Q & A with Jane Hissey – Happy Birthday Old Bear blog tour

Welcome to our stop on the Happy Birthday Old Bear blog tour. Old Bear was originally published 30 years ago and to celebrate this big birthday Jane Hissey has written a new story – Happy Birthday Old Bear. You can read our review of this gorgeous new book here.

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I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of this, I adored Jane Hissey’s books when I was younger and actually did a little squeal of excitement when my copy of the book arrived!

We are hosting a Q & A session with Jane for our blog tour stop and who better to think of the questions than children who are enjoying her stories today. After a lovely story time with 60 or so Year 2 children at the school I work in I set them the task of thinking of questions to ask Jane. I was so impressed, they came up with so many questions! Here’s a selection of them that we put to Jane along with her answers:

1. How long does it take to write and illustrate a book?

It always takes me about a year to do a book; 3 months to get the story right and to plan what will go on each page and the rest of the year to do the illustrations. Most of my books are 32 pages so that means at least 32 illustrations plus the cover and the endpapers. I use coloured pencils to do my drawings and you can’t cover the paper very quickly with those!

2. A few of the children suggested potential new characters, these included a magical unicorn and a squid called Inky. We wondered if there are any animals you find tricky to draw?

I nearly did a book about a unicorn once and I still think it’s a nice idea. I would have to make one first though because I always work from real toys and I don’t have a toy unicorn. I also thought of doing an underwater story with toy fish, an octopus and crabs but decided I would have to make all those too and they are not as cuddly as the toys I use. I did put a mer-mouse in my book ‘Ruby Blue and Blanket’ and that book also has a horse dressing up as a unicorn!

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I don’t think there are many animals that I have found tricky to draw but very fluffy characters take a long time because I have to draw all the fluff.

3. What are your top 5 favourite children’s books?

When I was a child I loved the Arthur Ransome books and the ‘Adventure’ books by Enid Blyton (The Valley of Adventure, The Mountain of Adventure etc) When my children were little we loved reading ‘The Faraway Tree’ and ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ together and all the Roald Dahl books.

4. Why did you decide to write children’s books and do you prefer writing or illustrating?

I went to art college to study design and illustration and then I trained to be an art teacher. I loved that, but I was always so busy that I didn’t have much time to do my own work. Then a publisher saw some of the drawings I had done in the summer holiday and asked me if I would like to illustrate a book, I asked if I could write the story too so I could put fun things into the story that I wanted to draw. And that is how the ‘Old Bear’ books began. I chose the characters and wrote the stories then I drew the pictures. I think I still love the drawing part best even though it takes the most time. I find drawing is very relaxing and I can even do it when I am tired after a busy day.

5. Where do you write your books?

When I am trying to think of an idea I like working on long train journeys. I find I can concentrate best when there are people around but they are not actually talking to me. That’s a bit like at school when all the children are busy working on their own work but not distracting each other. At home I have a studio where I do my work. That is perfect for the drawing part (when I can have the radio on for company) but it’s a bit too quiet for writing so sometimes I write in the garden with the cat.

6. Did you like writing and drawing when you were a child?

I loved writing and drawing when I was a child and I did it all the time but I wasn’t especially good at either. I don’t think that matters when you are young, it’s most important to just enjoy it. Since then I have had lots and lots of practice and when you write or draw for many hours every day for years and years, you get much better at it, thank goodness!

They were all very interested in how Old Bear would be celebrating his birthday (cakes and trampoline parties were suggested) but a lot of the children also asked about your birthday so our last question is:

7. How do you like to celebrate your birthday?

As Old Bear was given to me when I was born, we share a birthday, so when I was little we went on picnics and outings together. Now he usually stays at home (because he’s getting a bit worn out) but I like to go out somewhere special as a treat and my favourite treat is still a picnic. My birthday is at the beginning of September so usually the weather is nice and we can go to the sea-side or to see some friends. You will have noticed that I have cakes in lots of my books so of course I couldn’t have a birthday without a birthday cake.

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Thank you so much to Jane for taking the time to answer our questions and I must say that a birthday by the seaside with plenty of cake sounds like a lovely day to me. Some good advice for the children at school on how best to concentrate on their work too!

If you’d like to know more about the Old Bear stories then please visit some of my fellow bloggers pages from the blog tour this week:

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You can find out more about Jane and her stories on her website here.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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13 thoughts on “Q & A with Jane Hissey – Happy Birthday Old Bear blog tour

  1. Such an interesting interview. I love those books and so it’s great to hear from the author and illustrator herself. Alison x #KCACOLS

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this interview! I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, maybe on day I will! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS, hope you can come back again Sunday after next x

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