Saturday, 2 May 2015

Meet the creators of multi-award winning, 'Esme Dooley'

Meet the multi-award winning team, Jane Donovan and Rosie McTozy. 
Rarely have I enjoyed an interview quite as much as I enjoyed this one! It's been an absolute treat to find out more about the sisterly double-act behind this multi-award winner of a book. (See the end of the interview.)
Maybe it's because I too have a sister, Lizzie.Perhaps it's Holly and Jane's humour. 
Or it just could be that I admire the power of creativity that went into producing 'Esme Dooley'. 
The writing is wonderful and the illustrations are quite exquisite. Good on you guys!


Anyway enough from me, let me introduce you to the double-act that is Holly Thomason (Rosie McTozy) and Jane Donovan.

It always interests me to know what started you off on your writing journey. Every beginning is different!

Jane:  At age four, I learned how to print my name, and I realized it was pretty similar to my brother Jon’s name. I only needed to add an “e” at the end, plus a vertical line by the “o” to turn “Jon” into “Jane.” It wasn’t long before Jon’s toys were labelled with my name instead. (How did that happen?) At an early age, I saw the power of writing.

Holly:  In junior high, I babysat for a family with four wild boys. If I told them spooky stories, they stopped climbing out of their bedroom window to run away and steal bikes. So I made up gory tales!

Have you both always written?

Jane:  I started making handmade books when I was four. They were simple little stories, with simple little drawings. My mom encouraged me by saying, “Oh, this is good!” I suspect she was trying to keep me out of her hair because she’d add, “Make another one!” I would think, “Oh, I worked so hard on this one. And now I have to make another one?” Sometimes the books were barely eight pages long, yet I was always relieved to get to the last page, where I could finally write “The End.”

Holly:  When I was little, before I knew how to read or write, I drew pictures, and then I created dialog in scribbles that looked like writing. Of course, they really were just scribbles! Even so, I kept giving them to my mom to read, hoping she’d say I’d figured out how to write.

I've got various places I like to write, my favourite is probably in a quiet garden in summer, in the shade. Have you got a place where you write best?

Jane:  I like to write in bed, even though it makes my neck ache. Typically, I write a minute and then sleep five minutes.

Holly:  I like to write in a horizontal position, lying on the bed or floor. Sometimes this looks a lot like napping.

Okay, an unusual confession here. I'm not a great fan of ice-cream, except pistachio, have you got a special flavour?

Jane:  I don’t really like ice cream, but my husband eats some each night, so sometimes I’ll try whatever he’s eating.

Holly:  I can’t decide, so I usually mix a scoop of vanilla with a scoop of chocolate.

Best film EVER?

Jane:  That’s an impossible question! There are so many great films. I love all genres.

Holly:  I have a soft spot for “Shakespeare in Love” (1998). And if I ever walk by a screen where Fred Astaire is dancing, I’m mesmerized, and I can’t leave until he’s done.

What about your most treasured possession?

Jane:  I have many collections. My favorites are my dice, my buttons, my religious iconic figures, and my fabulous Little Kiddles collections.

Holly:  Every scrap of time. I also venerate the Oxford English Dictionary, for it holds the entire story of our magnificent language.
(I've got a giant thesaurus - same thing applies!)

I'm a bit of an animal lover, especially my cats, what about you two?

Jane:  I love elephants, but for a pet, I’d choose a dog.

Holly:  Our dog Arlo is a sweet and noble creature.

If you could choose just one book from your childhood, which one would it be?

Jane:  I adored Big Susan by Elizabeth Orton Jones and anything by Hans Christian Andersen.

Holly:  Every week, my mom went into town to the grocery store, where oddly enough, they sold the Golden Book Encyclopedia. She bought one volume every trip, so it took me a long time to get the whole alphabet. I read the volumes from cover to cover, and they carried me away from our windy prairie. For example, I still remember the day I learned about the Phoenicians, so it was a thrill, many years later, to wade into the Mediterranean Sea.

This is always an interesting one, which writers have inspired you?

Jane:  Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, Anita Brookner, Tom Robbins, the ones Holly mentioned below, and many more.

Holly:  Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Margaret Atwood, Terry Pratchett, the ones Jane mentioned above, and many more.
(I'm an immense fan of the late Terry Pratchett too, I was fortunate enough to go to a talk given by him some years ago. Our whole family went!)

What are you folks working on at present?

Jane:  Well, my cat held a pencil in her paws and drew the illustrations for our firstEsme Dooley book. So now I’m trying to get her motivated to illustrate the sequel. 
(See? I knew cats were clever.)

Holly:  Jane and I are writing a sequel to Esme Dooley, and I’m working with a friend on a nonfiction book about Space. I also have half a dozen other books that are in various stages, waiting for my attention. 
(Power to your elbow Holly. May they all be extremely successful.)

So there you go folks, you now know a little more about the brains behind 'Esme Dooley'. I hope you enjoyed getting to know them as much as I did. Thank you Holly and Jane for taking the time to drop in to my blog on this side of the Atlantic. 

Esme Dooley was a finalist in the 2013 IndieFab Awards
It received a gold medal in the 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, and a bronze medal in the 2014 Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards.

To buy Esme Dooley click here: Amazon
Go to Sky Candle Press here
Facebook click here
For the Esme Dooley Goodreads page click here 


  1. What a hoot, Holly and Jane. I bet your mom laughed herself to sleep each night reading your first books.