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Book of the Year - Winners Interview

Read the full interview here...

Although we received many amazing entries for our book of the year award, there was always one story that stood out as a clear favourite and captured all our hearts. That is the wonderfully magical Adventures of Poppy and Lord Ted.

It is a heartwarming read, capturing the special relationship between a young girl called Poppy and a magical teddy bear, Lord Ted. The two go on many adventures together, some of which are quite extraordinary.

Here at The Golden Wizard, we truly believe it has the potential to become a global phenomenon and capture the hearts and imaginations of millions of children.

We were lucky enough to catch up with the author and ask him some questions.

Congratulations on winning the Golden Wizard Award for the Best Book of the Year 2022!

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing children's books?

I’m 60 in January, a milestone which in my mind is a privilege that not all get to. I live in Derbyshire, UK, with my amazing partner Rachel, and we are due to marry in May after many years together. I have 3 sons and 4 grandchildren. I never intended or set out to become a children’s author until I had the inspiration to do so; and that’s our grandchildren. March 2020 came, and the world changed with the onset of Covid and the inevitable lockdowns we all experienced meaning we could not see friends and family. Life became different for us all. I decided to use the time to write a little adventure story for my eldest grandchild, Poppy, who at that time was starting to learn to read.

How did you come up with the idea for this book series?

It really was as simple as that – Covid was my reason, our grandchildren the inspiration. It’s wonderful to hear so many good things that came out of such tragic circumstances as Covid. My original intention was to write just 10 pages or so, a little adventure we could enjoy together on a page, which I could then email to my son for Poppy to read or use as a bedtime story. The writing got a little out of hand…

Where did you get the inspiration for Lord Ted from?

Lord Ted is real; he sits proudly in his rightful place, on our bed, at home, in Derbyshire, just as he does the story. Poppy believes in fairies of course so they are part of the story but above all else I wanted to bring fantasy together with realism and be able to create a children’s story that embraces family fun and adventure, underpinned by the core values of responsibility, love, kindness, honesty, and respect.

I saw Poppy pick up Lord Ted and speak to him once, so it all started from there.

What is your favourite adventure that Poppy and Lord Ted go on together?

For me it was about writing little adventures within the story that children can relate too, things that have happened, things I’ve experienced or could imagine, making it easier for me to explain for the reader to use their own imagination. I love all the little experiences Poppy and Lord Ted share but having a very exclusive dinner with the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, now the Prince and Princess of Wales of course, stands out. It was such fun creating the atmosphere and feelings and bringing them to life on a page. And the ‘royal wedding’ too – there are so many to choose from – from flying a plane and driving a boat to starting at a new school and having the future king and queen for Christmas dinner but none of it could happen without Lord Ted and the ‘crooked door’ of course.

What do you love most about writing stories for children and do you have any advice for other writers?

I had two conflicting pieces of advice when I started this experience. Firstly, it was suggested that I read lots of other children’s books to get an idea of what children are reading. The second piece of advice was to not read any other children’s books at all.

My advice is go with what’s in your head and love what you write. If you love it, others will too.

I wanted to create a story that would allow children (and adults too I may add) to use their imagination. On my school visits, which have been an unexpected joy in my life, we talk to the children about how powerful imaginations can be and my word, do they have imaginations. I set a competition for the second book for children to create a new character and was astounded by the number and quality of entries. The two winners have their characters in ‘The Return of Saint Nick’ and the difference it has made to them is indescribable.

You kindly chose to donate your prize money for our Book of the Year Award to the Book Trust, an organisation that promotes children's literacy. What made you choose this particular children’s charity?

One of the most incredible experiences with this whole new part of my life is visiting schools; the opportunity for children to meet and quiz an author has been a great addition to the school day and gets the children buzzing about books. I’ve been overwhelmed by the feedback from children, teachers, and parents to the difference I’ve made, and this makes me extremely proud. However, in the UK, one-third of children do not own books and in the United States, two-thirds of children living in poverty do not own books.

As part of my work with UK primary schools I’ve been stunned at the lack of funding they receive; many are trying to create libraries and reading environments but with limited resources. I reached out to my local community to help a few schools along the way and have now donated over £30,000 worth of books to support this critical part of a child’s education. So, donating to the BookTrust Christmas Appeal, who are sending books to children in care via foodbanks and other community organisations, is just an extension of what we are trying to achieve.

Finally, what everyone wants to know: What’s next for Poppy and Lord Ted? We want to continue with our school visits. I say ‘our’ because Lord Ted joins me too and the children adore him – we even had a competition at a school recently to design a new Christmas outfit for him! I’d like to work with organisations like The BookTrust and Golden Wizard Book Prize to find a way to create more reading opportunities for children. I have in mind further adventures in the series, but I need to get more traction with the first two books towards becoming a ‘global phenomenon’ before I put pen to paper. For now, I’m enjoying the fact I’ve won the Golden Wizard Award for the Best Book of the Year 2022 which has made, along with my schoolwork, everything worthwhile, so thank you! To find out more about the author and to purchase the winning titles check out his website.

©The Golden Wizard Book Prize

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