AUNTY ARTY AND THE DISQUIETING MUSES BY ROWENA WISEMAN
1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Aunty Arty is a series of books for junior readers who love art. Frieda’s Aunty Arty has a magical paintbrush and a sheet of round red stickers that can transport them into famous works of art. In the first book, Aunty Arty takes Frieda and her sister Mona into Georgio de Chirico’s painting ‘The Disquieting Muses’. Will they be able to save their new friend Fibula from Cupid’s lead arrow, sentencing her to a lifetime without love? The statue of Venus is suffering from lovesickness, she’s lost her common sense and her keys, but will she be able to help them?
2) What inspired you to write this book?
I work at an art gallery and I often want to know what is the story in a painting … I guess I wanted to make up what might happen if we could meet the characters in an artwork.
3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
The title ‘Aunty Arty’ popped into my head pretty much the moment I thought about writing the series.
4) Why did you pick this genre?
I’ve written adult and young adult fiction before and I was quite keen to see if I could write children’s fiction. I’ve now written three books in the Aunty Arty series and three books in another series called Astro Circus Kids (also to be published by Jet Black Publishing). I especially love writing children’s dialogue because kids can say outrageous things! Children aren’t restricted by the social norms expected of adults.
5) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
It’s the first time I’ve worked with an illustrator and I’ve been so pleased with this collaboration. I didn’t have firm ideas about how I wanted the illustrations to look. I knew Aunty Arty was a challenging series, because in each book the characters enter a new artwork – so the characters and the style of illustrations would have to work with different paintings. My illustrator, Narelda Joy, read the three books and I was happy for her to come up with the main points that she wanted to illustrate. I didn’t want to be too prescriptive and say ‘illustrate this moment’ when it was the next moment that was flashing ideas into her head. She’s a fabulous artist and I wanted to give her the freedom to work her magic. She’s added character to my characters – little touches like curly hair, red glasses and fluffy animal slippers bring Aunty Arty alive in a way that I hadn’t imagined. Aunty Arty is a series of ebooks and we’ve been able to do far more detailed colour illustrations than we would have been able to do in a printed book – and because the books are all about art this has been very important.
6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I loved Enid Blyton’s books. I still clearly remember that the Adventures of the Magic Wishing-Chair was the very first book that I read all on my own. My mother kept our original Blyton hard covers and gave them to me when I had my first child. Just the other day my sister asked if she could have our original Magic Faraway Tree copy for her daughter and my heart almost bled … I stood by my bookshelf stroking our old copy and found that I just couldn’t part with it. Ridiculously sentimental, I know. In terms of how they influenced me, I guess they are about children going on adventures, they’re good wholesome fun, they’re stories that I used to read, close my eyes and wish desperately that I had my own magic wishing-chair …
7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
The thought that what I write means something to someone out there. I’ve had a lot of people contact me about my YA novel Silver, on Wattpad, saying that they have synesthesia and how much they’ve enjoyed reading a novel where the main character has synesthesia. Or just the other day, a man in the US contacted me about my novelette Bequest where a man wants to donate his tattooed skin to a gallery. This man who emailed me worked at a museum as a curator 36 years ago and a similar thing happened to him. He was on the collections committee that had to make the decision whether to accept the donation. It’s obviously something that he’s thought a lot about since. I loved hearing his story and how it had connected with my story …
8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope that they might like to close their eyes and think about an adventure that they’d like to go on with Aunty Arty and her magical paintbrush …
9) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
In terms of writing style I adore Tatyana Tolstaya’s short stories and John Updike. Peter Carey and Raymond Carver are authors that I keep on revisiting and Émile Zola is my latest discovery. He was childhood friends with Paul Cézanne and artists are often creeping into his stories too!
10) What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a YA novel Repeat After Me about two street artists. It explores how the love interest can also be the enemy …