I’m pleased that my chapter book for children, Professor Hallux and the Lalalas has finally made it into the world. It’s been a long journey and one which has taught me an awful lot about writing.
Yonks and yonks ago I devised the characters of Professor Hallux for Fun Kids. We wanted a character who could explain science and medical matters to our young listeners. Originally the boss suggested he could be a stereotypical dotty old professor but I suggested someone more like Doctor Who – younger, and more unhinged. I also added a sidekick pink robot Nurse Nanobot, who I’ve been changing to plain Nanobot over the years – a girlie sidekick is, after all, rather sexist, and that she’s a subordinate makes it worse. (In my defence I’ve invented a county shit ton of female science characters: Techno Mum, Amy Aviation, Marina Venturer, K-Mistry Chemistry Superhero to name a few).
So there he was, and I wrote dozens and dozens of scripts for him to explain all sorts of things from vaccinations to why we have belly buttons. I still do. He’s got his own YouTube channel where Fun Kids visualise the scripts and you can listen to lots of the episodes for free on iTunes (just do a search on Hallux).
Chickenshed Children’s Theatre even wrote a stage play based on the characters and it was staged in London. Attending with my sons and my parents was a very proud moment.
2008 came and so did NaNoWriMo. If you’re not aware of this, it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I’ve done it three times in total and enjoyed the challenge. In that year I asked Fun Kids if I could use the characters of Hallux and Nanobot to write a longer story. They said that was fine so off I went. I wrote the book.
It sat on my hard drive for a couple of years because it’s a pain in the arse to sell children’s books to publishers at the best of times and I was more interested in my grown up projects. The e-book revolution started to gather pace and I began to toy with the idea of self-publishing. It just seemed to save so much time – (one agent sat on the Challah Tin for TWENTY MONTHS before rejecting it). I was fully aware that even with a book deal I was unlikely to become an instant millionaire, so didn’t care about missing out on advances or even worried about making money – this just seemed to cut through the crap and set the book free.
The company behind Fun Kids gamely agreed that I could publish it, with the appropriate acknowledgements, and even suggested they take it in house to publish it. I know some cool writers and Paige agreed to proof it for me in exchange for a bottle of wine. I was excited.
Insert tumbleweed here. The short version is that until comparatively recently it was a devilish job to figure out how to get an e-book uploaded which worked on all readers, and which looked nice and properly formatted and basically didn’t suck. Or to do all that without sticking pens in your own eyes out of frustration. A version limped into the world on Amazon but sadly it sucked because it wouldn’t display correctly in e-readers. It gained a one-star review based on the sucky formatting, which made me wince every time I saw it. Not unlike the formatting itself.
The existence of The Version Which Sucked was a constant source of disappointment for me but I’d tried to get e-books uploaded before and hadn’t been able to fathom it all out so its not like I could do any better.
Thankfully – did I mention I know some really cool writers? – and one of them had recently asked me to beta read his co-written book all about… how to publish an e-book. (He’s planning his own launch at the moment so I’ll write more about that when it’s out in the world).
It gave me the confidence to take back control back of the manuscript and in three days, using his beta version as my bible, whipped it into shape. I barely ate, I barely left my room and my confused children wondered if their mother had gone insane. And when dinner was going to be.
As the stars aligned and the book began to leap through the aggregator channels, I bought some ISBN numbers and created my own imprint. This means that I can publish more of my own books – or other people’s – with relative ease and bring them out into the world under the same umbrella.
The version online was deleted out of existence and the new, properly formatted version was uploaded. Luke, my writing wing-man of many years and a talented graphic designer put together wrap-around cover artwork and a paperback version will be available very soon – as I’m just working through the proof copy.
So I got there in the end and the sense of satisfaction is off the scale. As I said to a friend – “this is what happy feels like” – to know that I have produced a book and made it available to buy – and it’s a good book! I’m proud of it!
Professor Hallux and the Lalalas is available to buy at the following stores: