Friday, 20 March 2020

Interview with Debut Children's Author Joan Haig by Joan Lennon

[I met Joan and the Tiger Skin Rug while teaching at Moniack Mhor.  I thought she had an excellent name, and the makings of an excellent novel.  And now we are working together on a non-fiction title for Templar/Bonnier, due to come out in 2021.  The 2 Joans - look out, world!] 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My parents are from Scotland, but I was born and grew up in Zambia. I’ve lived in Vanuatu, India, Nigeria and Scotland. At first, probably because of my amazing tropical-coloured childhood, I didn’t like Scotland. Now, I can’t imagine settling anywhere else. I live in a cottage on the side of a hill with my husband, two boys and two cats, and I work in Edinburgh. I feel lucky every day, even when reduced in tricky times to beans-on-crackers. 

Joan's cats inspired her to work hard

Tiger Skin Rug is your debut novel for children – tell us about it.

It’s narrated by Lal Patel, an 11-year-old boy who moves with his family from India to Scotland. At first, he is homesick and miserable – but everything changes when he and his little brother set off on an adventure with their new friend Jenny and a magical tiger with a promise to keep.

First and foremost, it’s an adventure story. It’s also about ‘home’, friendship and conservation, but I didn’t set out to write about any of those things – the plot came first and the themes surfaced along the way. Similarly with the characters, I didn’t plan to write about Hindu children for the sake of diversity; I just wrote what I knew and those are the voices that emerged and made sense for the story. That said, I do think there’s a need for children’s literature to represent more diverse backgrounds. 

Joan's boys with Tiger Skin Rug

What was your journey to publication?

I started my novel at a Moniack Mhor creative writing retreat in 2015, but as a working mum it took me till 2018 to have a full draft worthy of submission. In 2017 I sent some less worthy versions to four or five agents and received four or five rejections. When Cranachan Publishing invited manuscripts, I sent it off and luckily, there was a tiger-shaped slot in their 2020 catalogue. 

Joan lost in a labyrinth 
(or, How it feels to be a children's writer)

Your book has been out for one month. What’s been most fun?

School visits! Children are fantastic and I love their high tolerance for knowledge and nonsense. Schools are full of positive, creative energy and so far I’ve left their assembly halls with a feeling of shared enrichment (and exhaustion)(teachers are worth their weight in toilet paper*).

*Toilet paper is the new gold. 

World Book Day sighting

Joan Haig’s debut novel Tiger Skin Rug is out now with Cranachan Publishing and available at bookshops and online. She’d love you to check out her website and follow her on Instagram @joanhaigbooks and Twitter @joan_md_haig


Penny Dolan said...

What an interesting childhood to have in your memory, and to draw from, Joan Haig!

Good wishes to both Joan's titles!

Anne Booth said...

this looks great! What a lovely interview !

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks both! We're looking forward to doing school visits together!

Sue Purkiss said...

Best of luck with the new book!