Critter Lit

Write. Draw. Read. Repeat.

Interview with Debut Author Özgen Halil

Authors, debut interview, publishingLindsay Ward1 Comment

Happy Thursday Critters! Today we have debut author Özgen Halil, who recently self-published her first book, HENRIETTA HEN IN TROUBLE AGAIN. I’m thrilled to have Özgen with us today to offer some insight into the self-publish side of publishing and what that process looks like. So without further ado…please welcome Özgen Halil!

Ozgen Website Photo.jpg

Where do you live?

I now live in a village called Weavering in Maidstone which is in Kent (The Garden Of England) in the UK. We moved here just over a year ago but mostly I have lived in South East London/UK and spent a couple of years in Sydney Australia when I was a child.

Özgen with her brother— circa 1970s

Özgen with her brother— circa 1970s

When did you know you wanted to write picture books? 

I always loved writing a story, whether it was at school or just at home - I love being creative. My first memory of that was when I around 6 years old and I remember writing a really funny story about my brother with illustrations just to make him laugh. As children, we were really close and still are as adults. It’s always been on my mind to do this but it wasn’t until last year that I had the opportunity to finally put things into action and I wrote Henrietta Hen In Trouble Again.  

Illustration from HENRIETTA HEN IN TROUBLE AGAIN written by Özgen Halil, Illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills

Illustration from HENRIETTA HEN IN TROUBLE AGAIN written by Özgen Halil, Illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills

Can you tell us more about your decision to self-publish and what that process has looked like for you?

Honestly, I don’t think that I actually sat down and thought about which route I should go in. It just felt natural for me to do it myself. As a person, I have always been very independent from a young age and my attitude in life has always been “If you want something - YOU have to go out there and get it!” I am a real grafter and always work hard and do my best. Besides, I don’t think I would know where to start to get a publisher.

Can you share a bit about your process?

My instinct was to go on a self-publishing course to see what the process would be. Apart from writing the story, I had to find the right illustrator for the book (my own illustration abilities are work-in-progress) so that took a little bit of time searching and speaking to various illustrators. Once I instructed my illustrator (Sarah-Leigh Wills - who did such an amazing job with the illustrations), I then searched and found printers and got together a launch team in readiness of the release and in between, I got my website together and social media accounts set up. Each step of the way has been very important and at times quite hard and now that the book is ready, I have my marketing hat on, to the next level of promoting the book, getting the story out there and scheduling school and library visits. It's full on.

Illustration from HENRIETTA HEN IN TROUBLE AGAIN written by Özgen Halil, Illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills

Illustration from HENRIETTA HEN IN TROUBLE AGAIN written by Özgen Halil, Illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?

If I have an “off-day” I just leave it alone and come back to it later. I get away from my desk and do something different or I just go out for a walk. If it’s not happening that day, I won’t force it. As for new ideas, I don’t have any special strategies in place - I guess it also depends on what sort of mood I am in - some days I am more productive than others. I can say that the story comes first, that’s my starting point, and then I map out the characters. Usually I have an idea of how I want the characters to look like. For example, I wanted Dotty Donkey to have goofy teeth and Henrietta Hen to have a handbag and a necklace. I think of ideas all the time.

Anything you can't live without while you write?

My desktop computer. I spent years typing documents in my previous jobs and at speeds of at least 80 words per minute so it’s just easier and quicker for me to type. I prefer a desktop computer to a laptop or anything else. 

Illustration from HENRIETTA HEN IN TROUBLE AGAIN written by Özgen Halil, Illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills

Illustration from HENRIETTA HEN IN TROUBLE AGAIN written by Özgen Halil, Illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills

Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?

Awww there’s lots, but one that really stood out for me is Oliver Jeffers. I used to read his books to my younger son and I loved them just as much as he did. His style is simple but really effective and the stories are so cute. I really admire him -  he’s very talented.

Dream project to work on?

I’m a newbie so my first children’s picture book - Henrietta Hen In Trouble Again, has been a dream project to work on. However, it would also be a dream to work on projects that enables me to give to the community, especially vulnerable children and to make their lives better in any way - I would love that.

 Tell us about your debut book.

Henrietta Hen In Trouble Again is about a Hen and her best friend Dotty Donkey, together they go berry picking in the woods only to find themselves in some danger. There is a happy ending - because we just love happy endings. The book promotes friendships, kindness and sharing and is suitable for the ages between 4-8 years old. I have based Henrietta Hen’s character on my mother’s personality. She is my mother all over!

What's up next for you?

I have already written Chi Chi And The Birthday Surprise and hope to write further children’s picture books in the coming year. I will release information about that book in early 2020. Also in the pipeline is The Evil Eye Quartet starting off with “White Wings” and these books will be suitable for young adults.

And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?

Hmmm.…it’s between E.T. and Top Gun (only because I used to fancy Tom Cruise)…ok its E.T.— I loved that film so much and I had the lunchbox, keyring and the toy - what an amazing film!

Huge thank you to Özgen for stopping by Critter Lit today! Thank you for sharing your work with us and best of luck on all your future projects!

ÖZGEN HALIL’S love for children’s picture books started from as young as 4 years old. Her mother read stories to her and her brother and she would tell them funny stories about where she came from (which was a small village in Cyprus) to keep them entertained. Later on at primary school, Özgen often visited the local library to borrow books such as The Cat In The Hat by Dr Suess, The Adventures Of Tin Tin by Hergé and the Asterix series by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo which she loved reading. As an adult, she spent over 25 years in the corporate world as a Legal PA/EA, and finally plucked up the courage to publish her first children’s picture book called Henrietta Hen In Trouble Again as a self-publishing author. She loves animals but hates spiders (after one crawled up her leg when she was 3 years old). Her goal as an author is to be able to bring happiness into children's lives and contribute in making their lives better.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Özgen Halil visit her online or follow her on social media:





TO DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY of Özgen’s book, click here. To purchase a paperback copy of Özgen’s book, click here. A portion of each sale goes to the children's charity Demelza.


Want a chance to win a paperback copy of HENRIETTA HEN IN TROUBLE AGAIN?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, October 10th! US addresses only please.