A few years ago, at an exercise class, I met a lady called Samantha Turnbull who had just scored a contract to write four children’s books with Allen & Unwin. It was a dream come true, she told me.
I started following Samantha on Facebook, and caught up with her a few times in person. It’s been so exciting to watch her publishing journey unravel.
Just a few weeks ago, I went to the Anti-Princess Club book launch in Byron Bay. The bookshop was packed to the rafters! Since, Samantha’s been doing school visits, festivals and has even been interviewed on Mornings about her books.
My five year old daughter is loving The Anti-Princess Club. She incorporates the characters into her games, and has started to process some of the ideas posed in the books.
So of all the creative people I know, I had to interview Samantha for the Creative People series.
Hi Samantha. Your books are selling well, and from what I have seen online, you’ve had some great feedback. How does it feel to be a published author?
It feels wonderful. It’s funny, there are so many hurdles with each stage of the process – finishing the manuscript, editing the manuscript, submitting to publisher, editing again, etc etc. When the books finally hit the shelves I had a little panic thinking ‘what if no one likes them?’ But that seems to be fading as positive feedback flows in!
Can you tell us a bit about your books? What is the Anti-Princess Club?
It’s a four-book series aimed at 7-10-year-olds. The series centres around four best friends and each book is told through the eyes of a different friend. In the first book, the girls form a club called The Anti-Princess Club in response to being fed up with the adults in their lives treating them like princesses. Their motto is ‘we don’t need rescuing.’
The club then expands to include hundreds of members who are all sick of being treated like princesses, or at least being boxed into ‘girly’ stereotypes.
What inspired you to write this series?
I wanted to help redefine what it means to be ‘girly.’ I don’t think femininity only comes in one pink, glittery, princessy package.
Specifically, I was inspired to write the series when my daughter was bombarded with princess gifts as a baby. Then when she was about a month old we went looking in a local department store where the children’s books were divided into ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ sections. In the girls’ section, there was not a single book that didn’t feature a princess or a fairy, and that was the moment I decided to write ‘anti-princess’ books.
My books are now on that department store’s shelf, which was a major buzz to see.
So you are a mum of two young children. You’re a journalist. And somehow you managed to write four books for children. As a busy mum myself, I am wondering how you achieved such a feat! Can you tell us how you managed your time?
I wrote the first book when I was on maternity leave with my daughter – who happened to be a dream baby. She slept a lot, and so it was quite easy to write the first manuscript.
Fast-forward to when I got my publishing contract and was asked to write three more books, and I had a second baby. My son was a very tough bubba who didn’t sleep at all and experienced a lot of illness early on, so it was a very challenging time trying to get those last three books done.
I wrote in the middle of the night mostly, which was hard, but worth it because when it comes down to it, I just love writing.
What’s the hardest things about balancing your creative pursuits with your family life?
Guilt. No matter what I do I feel guilty about neglecting something. If I’m playing with the kids I feel bad about not being productive enough with writing, if I’m writing a lot I feel bad about not spending enough time with the kids, and I ALWAYS feel inadequate as a housekeeper.
And what’s the best thing?
Despite the guilt and the sleeplessness, I feel very lucky. Being a parent and a published author are two life-long dreams I’ve fulfilled, and that’s very satisfying.
What inspires you, generally speaking?
Beautiful language, heartfelt performance poetry, my hometown (Byron Bay), art galleries, travelling, and I’m hugely inspired by single parents – especially single parents who pull-off fulfilling careers on top of parenting – they’re my heroes!
Can you tell us what is next for you, creatively?
I’m working on some new kids’ novels, visiting schools where I’ll be running creative writing workshops, and performing at some upcoming poetry slams.