This weeks Author Profile
An Interview with Caroline Brown
Author of :
Nutti the Squirrel Who Couldn’t Eat Nuts
A young squirrel is confused when he becomes sick after eating a meal with his family, in this delightful and educational picture book on the importance of understanding nut allergies.All squirrels eat nuts, but then Nutti is not your average squirrel. The lovable squirrel can’t wait to try his first nut but then disaster strikes! Nutti suddenly falls very ill and has to go and see Dr Owl. After looking at his symptoms it is revealed that Nutti is allergic to nuts! The news is a huge shock to Nutti who now believes he will never be a real squirrel like his family and friends, for surely eating nuts is what being a squirrel is all about?
Brought to life by bright and modern illustrations, Nutti the Squirrel Who Couldn’t Eat Nuts is the first in Caroline Brown’s children’s book series. Already endorsed by both national charity, Allergy UK and reviewed and given the thumbs up by Anaphylaxis Campaign it is the perfect informative, and fun, storybook for parents to read with their young children as well as for primary school teachers and extended families.
-Twenty Questions- with Caroline Brown
- Where or how did you come up with the idea for this book and series?
My son Callum back in 2010, now seven years old, was enjoying an ice-cream when he suddenly went into anaphylactic shock and was rushed to hospital where he was administered a dose of adrenalin. After a number of tests, my son was diagnosed with a tree nut and peanut allergy.
Initially I felt very confused as to why this happened and then I thought how and when do I tell him that he couldn’t eat all the things his friends ate including sharing sweets and snacks.
I hadn’t given this any thought to parenting before because my eldest son is allergy free.
Essentially, I thought how will my son cope with having an allergy and live his life like any other child without an allergy.. My fear was driven by wanting to protect him not only from the allergens but from his social environment and particularly his school life as well as play dates. Where it involves handing over the responsibility of your child’s allergens to someone else, the first thing that comes to mind is that you don’t want your child to feel indifferent and to be treated differently because he or she has an allergy. There just needs to be more education to help to remove all of these worries or concerns so that it doesn’t affect the child’s social and emotional wellbeing. I soon realised that it wasn’t just parents and adults in a position of care who needed informing but the children themselves, and their friends, in order to promote understanding and acceptance.
I decided to become proactive and sprang into action and because my work and education is focussed around children and families wellbeing I decided to create a story with this in mind based on allergies without the serious tone of the medical condition. Nutti The Squirrel was created because despite his name and his destiny defined by nature it’s ironic that he cannot eat nuts. I wanted children to be able to say and understand some of the words which they would hear relating to their allergy, such as histamine and so i decided to create words alongside illustrations inside the book and on my website to help with this.
- When you sit down to write do you have an idea where you are going or does it just happen as you’re sitting there? Or is it actually the Characters writing the story?
This is a very interesting question but I must say that I normally fall in love with the character and this develops through visualising him or her physical appearance, personality, thoughts, emotions and their relationships. Then I would think about a plot and other characters in the story and their relationship with one another and then the role they serve in the story.
3. What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
The favourite part of story is when Nutti The Squirrel feels conflicted or troubled about his identity as a squirrel when he discovers he cannot eat nuts. I think that most people can relate to this journey in their lives and the outcome is not always as you thought.
- Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The character Nutti is based loosely on my son Callum and its sad to say that there are many little Nutti’s out there but this is a feel good story and demonstrates that you shouldn’t make labels define your character or your journey in life.
- What is your favourite quote from a book of fiction?
The book is called ‘When I grow up’ and the quote that makes me chuckle is when the character Zachary says that he wants to be a magician and his mum says “oh no!” Then Zachary says “ But I’ll make you appear again, and then I’ll come back and live with you.” As parents we wish great things for our children and we hope that they make their own way in the world but all our children want to do is live with you forever. How many parents have heard their children say I want to be a doctor or teacher and I will live with you with my family! I would see this as the greatest form of expression of love because it’s a sign that you are doing your best as a parent. There is an enormous pressure for young adults to fly away from the family home as soon as they can; but in other cultures it is the norm or tradition to live with your parents into your adulthood as this is a symbol of love and respect as well as it has its practicalities as we have seen in the western world today with more people not being able to afford their own homes and the ever increasing price of child care there are two generations in a family home. So this story helps to normalise a child’s idea in an adult world.
