I’m so excited today! I get to introduce you to one of my favorite people on the web, Zee Southcombe.
Z.R. Southcombe is a teacher, children’s fantasy writer, surrealist painter, and all-around cool person. She is the author of recently released picture book What Stars Are Made Of and upcoming chapter book The Caretaker of Imagination.
About her books
What Stars Are Made Of was released December 17, 2014. Print will be available soon but is currently on Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords etc. as an eBook. Click on the book cover below to get a copy for your kindle.
The Caretaker of Imagination – Will be released 21 March 2015 (The Caretaker of Imagination is available now for pre-orders)
Lucy’s Story: The End of the World – Will be released July 2015
Z.R. Southcombe usually has a few creative projects on the go, including a personal blog, and is always inspired by the young people she meets in her teaching job. No matter what project she is currently working on, Zee is usually accompanied by a cup of tea.
Q & A
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
This is a two-part answer. I realised I wanted to be a writer when I was very young, probably about seven years old I think. However, I only actually decided to pursue it a couple of years ago, when I was 24.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
In terms of my writing process, perhaps my quirk is that I’m not a coffee nut but rather an *ahem* ‘tea connoisseur’.
As for my actual writing, although I write books for children, I don’t shy away from deeper ideas and themes that are usually reserved for adults. There were a few things that cropped up from my beta readers – concepts such as mindfulness, and deep loss – that were pointed out as aspects that children might not understand. There’s also a lot of big words in there (e.g. luscious, delectable, scrumptious… apparently I talk about food a lot!) but I see it as a teaching point for children.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing or drawing?
As you well know, being a writer involves a lot more than writing! I enjoy most of the other aspects of my writing life, and most of my day is doing something towards my writing career.
Outside of that completely, I play ukulele & guitar, love hiking (though I haven’t been for a while) and enjoy my teaching day job. Obviously, I enjoy reading, and a typical Saturday night is takeouts and watching some sort of Sci-Fi series with my partner.
What do you enjoy more, writing or drawing?
Yeah, no fair. Can I pass?
I enjoy them both equally, for different reasons. I find it easier to express emotion and self through my painting. I am also more practiced at painting, and therefore more confident. This makes my work more freeing.
Writing is more of a challenge, but one that I am thoroughly enjoying. I feel like I’ve had to play catch-up with you guys who have spent years knowing you wanted to write and actually doing so. I’ve devoured books and podcasts and blogs to get to a place where I can write with some confidence. One thing I enjoy more about writing is that it is more easily shared, and lends itself to a wider audience.
How did you come up with the titles of your books?
‘The Caretaker of Imagination’ is who the story is all about – he’s the man of mystery, and it simply made sense to title the book in this way.
For my wordless book, I did consider calling it ‘The Star Maker’ for this same reason, but I went with ‘What Stars Are Made Of’ because the story is not about the man who makes them, but about the fact that it is our darkness that helps us shine.
What inspired What Stars Are Made of?
The story was inspired by Roald Dahl’s ‘The BFG’ and the theme was inspired by my own journey to self-acceptance. I have spent a lot of time over the course of my life wallowing in lowness and self-pity, and I am sure that without the experience of depression, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.
I hope that this can help other people realise the beauty in themselves.
Briefly tell us what your upcoming book, The Caretaker of Imagination is about.
It’s a chapter book about a grown-up who realises his life is boring, so runs away (with his cat in tow) in search of adventure. He discovers a real, magical world and is challenged to become magic’s hero.
How would your best friend describe you?
Wise, pretty and intelligent. I don’t claim to agree with her.
What are your favorite books for a child?
Anything by Roald Dahl, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Series of Unfortunate Events and Tolkein’s ‘The Hobbit’. Also Dr Seuss, but we all know his books aren’t really for children!
What is the most shocking thing one of your students ever said/done in your classroom?
Well, the most shocking thing is something that should not be repeated. Ever.
The most personally insulting was having a child seriously not believe that I was under forty. I was twenty-four at the time. Thanks mate.
What songs best describes your work ethic?
I’ve come to realise the importance of self-belief. It is only when I believe that I am and will continue to be successful (in my own way) that I get anywhere with my writing and illustration. On that premise, it’s ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ from Disney’s ‘The Lion King’.
What do you think about when you are alone in your car?
I think the better question would be ‘what don’t you think about when you are alone in the car?’ (the answer would be ‘nothing’).
Here’s a list of the most popular thought-patterns:
• Hmmm, what can I make for dinner?
• It’s not that hard to use your indicator!
• Story ideas (I wrote the first chapter of The Caretaker in my head while on the way to work, then got there and had to write it all down before I forgot it!).
• Discussing whatever’s on my mind with the imaginary person next to me.
• I wonder if I’ve got time to stop at a café for a bit?
• Do I need to fill up petrol? Nahh…. It’ll last.
• My current WiP (in this case, nutting out ‘Lucy’s Story’ and thinking of funny things animals could be doing for my illustration job).
• Are we out of milk / eggs / bread? Oops, passed the supermarket. Too late now.