Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed George Strouthous, an educator in language and the creative arts and author of The Silent Giraffe, a heartning children’s picture book about self-acceptence. (Read the reveiw here ).
George Strouthous has spent the last 15 years as an educator in language and the creative arts. With experience in music, songwriting, teaching and parenting, storytelling naturally became the next step. All of George’s children’s stories are written with moral and ethical values around subjects that children sometimes find hard to grasp. Originally from the UK but now settled in France, he is busy adding to his portfolio of books. The Silent Giraffe is the first book he has released, with many more to follow.
The Silent Giraffe: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B093BZL4YK
Tell us some more about your book.
The moral of the story is about not comparing oneself to others, which I’m sure is something we’ve all done at some point in our lives.
It’s set on the Serengeti plains, and the story starts with a giraffe who begins to feel down because it doesn’t have a sound. The fact that giraffes don’t have a specific sound is factually accurate, and I think this adds more weight to the moral.
The giraffe observes other animals with their own sound, including a leopard and an eagle. It wishes that it could be like them, and as it does this, it notices its own limitations more and more.
I think it’s important to note that the giraffe not having a sound is something that the animal cannot do anything about. It’s a limitation that is beyond its control. The story has a heartwarming and uplifting end as the giraffe, the leopard, the eagle, and a wise little mouse become friends and learn important lessons.
The moral of this story has a general message about not comparing oneself to others. However, it is specifically aimed at those who have something different about them that they cannot change.
The story helps children celebrate their own and others differences while understanding the importance of using gifts and talents to help others.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I spend more time researching the topic I’m writing about than writing the story itself. This a necessary part of the process, as my books focus on moral and ethical lessons or subjects that children find difficult to grasp. I read a lot of literature on psychology, neuropsychology, and the developmental stages of children to better understand the behavioural patterns in children and why we do certain things and feel certain ways. This research gives me a clear path when writing a story, as I know what elements I need to include within a plot. It’s a lot to do, but I’m incredibly interested in these subjects anyway, and it gives me a solid foundation to build on. I’m hoping to study child psychology in the future.
After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?
Being honest and humble are the most important qualities for the editing part after completing the initial draft. I need to ask myself the question about each paragraph; Is this the absolute best I can do? Then I must be honest with my answer. I usually find that the story improves significantly after I do this.
Then I show it to close friends whom I know will give me their honest opinion. This is where I cannot let ego get in the way of listening to what they say; humility is required.
As I write children’s stories, the best judge I have is my 7-year-old son. He will tell me honestly if he likes the story or not. This is a massive help for me because I can start to see the reaction of my target audience and observe his responses as I read the story to him. He even gives me some helpful suggestions sometimes, which I have to take seriously.
If I’m happy with the work, my friends think it’s good, and my son enjoys it, I’m confident that it is ready to be published.
Is writer’s block real?
It’s definitely a real thing, and it can be very frustrating. When I was at university studying music, I started using a technique called freewriting. I write continuously for a set amount of time, 5-10 minutes is usually enough, and I pay no attention to content, spelling or grammar. I try to think as little as possible and just let my pen write words across the page. It really does work, and it has given me a hack to tap into my creative side when I feel less inspired. It’s important to realize that using the right method and practising can overcome writer’s block, and creativity doesn’t have to stop or be dependent on your mood.
What is your favorite childhood book?
When I was young, I used to love reading poetry. I have a background in music, so I think the rhythm and rhymes of these stories naturally drew me towards poetry from an early age. I remember having an old vinyl record of Albert and the Lion by Marriott Edgar, narrated by Stanley Holloway. I would listen to that all the time, following along with the text on the record sleeve. It was my first introduction to audiobooks and a big inspiration for writing in rhyme myself.
The audiobook has been a big part of the book release process. I composed original music, put in sound effects and had the text professionally narrated for The Silent Giraffe. I have two more books in this series to publish. Then I will release a limited series of audiobooks on vinyl with copies of the books, just like I used to have when I was a child. It’s a very personal investment, but I just love the idea.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, I’m working hard on the promotion of this book, and so far, it’s going really well. It’s regularly selling, and all the feedback I get is positive.
I have two more books in this series to release this year; one of them is nearly completed and ready for the illustrator to start working on. I’m looking forward to completing them and sending them over to you for your professional review.
Categories: BookView Review Interview