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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.

Interview with Author Shawnie Clark

Authors, InterviewsLindsay Ward1 Comment

Happy Thursday Critters! Today we have an interview with Shawnie Clark, who is both self-published and traditionally published, and provides books for children in a font specifically designed for Dyslexia. How cool is that??? I’m thrilled to have her on Critter Lit today.

So without further ado, please welcome Shawnie Clark!


Where do you live?

I live in a small town called Manteca located in Northern California. It's approximately 45 miles south of the State Capitol, Sacramento. Many moons ago it was well know for it's famous water slides.

How many years have you been in publishing?

I've been writing for many years. I developed a love of reading and writing in middle grade school. It stuck with me. In my early thirties I decided to write a couple of articles for  the local newspaper, in turn that led to writing small articles for online magazines and blogs. I came across a small publishing press located in New York. The publisher was looking for short stories children stories. Turns out that I loved it! I didn't publish with her, but the inspiration for Crocky Dile came about during the same time frame I wrote the Saltwater Crocodile activity book. I've been publishing children's books for about 9 years.

How many books have you published? 

10. I self published 8 books, 2 traditionally.

Do you write full-time? 

I write part time, but when I start a project, I work on it full time until it’s finished. As I get ideas, I write them down, then at a later time I will brainstorm, this provides a story line. Once I have a story line it's full on writing time.

What inspires you to create picture books?

I absolutely love the process of taking an idea and turning it into a finished product. It's like bringing my thoughts to life. I enjoy being outdoors. I get ideas from watching the silly things that people and animals do. I also read A LOT! This gives me inspiration and tips for future writings. While I'm doing social media sometimes I'll see an illustration that catches my eye and the brainstorming begins. I have grandchildren who have inherited my vast imagination, so I get a lot of ideas from them, too. I turn them into stories that we can share together. They love it, just as much as I do.

What surprised you the most working as an author?

The Kidlit community is really a wonderful group of people. (Not that I thought any different!) Just how much joy I would get out of the whole process. I love to write, but being able to collaborate with others in the publishing process and seeing it come to life, then being able to share— priceless.

What is your favorite thing about being an author?

All of it! Seeing the finished product and sharing it with children. It's wonderful to see something I wrote bring such big smiles to those little faces.

What do you find difficult working as an author?

Editing, editing, and more editing! Need I say more.

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

I read more and I really pay attention to what people around me have to say. I get suggestions for children's stories often. It's just a matter of which ones tickle my fancy so to speak. I will also pitch ideas I have to friends and collaborate with them.

Can you share a positive experience you’ve had in the Kidlit community?

It's hard to choose just one. The people in the Kidlit community are such a good group. Particularly in the SCBWI Northern California. Everyone is encouraging, helpful, supportive, and has a positive attitude. A wonderful group of people.

What is your favorite picture book? 

This is hard one. I love Dr. Seuss, but I think my very favorite is Good Night Moon by  Margaret Wise Brown. I pick this book because I've enjoyed sharing it with my grandchildren over and over again. It's our all-time favorite.

What is something you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?

How addictive it is lol!

You are both self-published and traditionally published. Can you tell us about your experiences with both?

I first started self-publishing in 2010. During this time frame self-publishing was not looked on favorably by the publishing world. But I didn't care. My desire to meet my goals out weighed the opposition. I asked for a lot of help and advice for others. I did months of research. Trial and error became the theme. It was very hard work, but I'm extremely thankful for the knowledge I gained from that experience. 

Traditional publishing is much easier to say the least. An author friend of mine shared with me that her publisher was excepting manuscripts, so I submitted Wonder Wheels and that was the start of a wonderful relationship with MacLaren - Cochrane Publishing. Instead of doing everything myself, I now had to collaborate with the publisher, which was a good thing. It freed up my time more so that I could help promote the book.

Your books are available using a font specifically designed for Dyslexia. Can you tell us more about that?

I didn't know of dyslexic font until I formed a relationship with MacLaren - Cochrane Publishing. It is basically a type set font that enables people with dyslexia to be able to identify the letters easier, which allows them to read better. Here is the link for more information pertaining to this subject.

