe or the US.
To be a successful and happy writer you need to be able to have a passion for writing, marketing and understand that it takes time and patience to get people to turn the pages of your books. But if you believe in your books worth then so may many other readers – good luck!
Do you suffer with ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it?
Writer’s block for me only came with lack of time in the day to write between juggling everything else. If I felt I needed inspiration I would go for a walk by the sea. I always carry a camera with me to take photos of scenery, a crooked doorway, a curious animal or the ever-changing colours in the sky. Never miss an opportunity to write if an idea pops into your head so always carry a pen and paper to capture that spark. Ideas when they are fresh are the most original and alive in a writer’s imagination.