Me : Christine, it’s good to see you – and on such a pleasant day too. Thanks for agreeing to the interview and thanks also for bringing your books along for me to look at. The first thing that strikes me is what good quality they are. Was that something that was important to you?
Christine : Thanks and nice to see you too. Yes, it was important to me that the books looked good so I could be taken seriously when distributing them but also out of respect for the readers. To me, the presentation is as important as the message.
Me: I see that they are published by Frogillo Books. Is that an independent publishing company?
Christine : Yes, it is. I actually set up the company when I was based in London, in order to publish the books myself. The name Frogillo is a made up name from the words frog, the nickname for French in the UK and illo, short for illustration in the publishing business…
Me : I’m slightly surprised to see that they are in English. Call me unimaginative but I expected them to be in French. Why English?
Christine: I’d been living in London for 20 years already when I wrote them and the text naturally came in English. The situations are mostly inspired by my experience and perception of life as a UK resident.
Me: Any plans for a French version – they would make fabulous teaching aids for budding young French speakers (like my Granddaughter, Charlie, for example)
Christine: I would love them to be published in French, but unfortunately the French are not as open and forthcoming as other countries. Although the books have been published in the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Korea, China and Japan, France has shown no interest… I have already translated the books myself and will have to publish them myself in the same way I did the English version.
Me: OK, let’s go back a bit and look at why you decided to write this series. You were working as a graphic artist – did you write the first book during that time? What gave you the idea?
Christine: Working as a layout artist in magazine publishing for 20 years became a bit frustrating as more and more restrictions were imposed by the clients and advertisers. I began to feel the need to go back to do more creative and spontaneous work and started dabbling with old techniques and experimenting with new ones. At first I was creating abstract and conceptual images which slowly turn into childlike colourful ones. A style was starting to emerge and a portfolio of (physical and digital) images built up. I tried myself at illustrating all sorts of little interacting animals until I had enough of them to want to connect them and exploit them in a single project. The idea of a book came naturally. Living in London, a particularly busy and cosmopolitan city, I was constantly witnessing rush and incivilities and would regret the lack of manners around me. I suddenly thought one day I would use my collection of graphic little friends to remind people of basic manners.
Me: Did you try to find a publisher for your books or did you always intend to go it alone?
Christine: Even before I contacted any publishers I feared my project would be hijacked and transformed. I had become very protective of my little friends and my concept. I started to look into publishing myself and with the help of a few well documented websites I realised that it was as easy as finding a good printer. Being a graphic designer by trade, the cover and layout would be my own creation. I even created a special typeface that has now become part of the image of the publications.
Me: That must be incredibly hard work. A lot of people publish their own e-books now via Amazon and other companies but to do the whole thing yourself must have felt like a full time job.
Christine: Yes, it was hard work. I had to learn everything from negotiating printing costs with printers based in China and Russia to delivering the books to local London bookshops. The hurdles were many.
Me: Of all the steps then to successfully publishing and marketing a book, what would you say is the hardest task?
Christine: The hardest one was dealing with chain retailers which would not stock the books because I wasn’t a famous author or publisher. I discovered on this occasion that some publishing houses paid for eye catching displays in strategic spots, letting everything else fade in the background.
Me: Being involved in that whole process will, inevitably, have taught you a great deal. Would you do it all again?
Christine: Yes, because everything I learned will help me for the next ones. I won’t make the same mistakes again, I will save my energy. I also learned the tricks and will go straight to the person, at the right time of the year, using the right tools and opportunities the business offers (agents, fairs, etc.)
Me: And, looking back on the experience as a whole, what would you do differently now?
Christine: Nothing, because I didn’t know any other way at the time. It was a learning curve which I enjoyed at every step. I also feel I did it my own way and that makes the whole experience and the finished product special.
Me: I understand that you no longer work as a graphic artist so how do you earn your main salary these days?
Christine: I retrained as a fitness instructor. I needed to get out of the office environment and away from the computer screen. The job can be as creative in terms of coming up with new fitness routines and it’s also about transmitting and sharing something else I’m passionate about, health and fitness. One of the books is about fitness in fact, as I wrote it while training.
Me: Does that still leave you time to continue publicising your books?
Christine: Not much. I have a rights agent in charge of selling the rights abroad. The books have been sold and translated in Greece, The Netherlands, Italy, Korea, Japan, China. The English edition is on sale in the main UK bookshops, on Amazon, and on my website. People typing the right keywords in Google will eventually end up on one of the retailers’ websites.
Me: So, in an ideal world, where would you like to go next? Any more books on the horizon?
Christine: Yes, loads of ideas. One of them is an animal ABC boardbook. Others are bilingual French English phrase books with people characters. A picture book about how to raise the perfect puppy, a picture book about twins Tom and Rosy, and so on…
Me: Thinking about all those budding writers out there – and believe me, there are a lot of them – what is the single most important piece of advice you could give them?
Christine: Believe in yourself and keep going whatever the so called business professionals say. Rules are meant to be broken in that business more than in any others. This is what will make your books stand out of the uniform global market.
Me: I always like to end these interview sessions with a little bit of trivia. So please give me a very brief answer for each of the following:
1. Favourite children’s author
- Joan Walsh Anglund
2. Favourite author of adult fiction
- I’ll have to have a British one - Agatha Christie and a French one - Emile Zola
3. Something you regret
- I never regret anything
4. A single unfulfilled ambition
- No unfulfilled ambition. Whatever I haven't yet done is because I don't feel the need to do or because I still don't know I want to do it.
5. Something that inspires you
- The new dawn every single day.
6. Something that can make you weep tears of joy
- Nothing much, I’m afraid...
Me: Christine, it has been a delight. I wish you all the success in the world and I hope that we will all see further editions of your enchanting work.
You can see information and sales details of all Christine’s books by clicking here: