Writer Spotlight : Dawn-Maria France
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 their work. Here, we are showcasing all the questions we have asked Dawn, the author of The Adventures of Jenny and Philip. You can find more book reviews in our current issue, available to buy here
Tell us a little about yourself and your book The Adventures of Jenny and Philip: We All Need Friends.
I’m a journalist and Editor-in-chief of the award-winning women’s news magazine, Yorkshire Women’s Life. I’m passionate about women’s rights, equality and diversity. I wrote a children’s series set in Yorkshire, featuring a confident little girl and following her adventures. My book, The Adventures of Jenny and Philip is engaging and fun to read, showing Jenny’s journey of life-learning and exploring the relationship between Jenny and her best friend, Philip, the talking cat. It offers fun, imagination and learning for 4–7 year olds. It’s the perfect book for adults to read to preschool children, or for young people to read for themselves.
What do you hope your readers will learn from this book?
I wanted to write an original children’s story set in Yorkshire, with humour and a moral and ethical learning message. I also wanted the principal character to be a strong little girl, with faults like everyone, but with the ability to listen and learn. My books aim to reflect modern Britain, showing strong independent characters of all colours and backgrounds, so children of all races can see themselves portrayed in my books in a positive and inclusive light. I also hope my books instil a joy in reading in children.
What do you love about writing?
Everything! I love the creative process itself, and when I’m absorbed in writing, I really get to know and love my characters. For me, writing for children is a way of expressing tricky social issues accessible – hoping my young readers will feel more confident and stronger in dealing with them in life. I want to continue writing children’s books that have a positive diversity and gender equality message.
Do you have any special projects coming up?
I’m currently working on my third children’s picture-book in The Adventures of Jenny and Philip series. This one introduces a new character called Anjeet, a little Sikh boy. This book looks at how Jenny deals with a situation involving Anjeet and Jessica and George from the second book, and how she resolves it – with the help of her best friend Philip, the cat. In the future, I aim to write a series of books with Anjeet as the principal character, following his own journey of life learning.
What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
I really like the work of Roald Dahl – who wrote exciting books that weren’t afraid to combine darkness with humour. And I also love Judith Kerr’s books – especially Mog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Her book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit deals with difficult issues (like escaping Nazi Germany) in a life-affirming way. My book celebrates different family settings and households, too, since her uncle and auntie has adopted Jenny. Through her adventures, the books touch upon several issues affecting children around the world.
What was your favourite part of the publishing journey?
Holding your final published book in your hands for the first time is amazing! I love bringing joy to young readers – so, seeing and hearing their reactions and reviews is great, too. The books have already received much acclaim from around the world. I want readers of my book to derive delight in, and engage with, books – so, if I can contribute to their love of reading.
The Adventures of Jenny and Philip: We All Need Friends | Grosvenor House Publishing | Paperback £6.67
About the Author
Dawn-Maria France is an accomplished award-winning journalist and travel writer who is passionate about children's rights, women's rights, equality and diversity. She is a broadcasting veteran with experience on BBC TV, Sky and on radio.