Author Carys Bexington: Night Before Christmas in Wonderland
last updated 22 December 2019
Bright Author Carys Bexington has had a brilliant festive season so far. Her debut picture-book The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland, published this year, has already been picked as one of the Sunday Times Best Books of the Year and has garnered a clutch of rave reviews.
Carys has also been busy visiting schools and bookshops to spread some festive joy in the lead up to Christmas. Teacher Hannah Coles from Belleville Primary School said: ‘Carys brought The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland to life! The children were engaged in the story and amazed by the beautiful illustrations.’
Here, we catch up with Carys and find out a bit more of what went into writing the book and how it has been since the publication.
How does it feel to have your debut picture book featured in the Sunday Times?
Absolutely incredible! To be featured as one of their Best Books of the Year was such a surprise, I felt truly gobsmacked! I think I grinned like the Cheshire Cat for a week afterwards! This book has been so long in the making, and I’ve been over the story a thousand times, so to see it being received this positively by people who have never read it before, and who don’t know me, is like seeing it brand new and makes me feel excited by it all over again. Being a debut author it was impossible to know how people would respond to my writing, so it has been a nervous wait since it published, but I couldn’t have asked for a better response!
I can’t take all the credit though, Kate Hindley’s illustrations are a complete dream. The detail Kate has included in each illustration is just beautiful; from the intricate costumes and art deco interior design, to the Queen’s castle and the brilliant expressions of the reindeer and elves (air traffic controller elf is my favourite elf, now and forever!), she has brought the story to life beyond what I could ever have imagined. I think this book is a fantastic example of an author and illustrator collaboration, and I am SO thrilled to know that it’s being enjoyed by families this Christmas, and I hope many more Christmases in the future.
What’s your favourite thing about doing workshops/school visits?
I was incredibly nervous the first time I did a school visit. For about a week beforehand I could think of nothing else. To say I was scared would be an understatement! But then when I arrived and I began talking to the kids, I realised that it was silly to be scared because I have never known an audience like it; they were so engaged, so desperate to be involved, so willing to get stuck in. It was incredible. Their enthusiasm for creativity knows no bounds, and I love their sincere acceptance of the unusual and bizarre things a story can throw at you.
If you can create a workshop atmosphere that allows for total acceptance of unfiltered imagination, you won’t be disappointed. They greet stories with such brightness and gusto that you can’t help but feel that your being there, encouraging them to explore this natural love they have for storytelling, is having a really positive impact. (Also they have tiny versions of normal sized furniture, which is hilarious).
What’s the best part of being an author?
Doing the job I love. For me, writing is equal parts brilliant and awful. Brilliant because I love it and wouldn’t want to do anything else, awful because rhyme isn’t always very kind to me. For every eight hundred words of flowing rhyming couplets, I’ll have written three thousand words of cast off story snippets that don’t quite work for one reason or another - and nothing grates on the ear quite like a badly tortured syllable! But when a story does eventually come together, with all the right twists and turns, humour, courageous characters, a nice neat ending, and rhyming rhyme, all the difficulty of writing it falls by the wayside and a brand new story exists in the world, which makes me want to do it all over again.
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out as an author?
The road to publication is different for everyone, so I try not to give concrete advice as it’s impossible to say do-this or do-that. But the one piece of advice I always give when I am asked is: write the stories you want to write. Never try and fit in with current trends, as they’ll come and go. Practice, learn to write well, write a story you really enjoy, use your own personal phrasing and tone, your own brand of humour, your interests, your imagined worlds and characters. ‘Write what you know’ is outdated; instead I always say write what you love to write, write what you find interesting and exciting. Be a flamingo in a field of pheasants, people will notice.
What difference has it made being represented by Bright?
I love Bright. From the first phone call with my agent Arabella, she took a real interest in me and in my work. It can be a very solitary existence as an author, which isn’t to say that I am alone because I’m not, but I am alone with my thoughts, my imaginings and with my creative process, so to have Arabella’s encouragement and certainty in what I create means more than I think a lot of people realise. Bright as an agency is brilliant, it’s like a small community of enthusiasm standing behind its artists, opening doors and cheering them through. They champion individualism and celebrate the uniqueness in their artists, there’s no pressure or suggestion of conformity, and I think that’s what makes them great; they encourage imagination and it’s wonderful to have that in an agent.
Carys is represented by Arabella Stein.