It’s 1st June and the start of Pride Month – a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. I will be featuring some brilliant picture books with LGBTQ+ themes in June, and I’m delighted to kick off this month by interviewing Gareth Peter, the author of the newly released picture book, My Daddies, that has been beautifully illustrated by Garry Parsons.
My Daddies is a funny, heartfelt picture-book celebrating same-sex parents and shared story time, perfect for introducing children to the different kinds of family in the world today.
Hi Gareth, it’s lovely to be chatting with you. First could tell us a bit about your debut picture book My Daddies?
My Daddies is a colorful and entertaining picture book about an adventurous family, that loves reading. I hope it’s a moving and magical exploration of adoption. It’s centers on a little girl’s adventures with her two daddies and lets the reader set off on a series of epic adventures.
I feel it’s a celebration of love, imagination and the power of storytelling, perfect for introducing children to different kinds of families. It’s also one of the first UK books to be written and illustrated by same sex parents. I am really proud of it.
Could you tell us a little bit about your path to publication and Penguin’s WriteNow scheme?
I initially wrote the story for my own son’s. It wasn’t intended to be published. But when I gave it to some friends, their response made me think again.
I was then lucky to have two amazing things happen… at the same time. One, was getting accepted onto the WriteNow scheme and the other was finding a wonderful agent. It all happened so quickly and thankfully in harmony. Both gave me the opportunity to work on my writing and shape my texts into something publishable.
WriteNow was great as I got to work with an awesome editor. It’s amazing that a huge publisher is actually seeking underrepresented voices. I felt very lucky to be a part of it and my dreams came true when they asked to publish my debut book. We all then worked on the text before asking the amazing Garry Parsons to illustrate it.
Did you always want to write children’s books?
I have always written or told stories in some form. It’s part of who I am. But when I was about 21, I tried writing a Middle Grade book. Sadly, I didn’t finish it, but I did turn it into a musical. Years later, I attended a children’s writing course to help reignite my passion for this genre. But what actually happened… changed my life. Part of the course was about picture books, and that was my Eureka moment. I felt that I could do it. And that night, I started writing… and I haven’t looked back.
You also write music, how is this different from writing a book?
When I compose music, I try to evoke a story or a feeling and that’s exactly what I do when I write picture books. I have an idea or a theme or a journey that I want to explore, and I shape the story accordingly. It’s quite a fun process, but there’s a big element of trial and error. A great deal of what I create isn’t right, but you have to find what doesn’t work, before you find what does. Picture Books aren’t created in a day, they take months to shape… even though they seem so simple.
Here’s a tip also…. If I write in rhyme, I tend to sing my texts to check whether the beats hit correctly.
Why was writing an inclusive story important to you?
I feel every family has the right to see themselves represented in the media. And that’s the same for books too. It’s incredibly empowering for children to see others like them achieving, or being happy or tackling problems. It gives them confidence. It gives them understanding and it helps them know that it’s ok to be themselves. There aren’t as many books that feature LGBTQ+ parents, and so I have a duty to bring my experience into the stories I write. I just hope they are widely shared and enjoyed. Fingers crossed.
What do you hope readers will take away from My Daddies?
My hope is that readers will fall in love with this book. I hope they will see their family within it, regardless of the dynamic. It’s a simple exploration of love and the power of reading… things we can all understand. But my main hope is that it will bring more acceptance for LGBTQ+ and blended families.
Love is love at the end of the day.
Finally, what advice would you give to a picture book writer trying to get published?
Read, read and read as much as you can. Research the market and learn what type of books are coming out, but most importantly… write. Get your words and ideas down, and don’t give up. Some stories work straight away, some take a while to get right. But once you have a finished story, then you can edit and shape it. Good stories are made great this way. There are no bad ideas, just unfinished ideas.
Thank you so much for chatting with me!
My pleasure 🙂
My Daddies was published by Puffin, 1 April 2021