Hello! Cass and I are very happy to welcome the very charming Julia B. Grantham on our blog today. Many Jane Austen fans know her as the author of the beautiful Mr Darcy’s Guide to Pemberley. She also happens to be a friend of ours. Here we are together for the paperback launch of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen in Bath!
Julia has a new children’s book called A Mole Like No Other so we thought we’d ask her a few questions about it and her process. Stay tuned below for instructions on a promotion for the book AND a giveaway!
Julia! Welcome to Tabby Cow.
[JB] Thank you very much for inviting me!
First of all, please tell us about your book!
[JB] Gosh! Where to start! My book might seem unusual for your readers, because, on the surface it is a children’s book. But, I hope, as the readers dive a little deeper, they’ll find that it is a book for adults and children to read and enjoy together.
It is a story of a toy mole, who in the beginning doesn’t even have a name. The girl, he was given to as a present, threw him under the bed with the words “an ugly old mole”. Eventually he ended up in a box of unwanted toys and spent quite a bit of time there. But, as it says on the cover, “our mole believed that there were better things in store for him and waited for them to happen.”
In a way, this very much describes the situation we’ve all in at the moment, wouldn’t you agree? Locked in our homes, hoping for the better things in our future…
Mercifully for the mole, he found a new home, new family and many new friends; and although he hadn’t ventured very far from the garden – he found plenty of adventures too! Perhaps, another lesson for us all – life is full of adventures, if we allow them to happen, even if only in our own backyard.
Interestingly, when I started writing the book nothing of this was happening in the world – no pandemic, no lockdowns – because I started it 7 years ago. But the message was the same then as it is now – stay optimistic and better things will happen to you.
What theme or message did you want to convey in your story? Why?
[JB] Apart from what I’ve said already, the main theme is, perhaps, finding your place in the world. The little mole, once he’d got his new home and a name – Moley, is very keen to be heard, to be noticed, and he makes some mistakes trying to achieve it, mainly because he is too eager to prove himself. But he is a very helpful mole, who is always the first to rush to help his friends, if they are in trouble. He gradually learns the value of teamwork, learns to rely upon his friends and believe in himself too. He actually learns a lot of important lessons in the course of the story – lessons that will be helpful to children in many tricky situations – like starting in a new school, moving home, learning new skills, looking after their personal safety and many others.
What was one of your favorite children’s books as a child? as a parent?
[JB] As a child I moved pretty quickly to books that nowadays we would call “young adult”, perhaps. I absolutely adored Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers” and read it dozens of times. Interestingly, I came to English children’s literature as an adult, reading and re-reading Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Paddington, Winnie-the-Pooh. But my absolute favourites amongst the books for children are the Harry Potter series and Watership Down. I’ve just said this and thought, that, arguably, these two are also created for adults and children alike.
What is a writing quirk you have?
[JB] I write with pen and paper. Can’t write directly into the computer. Maybe that is why it took me seven years to complete my book?
What was it like switching from a book like Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley to a children’s book? Which was more difficult?
[JB] Mr Darcy has managed to squeeze himself in the middle of Moley’s writing. So, perhaps it is fair to say that three years from Moley’s seven were dedicated to Mr Darcy. I guess, Mr Darcy is such an irresistible character that he finds the way into one’s mind, doesn’t he? Funnily, I am such a huge fan of Jane Austen in general, and Pride & Prejudice in particular (find me on facebook here and here) that lots references to P&P book and P&P95 adaptation ended up in my Moley’s book. Dedicated Janeites told me that they chuckled many a time having come across some familiar lines while reading “A Mole Like No Other”. I wonder who can spot them all?
I think, some parallels between Mr Darcy’s Guide and Moley’s book happen on a subconscious level. To start with – both books take place in beautiful English gardens, (of different sizesI need to point out) but of similar enchanting qualities. Both Mr Darcy (in the mini-series) and Moley happened to end up in a pond at one point. There is a lot of misplaced pride in my book, and plenty of misunderstandings. I guess – the books you love always influence you, even when you least expect it.
If you were a children’s book character, what character would you be (in your own book or an older classic?)
[JB] In my own book I am definitely Moley. Well, and Mummy, a little bit. Mummy is an interesting character, because, although humans don’t know about the hidden life of toys and animals in the garden, I think, Mummy knows and understands much more than she lets on.
In other books I always associate myself with characters who are loyal, bright, often with a sharp tongue, who love books and learning in general. Can you think of a couple?
What was the easiest character to create/and who was the hardest to figure out?
[JB] It all started with Moley, so he was, perhaps, the easiest. Even though he is the most complex one in the book. You see, all the toys and animals, who I describe in the book, are real: Moley, Owlie, the dogs, the dinosaurs, the ducks, even Gordon – the limping pigeon. So, it was easy to write about them, because I knew them so well. Humans were more difficult, because I didn’t want to base them on our family. But, luckily, the humans don’t participate in the story that much.
I must mention also my wonderful illustrator. You can’t imagine how difficult it is to find the illustrator that is “just right”. It took me a long time – but I’ve found the amazing Carol Wellart. She loves painting nature and animals and I was sending her hundreds of photographs of the toys, animals, our garden, the pond – everything. And she’s created the pictures that fit the story perfectly and ring true to me every time. It was a very happy collaboration of like-minded people.
Where can we order a copy?
[JB] It is on Amazon WORLDWIDE. I love the fact that this way the book can reach every corner of the globe. At least – that is how I imagine it.
Currently it is on special offer – only £4.99 in the UK, or $7.50 in the US in large paperback format. The prices are adjusted accordingly in other countries.
For this blog appearance I’ve created a special Kindle promotion – get it FREE – expires in 2 days. (So that is the 25th and the 26th only friends!)
It is very easy to find – just search for Julia B. Grantham
Thank you Julia, that was awesome. I think I need to know more about Gordon, the limping pigeon!!! We’re so excited for you and can’t wait to see where Moley takes you!
Finally, we are delighted to announce that Julia is offering a giveaway of the physical book here to our Tabby Cow readers! One lucky commenter will receive A Mole Like No Other (the contest is open internationally)! To enter*, please comment with the answer to this question: If you were a children’s book character, what character would you be?
*Entries must be made before midnight GMT on March 2nd. The drawing will be done on March 2nd and the winner announced shortly after! If the prize is not claimed within 5 days, a new name will be drawn.