Writer Spotlight: Davina Hamilton
With the Writer Spotlight Series, we create a positive image for Black girls to refer to, by having conversations with different writers and illustrators. This month we have been doing Q&As with many writers, to get to know more about them
and they work. Here, we are showcasing all the questions we have asked Davina Hamilton the author of Ella Has A Plan. You can find more book reviews in our first issue, available to buy here
How do you come up with the titles to your books?
The main characters are named after my children, Ella and Riley, so that part was easy! With Riley Can Be Anything and Riley Knows He Can, I wrote the stories before coming up with the titles. Both stories had a line that was repeated throughout, so it made sense to use those reoccurring lines as inspiration for the titles. With Ella Has A Plan, I had that title stuck in my head before I wrote the story – I’m really not sure why! So I then had to build a story around the title.
What was the inspiration for the story “Ella Has A Plan”?
After writing two books inspired by my son, I promised my daughter that I would write a book that would place her at the centre, so that was my main inspiration! Ella is older than Riley, so I made Ella Has A Plan a longer book, which would be more suitable for older children, aged 6-9. I wanted to create a book for children who can independently read shorter picture books, but perhaps aren’t quite ready for chapter books.
The story itself was inspired by a desire to feature and celebrate a loving black family; not just immediate family members, but extended family – so cousins, uncles, aunts, and a great grandfather are all part of the tale. I also wanted to promote the importance of kindness, and the fact that we can all get along if we try to find common ground.
Tell us about your first published book? What was the journey like?
When I wrote Riley Can Be Anything I was working as an arts editor for a newspaper, and I used to write parts of the story on my phone while I was on the train to and from work. Not long after the story was written, I discovered that someone I knew was an illustrator and designer, so I asked her if she would create the illustrations for me and she said yes. That’s how Elena Reinoso came to create the brilliant artwork for all my books. After that, my husband and I worked together and created our own independent infrastructure, in order to publish the books. We’ve learned a lot and achieved a lot over the past three years, and I’m very proud of our journey.
Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.
A girl who is smart, brave, confident, fun-loving, and who uses kindness and ingenuity to save the day – so a bit like Ella!
If you could only have one season, what would it be?
I moved to Canada last year and I really love Autumn here, because the colours of the Autumnal leaves are so striking. That said, I do love summer too – especially if I’m lounging on a beach – so I’m not sure I can choose! But if you forced me, I’d probably pick summer.
Ella Has A Plan
by Davina Hamilton Illustration by Elena Reinoso
The Ella Riley Group
You can find more about Davina here