Deborah Kelly is the talented author and poet of many vibrant and engaging titles including The Bouncing Ball, Jam for Nana and Dinosaur Disco, and her most recent creation is gaining significant traction with middle-grade readers (and their parents) across the country.
Skydancer’s Escape (Book #1) introduces us to young Ruby Wishfingers’ world and takes us on a wild ride with the mischievous antics of her toy-turned-real unicorn, Skydancer. In Book #2; Toad-ally Magic! Ruby’s wishing fingers create even more havoc when she turns her bratty little cousin into a toad. See the full reviews here.
It is with huge delight to welcome Deborah to Boomerang Books to discuss her books from the wonderfully ‘magical’, creative and unputdownable series – Ruby Wishfingers.
Deborah, can you tell us how this series was created?
The name ‘Ruby Wishfingers’ literally popped into my head while I was grocery shopping with my kids at Aldi! How could I ignore an extraordinary name like that? On the drive home I started to wonder who Ruby might be. Over the weeks and months a story began to develop.
What were your inspirations and how did your ideas develop?
Like most writers I draw upon my own experiences, sometimes consciously and at other times subconsciously. There are snippets of people I know in all the Ruby characters. There is definitely a lot of me as a child in Ruby. There’s a lot of my Nana in Granny Wishfingers, too. My experiences as a mother were useful when Jellybean hit the terrible twos, too! I spent a few years in Qld so my experiences with cane toads probably inspired much of Ruby Wishfingers 2: Toad-ally Magic!
But there are other little things I didn’t realise had subconsciously crept in until family members pointed them out. Like how my grandfather used to come over from England in the summer to stay on our farm in New Zealand, and because he liked his own space we used to hire a caravan and set it up in the garden for him. As a child I had a serious addiction to strawberry jam sandwiches, so somehow that got in too!
What were your favourite books or authors to read as a child, and have any of these influenced the wondrous adventures in Ruby Wishfingers?
I loved all kinds of books as a child, but two that stood out were ‘The House that Sailed Away’ by Pat Hutchins and ‘The World around the Corner’ by Maurice Gee. I loved anything by Roald Dahl (especially The Twits) , Dick King-Smith and Judy Blume. I loved Willard Price’s ‘Adventure’ books. I loved the Narnia books. And I loved the old ‘pick-a-path’ and ‘choose your own adventure’ stories, too.
All of these books have stayed with me, so they probably have influenced my own writing!
Did you plot the whole series beforehand or have they evolved over time?
The Ruby series has absolutely evolved over time. It has been fascinating for me to watch Ruby and her world grow. One of the reasons I love writing is that I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next!
How do you ensure that each book flows smoothly from one to the next?
I work intuitively. If it feels right, I explore further, and if it doesn’t feel right I turn around and try something else. I’m not sure that’s very helpful advice, sorry! Everyone has to find their own way of working but this seems to be mine at the moment. I’m still very much a learner and perhaps with time and experience I’ll develop a more streamlined approach!
Are any of the characters based on anyone you know? Who would you say you are most like?
I do recognise a lot of myself as a child in Ruby. She’s curious, resourceful and optimistic. She tries her best to do the right thing and has a strong belief in extraordinary things, like magic. I think Ruby and I would have been great friends!
What, if any, challenges have you faced whilst producing the series?
Sometimes I have to remind myself not to overcomplicate a story by cramming in too many ideas!
What have been the most rewarding moments with creating and promoting the Ruby Wishfingers books?
The team at Wombat Books have been wonderful to work with. I am so thrilled with how the books have turned out. Seeing my characters brought to life through Leigh’s illustrations has been such a treat! I am enjoying visiting schools and libraries to talk about the series, especially when the kids are familiar with the stories and characters. I love hearing kids repeat lines or phrases from the book and hearing who their favourite characters are. And it is always exciting to spot your books in the wild-especially in the front window of a bookshop! I’ve enjoyed launches and other promotional events for the Ruby series with Newcastle Libraries, Lake Macquarie Libraries and our wonderful local bookstores Maclean’s Booksellers and Harry Hartog, all of whom continue to be hugely supportive of my work.
How have your fans taken to Ruby? Any stand out moments / responses?
I’ve had lots of lovely feedback from parents, teachers and kids about how much they are enjoying the series so far. I’ve heard a few anecdotes of staying up way past bed time because a child (and parent!) just had to find out what happened next! Seeing photos of kids dressed as Ruby for book week parades is a real thrill and I love to see children’s artwork inspired by the book, too.
The images in the books are gorgeously energetic and enchanting! What has it been like to work with illustrator, Leigh Hedstrom? Was it a collaborative process or did she have most of the creative control?
I was very happy for Leigh to let her imagination and talents run wild! I adore her work- she has captured the characters so perfectly. Leigh lives in a different state to me but we’ve chatted via email and I’d love to meet her one day!
Another exciting fast paced adventure with plenty of laughs and more than a few surprises… terrifying tyrannosaurs, turbo charged worms and giant tantrum throwing toddlers may also be involved!
How many books have you planned for this exciting series? When will they be released?
At this stage there will be five books in the Ruby Wishfingers series. The third book in the series, Ruby Wishfingers: Hide and Seek is due for release November this year. I’ll be launching it on November 12th at 2pm at Belmont Library (NSW). There will be a reading from the story, balloons, giveaways, lots of yummy treats and fun activities!
The fourth and fifth books will be released in 2017.
Fun Question! If you could wish for anything in the world, what would that be and why?
That’s a tricky one, because as we know, wishes don’t always turn out exactly how you might expect! But sometimes I wish that the world would slow down. Life has become so fast paced; we often miss the magic that is all around us.
Finally, do you have any questions or comments (or secrets) for our readers regarding your spectacular Ruby Wishfingers series?
Many of the names in the Ruby books are ‘borrowed’! I took George and Lillian Wishfingers’ names from my (past and present) dogs. Norman the goldfish has my grandfather’s name. And Ruby’s teacher, Mr Wilson, is named after one of my daughter’s favourite teachers!
Wombat Books, 2016.