6. On that vein who would be your favourite Author? What writers influenced you?
Maya Angelou because she was able to capture different audiences with her human spirited motivated stories and had an enormous funny element to them. My favourite books are her series called Maya’s World.
- Do you have a favourite fictional character?
It has to be Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of OZ because she is superhuman. Let’s face it who can fight a witch and mystical creatures in red shoes.
8. What five words describe you?
This is difficult one and so I asked my son and he said I am : funny, warm, encouraging, talented and a little goofy .
- What if any project are you working on now?(go ahead promote away!)
I am planning to go on a school tour with Nutti and so please get in touch if you would like Nutti to visit. I am currently developing a website called NuttiTheSquirrel.com
This websites is all about Nutti and his adventures. It has an educational element (breaking down allergy words with friendly and colourful illustrations ) to it as well along with building a helpful resource section relating allergen free food companies , information and a supportive blog.
I also spend some of my time supporting charities and voluntary organisations.
10. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
If you are writing a children’s book I believe that children are your best critiques and so I listened to them when they said that Nutti needs to be colourful and so I hope he is.
11. What has been the best compliment?
This book has been reviewed and been supported by two allergy organisations in the UK. However, the greatest compliment came from my children who said they are very proud of me.
12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Fortunately this isn’t the case but its nice to have a book that you believe that is well received.
13. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I have received great response from little ones, parents, teachers, medical professionals and allergy organisations. I hope this book appeals to everyone as this book is not only for children with allergies but also their friends.
14. What do you think makes a good story?
I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from writing but there needs to be a purpose, a direction and an idea.
15. I think I know your answer but , what’s more important to you Characters or plot?
Everybody likes a character they can relate to whether its good or dad.
16. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to bake because i find this therapeutic and I am always finding ways to come up with nut-free recipes. I love history and so it nice to visit historical and cultural places.
17. How about a snippet from your book that will hook a prospective reader and make them want to read your book.
“How can I be a Squirrel if I can’t eat nuts?” He said.
All squirrels eat nuts but then Nutti is not your average squirrel. The lovable squirrel can’t wait to try his first nut. After eating a meal with his family he discovers that he is allergic the nuts. The news is a huge blow to Nutti who now believes he will never be a real squirrel, for surely eating nuts is what being a squirrel is all about?
Can Nutti find a way to feel like a “real squirrel”?
“Nutti the Squirrel is a super little story book, showing how a young child might feel when he finds out that he is allergic to nuts. A very sensitive and ideal book for allergic children and their friends”. Lindsey McManus Deputy CEO Allergy UK
18. What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Time is important and try and write every day because practice makes perfect. Your ability to imagine and to gather creative input no matter how small. listen to critique, be open to working with an editor a good writer recognises when they need help.
19. How did you get into writing? Is this what you always wanted to do.
I have always been creative and I loved writing poems and short stories from the age of 8 and this was an interest to me and I never viewed this creative talent as a career. I knew I was a good communicator and so I Believe my best fit would be to work with people. I decided to study social work at university, then a child counselling qualification and a masters child forensic studies.
I never thought of publishing a book until I stumbled on the character called Nutti and he appeared at the right time in my life when I had time and encouragement to put my story to fruition . I decided to self-publish and the inspiration of the name came from my father who encouraged me to think without limits. So I created Oswald Publishing along with my first book Nutti the Squirrel Who Couldn’t Eat Nuts . Along with my desire to create a platform for independent authors.
20. Any last thoughts for our readers?
“Never forget the brilliance of imagination”
About the author: Caroline Brown lives in London with her two children Callum. Since graduating from Hertfordshire University with a BA in Social Work she has worked with children and families both charities and local authorities. Caroline has also completed a Child Counseling qualification and counselled children with the children’s mental health charity Place2Be and gained a MSC in Child Forensic Studies Psychology and Law. She is also an active member of a Youth Justice Referral Panel. The first in her children’s book series, Nutti the Squirrel Who Couldn’t Eat Nuts by Caroline Brown (published by 25th October 2016 by Oswald Publishing £7.99 paperback, £5.99 ebook) will be available to purchase from online retailers including Amazon.co.uk ,Amazon.com Waterstones and Foyles and to order from all good bookstores.