Foxy Tales – The Cunning Plan
by Caryl Hart
I got my first ever picture book deal in 2008 with Hodder Children’s Books. As you can imagine I was absolutely delighted. Writing for children was a brand new career for me and one which I had very little (no) experience of. Since then I have published thirteen picture books and have another six in production.
The thing about picture books, though, is that you can really only publish around four a year before you start competing with yourself. So I’ve always been keen to write some fiction too. So when Hodder asked me if I’d like to work with Alex T. Smith on a fiction project, I jumped at the chance.
As a rule, I find it quite difficult to write stories for characters that other people have created. In fact, I’d never managed it before, so I was a little daunted. But the setting and characters that Alex had created were so strong that something in my brain just clicked and the stories began to emerge.
Foxy Tales is based on two picture books, created and written by Alex T. Smith: Egg and Catch Us If You Can-Can.
The stories centre on two characters, Foxy DuBois, a spoilt and scheming fox, and Alphonso, a rather smelly, greedy alligator. They live in a big city, a little like New York, which is largely populated by chickens. Egg and Catch Us If You Can-Can proved so popular that Hodder decided to extend the stories into an illustrated fiction series aimed at emergent readers. And they asked me to write them. So far we’ve done three stories, the first of which is called The Cunning Plan.
Foxy is on a mission to get rich quick. Only one thing stands in her way. Alphonso the alligator! Can Foxy’s hair-brained scheme make enough money to keep Alphonso fed? Or will Foxy DuBois find herself on the menu?
Writing the stories has been great fun, and a massive learning curve for me. Writing fiction is surprisingly different from writing picture books. For a start there are a lot more words! The picture books I write are typically around 800 words. And every word really does count, especially when writing in rhyme. I can spend days perfecting one verse, only to delete it the following week. It can be a real brain strain and I often feel like chucking the computer out of the window!
In contrast, the Foxy Tales stories are in the region of 4,000 words. Having more space is a great luxury, and has given me the opportunity to include more description and really develop the characters’ relationships with each other and with the rest of the characters in the stories. But writing a longer story also means you have to have more plot! The strands of the story have to fit together and you have to work hard to keep the reader’s attention.
Luckily I had some great support from my editor and from Alex, and I’m really pleased and amazed with the result! We’ve tried to include plenty of slapstick humour and ridiculous antics, so hopefully the books will appeal to boys and girls alike.
Foxy Tales, A Cunning Plan is out now.
Foxy Tales, The Road to Fame and Fortune is due out in the Autumn and the third book, The Great Escape is coming next spring.
Thank you so much Caryl!
You can see my review of Foxy Tales, A Cunning Plan, here.