How did you come to create books designed for readers with Dyslexia?

The Publisher MacLaren - Cochrane publish all of their children's books with the option to purchase in this font. I believe this sets them apart from all other publishers because at this time they are the only publishing company to make this available to the public.

You've also written stories for the Bedtime Stories App. Can you share a bit about that?

That was such a wonderful experience. I love the Bed Time Stories crew.

I was contacted via twitter back in April 2017 by Michael Sokolar, The Founder and CEO of Get Bedtime Stories. He said they had this idea for a new children's AP and wanted to know my opinion. As soon as I read about their vision I was on board. The AP is designed to help parents tell stories to their children, to make the experience more enjoyable and interactive between parent and child. The AP gives age appropriate story worlds to choose from or you can choose to get idea's to make your own story. They now have a story telling course in the AP.  It's FANTASTIC! See for yourself at or the AP GetBedtimestories in iTunes.

This project proved to be a real challenge.  Each story world has five stories, all of which are connected. My time frame was six weeks. So I had to come up with five connecting stories, and shall I say there were strict word limits due to the AP structure. It's hard enough to come up with one story, much less five, in that amount of time, but I did it. The Secret Treasure Chest Story world came to be. That was my small contribution. I'm so very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this project. I could go on more but I think this is a good stopping point.

What is your newest book? 

A children's picture book titled BUG OFF. 

Peter is full of anticipation for the first day of school. As he looks for the yellow blip of a school bus coming down the street he contemplates how his day will turn out. “What will the other students be like?”  “What will they think of me?”

Overcome by a whirlwind of mixed emotions his legs begin to tremble. A fear of the unknown has set in. Peter whispers, “Will the other students like me?” Peter finds the answers to these questions and discovers that school can be a heavy weight especially when the school bully comes calling. Life would never be the same due to one of the ugliest bugs inching onto the scene and one genuine act of kindness.

What’s up next for you?

I started a middle grade chapter book.

Here is a sneak peek...

Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump…

Heart pounding, feeling like it wants to escape the confinement of her chest. The cold from the ground crept through her skin causing goose bumps to rise. A strange smell lingered in the air tickling her nose. It was a familiar smell but she couldn’t quite figure it out. She fluttered her eyes but they wouldn’t open. A breeze rustled some leaves nearby crunch, crunch, as they scattered across the ground. It was a warm breeze that brought comfort. Thoughts of her soft cuddly bed in her room lingered in her mind, “in my room, in my room,” panic set in, realizing that she wasn’t in her room.  She fought with all of her might to open her eyes. The warm breeze was growing ever hotter. She could feel sweat forming on her brow. Finally a glimpse of light filtered through the tiny cracks. Things were all a blur. Gently rubbing her eyes she regained focus. She looked on in amazement, pinching herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming, as she whispered the words, “What are you?”

Anything else you’d like to share with aspiring authors and illustrators?

Don't give up! Meet a challenge head on! Stay positive!

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

Goonies and Raiders of the Lost Ark

Huge thank you to Shawnie Clark for stopping by Critter Lit today! Congrats on all of your books!

Shawnie Clark, has been writing children's stories since 2010. She's a self-published and traditionally published author, with 10 children's book to date. The most current, BUG OFF, a children's picture book was released in July 2018. She is currently working with MacLaren – Cochrane Publishing. The topics of her books help children to be more aware of issues such as bullying, self esteem, friendships, youth issues, and compassion to name a few. As an energetic storyteller, Shawnie is a local favorite attending many events such as school visits, book fairs, and book stores. She is proficient in writing children's fiction, knowing what it takes to do school visits, along with self-publishing and marketing. Shawnie also had the privilege of writing a series of children’s stories for a new children’s AP called “GetBedtimestories” available to download for free on the Apple AP Store. She is also an active member of SCBWI, a Purple Dragonfly Awards Honoree, and Story Monsters Approved. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Shawnie and her work visit her website or follow her on Twitter @Shawnie_Clark.

TO ORDER Shawnie’s books, click here.


Want a chance to win a SIGNED copy of BUG OFF?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, March 7th! US addresses only please.

What's up on deck? Tune in next week for an interview with debut author BJ Lee!