Tom Silson on When I Was a Fairy

When I was a fairy, I used to dance on daffodils.
I used to bounce on blueberries and ride on raindrops.
When I was a fairy, mountains were molehills.
Back when I was a fairy … I’d almost forgot.

Earlier this month, we released the beautiful picture book When I Was A Fairy, about magical creatures young and old, and the love between a child and their grandparent. We sat down with the author, Tom Silson, to ask about his inspiration behind the story and discover how the fairy universe inside the book came to be…

Flying Eye Books: Hi Tom! Can you tell us about how When I Was a Fairy started for you? What inspired you to start this project? 

TS: The first idea for the book actually came from my eldest daughter. We were walking through some woods close to our home and talking about what (or who) we might meet, when she suddenly pointed to a tree and said “when I was a fairy, I used to live here”. I immediately imagined an old fairy talking to a younger child recounting past adventures and thought it was something to explore further. 

FEB: The book focuses on the stories passed from grandparent to grandchild – what inspired you to highlight this relationship?

TS: Our family loves stories. Whether they be ones made up at bedtime or past tales of (mostly) misadventures from when I was a child! 

It took me by surprise just how lovely it was to see how much the children got out of spending time with their grandparents and how the grandchildren, in turn, gave their grandparents a renewed sense of energy. It also reignited stories their grandparents wanted to share (and the children wanted to listen to). 

FEB: Is there a particular message you want to teach children through When I Was a Fairy?

TS: Old people (myself included) used to have adventures and they like nothing better than being asked to talk about it!

My children ask questions (incessantly) and I am fascinated by their imagination, openness and yearning to believe in what answers they are given. I love seeing their genuine intrigue in asking their grandparents questions about what they used to be like and what they used to do. 

I wanted the book to focus on this relationship as it is something I think grandparents love about spending time with their grandchildren. 

FEB: We love the way the book is written as a rhyming poem – why did you choose to write in this style? 

TS: I have always really enjoyed reading and writing in rhyme. My Dad used to read us silly poems when I was little, and I can remember wanting to write poems at school whenever I could. This has continued as I’ve got older and whenever I have the chance to write creatively, I naturally try to find words that rhyme as this is where I feel most comfortable.

FEB: What is your favourite part of the magical fairy universe that you created? 

TS: I can vividly remember writing the verse about meandering through meadows and lazy rambles through brambles on a really sunny summer morning as I was walking our dog through a local field next to a small stream. 

My children also love picking blackberries (and then eating the crumble that follows) and seeing Ewa’s amazing picture of this captures the feel of that morning and it is one of my favourite pages in the book. 

FEB: What was it like to see your words come to life with Ewa’s illustrations?

TS: Amazing!

Ewa brought the Fairy world to life in a way I could never have imagined. She has added so many tiny details to each picture, they are fabulous. I could not have wished for better illustrations!

FEB: The physical copies of When I Was a Fairy are now out in the shops and in readers hands! What has been your favourite part about making the book?

TS: I think finally holding the book and seeing the brilliant job that Flying Eye had done to create a really magical book was so rewarding. I will always remember when my eldest daughter read the book to me and couldn’t believe the book had her name and that of her sister and brother.

FEB: Finally, do you have any advice you would like to share with writers who want to create children’s books? 

TS: Be interested in what’s going on around you. If you have the chance to speak to children, do. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. Their imagination and view of the world is unique and can be quite insightful.*

Write whatever stories come to mind. They might not always work, but if you never start them, the story will be lost.  

Finally, be brave. Believe in your story and do not be afraid to submit it for consideration. You never know what might happen……

*This may not always be the case.  

When I Was a Fairy by Tom Silson and illustrated by Ewa Poklewska-Koziello is out now!

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