How to create a children's book character everyone loves

  • by Stuart French

After the formidable Mother Nature in Stu French's Remembering Mother Nature, we didn't think we could ever create a more lovable character. But then, Sharna Carter came along and did just that! Pip from our newest best-seller, Watermelon Pipis a sassy, complex, yet ultimately kind-hearted little soul who is winning hearts all over the world. 

Here's a sneak peak into how she was created as well as the noble and inspiring reasons behind the story's beautiful ending. 

PS. Are you keen for your book to be published with Ethicool, just like Sharna's? We highly recommend undertaking a manuscript assessment to give yourself the best chance. More info here.

Pip is finally here, Sharna, and we’re so excited!  Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

Sure can! I am a mum to two beautiful kids but before I had them I was a ‘mum’ to hundreds of bigger kids! Yep - I am a high school teacher and my favourite subject to teach is drama. I love to read and write (of course), but I also love to do jazz dancing. I’m not very good, but I don’t care because it keeps me fit and makes me happy. I am known as a bit of a chatterbox!

Importantly, I’m incredibly passionate about early literacy and encouraging a love of books from a young age.

I’d like to go way back now. Many authors say their inspiration to write started when they were quite young. Is there anything from your childhood that comes to mind here?

I was that child who got excited in class for silent reading time! I also enjoyed writing and one of my favourite tasks was when we were given an illustration and had to write a story about it. I think I loved the creative freedom that came with an open-ended prompt.

In Grade 6, I wrote my first ‘picture book’ for my prep buddy. I spent hours doing all the illustrations and I remember being very proud of it. I never knew I wanted to be an author, but I guess all the signs were there!

This isn’t your first children’s book, which is amazing! Can you tell us about what attracted you to the industry and why you wanted to write for children so much?

I started writing for children soon after my son was born and I discovered I had an overwhelming love for picture books. When story ideas or rhymes popped into my head they would pester me until I wrote them down. After some time I wanted to share these stories with other children and that’s when I began my journey into the Kid Lit industry.

You’re very involved in the children’s book industry! Can you tell us a bit more about your involvement and what you enjoy most about it?

I am involved in a number of online Kid Lit groups and I’ve made many wonderful connections and friendships from these. I also regularly attend conferences and workshops, as there’s always something to learn and more people to meet.

My favourite part about this industry though is when I get to connect with children. Over the last few years I have conducted author visits, which has been very rewarding, and I look forward to doing more of these with Watermelon Pip.

Is there anything that frustrates you about the industry or anything you’d like to see change?

It is a tough industry and because of this it’s very easy for aspiring authors to be taken advantage of financially, I’d really like to see that change!

When I first started writing I had no idea how hard it would be to get my stories published, but I quickly learnt lots about the industry and this kept me aware of pitfalls, including the slow and silent nature of this business. That’s something I really appreciate about Ethicool Books; there has been respectful and clear communication every step of the way.

Now to your amazing story - Watermelon Pip. How did you come up with the idea for Pip?

When I take my kids to the park on a nice day I cut up chunks of watermelon to bring as a snack.

One day, we were at the park with a group of children and they literally ran to the container and gobbled the lot.

We can just get more at the shops, right?

You see, I’ve noticed there’s a general attitude that ‘the shops’ have whatever we want, when we want it.

This moment in the park sparked the idea for the story about this topic and then I found the perfect character to help me tell it. 

Pip has already been praised for the great character development shown in the story! Can you tell us a bit more about your character development process?

I have a very gorgeous niece called Piper and her nickname is Pip. She is a strong and determined girl and I wanted to create a character that celebrated that. My niece is also sweet and thoughtful, but I couldn’t have the character being perfect from the start, she had to learn and grow throughout the story. Pip became quite ‘real’ to me during the writing process and I kept asking myself, ‘What would Pip do?’ Creating her was a lot of fun because she is a little bit sassy.

Pip also has a very special sustainability message throughout. Can you tell us what this is and why it’s important to you personally?

I have two young children and I want them and generations to come to enjoy this beautiful planet and grow up knowing how to care for it, too.

The message in Watermelon Pip is that we shouldn’t be greedy and consume more than we need, or more than we can replenish. 

It’s important to me that we are mindful of what we consume and remember that little changes can make a big difference.

And finally! A big part of Ethicool’s vision is to inspire the next generation to create change. If you could inspire the next generation of kids to do just one thing, what would it be?

To grow their own fruit and vegies! There’s so much to learn and enjoy from this experience and they taste way more delicious when you grow them yourself.

Sharna's sweet and sassy debut title, Watermelon Pip, is now available to purchase. Grab your copy here.

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