What is your book about?
It was during my time in Paris, researching for my last book, that I had a wonderful idea..
I was sitting on my little balcony at Le Bristol Hotel (as I am their Artist in Residence) and I thought I saw a little mouse on a neighbouring rooftop scurrying across the building. I remember thinking how wonderfully chic it would be to live in Paris, even if you were only a tiny little mouse!
At this moment I realised that this needed to be the story for my first children's book. Creating a children’s book is something that I had wanted to do for years and could not find the perfect story. But this was it! A little mouse who loved fashion and had an enormous heart. She would somehow make her way to Paris and she would come across struggles and setbacks (as we all do in life) but with courage and compassion she would become the chicest mouse in Paris!
Was creativity encouraged when you were growing up?
Always, even though my parents worked in Pharmacy and more medical fields they always encouraged me to follow my heart and do what I loved. I also had very inspiring art teachers growing up. As a child I attended art class every Saturday and it was literally my favourite time of the week. Then in high school I had an amazing teacher who really pushed me to explore the possibilities of making art my career. I’m so glad she did!
Who was your favourite author as a child?
I loved so many authors but my favourite was probably Roald Dahl. His books completely made me leave reality and fall into his magical stories. HIs stories were very funny and the illustrations were so unique - I still read all his books to my own children.
How do you hope your book(s) will make your readers feel?
I wanted the reader to understand what a big heart our little Claris has. My favourite line from the story is, ‘Because nothing’s more stylish in life than compassion – it matches so well with a good dash of fashion.’ This was the most important element to this character. Her world is fashion but her courage and kindness are what set her apart from others.
What advice would you give your child-self about writing?
I would advise myself to not worry about the outcome being perfect and instead just focus on enjoying the process of writing. Failing at something is the fastest way to finally succeeding - it took me years to work this out..
What’s one book you think every Aussie kid should read before they leave primary school?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Its a simple story but has so much meaning and its the perfect parting book from primary school to high school.
What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
To enjoy the process as much as the outcome. As creatives we are often striving to get to the completed piece, whether it’s a final sketch or a finished piece of writing. I’ve learnt that the time spent dreaming, exploring, creating, and re writing is just as magical as seeing the completed works.
What is the most surprising thing (in your experience) about being an Author?
I’m always so surprised at how connected the world really is. Each year I work on a new book and then do a big world book tour around November. I am always so blown away by how so many different people connect to a single book and how much we all share as different cultures. My books are very visual and it brings me to much joy to see that in some small way one of my drawings has made someone feel good or inspired in some way. Even more so now that I have created a children’s book - I just finished my first book signing in Paris for CLARIS and it was so thrilling to see little French children coming along to tell me that they loved the book. Those moments make all the hours that I spend drawing, completely worth it!
What’s your top tip to get kids reading?
Start right from a very early age. Make it a part of their daily routine and make it fun! Ask children lots of questions about the story when they’re really little and get them involved with each story. Always take books away with you on holidays - I think this is the perfect time to get kids immersed into a book because they are out of their day-to-day rhythm and can fall completely into a book.
If I peeked into your writing room what would I see?
My writing room is my studio so it’s a very fashion related space! My desk has everything from personal embossed stationery to bunches of pink peonies and my most prized possession - my Mont Blanc pen (Monty) that I draw everything with.
What are you reading now?
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Which children’s book do you wish you’d written and why?
I love and admire so many children’s books but strangely don’t wish that I had written any of them because they’re not mine!… I have strong belief that what’s meant for you won’t pass you. That said, I’d be doing pretty well in life if I’d written Harry Potter!
What are you working on next?
I have so many plans for my little mouse! I’m planning her next adventure right now!
Claris the Chicest Mouse in Paris by Megan Hess is available now!