We are excited to announce the forthcoming release of 'Blast Off to Planet Fun!' by Jane Keightley, under our imprint Magic Mouse Books. This fun, memorable, educational story is set for release this upcoming month, and we are delighted to introduce Jane to our community, with her beautiful illustrations by Nicola Holmshaw!
This book is like no other, and includes a funky planet rap with sing along lyrics and a QR code with a link to YouTube, and fun packed activity sheets to learn about the planets!
You can pre-order Blast Off to Planet Fun here
Find Jane on Instagram here
Blast Off to Planet Fun can also be pre-ordered from Jane's website, where you can find further information, upcoming Author events Jane will be attending, and the rest of the book series:
Read below to hear all about Jane's creative schedule, her hero, and her Author icons!
What inspired you to start writing?
I have always had a love of the English language which I am delighted that my children have inherited and we are all happy when immersed in books. It has been a lifetime ambition to become a published author and I’m incredibly excited that I am finally realising my dream. I have a very varied skill set - the early part of my career was in hotel management before being an Executive PA in London for 12 years then running my own business selling designer children’s wear. My last role was with Club Doncaster Foundation but due to the pandemic I was furloughed at the beginning of Lockdown and made redundant in September 2020. This unexpected change of circumstances gave me an opportunity to revaluate my future and I decided that the time was right to focus on writing a children’s book. The inspiration for Blast Off to Planet Fun! was our adorable Pug puppy called Mr Pickles. He loved attention and every evening when the children had gone to bed he would settle on my knee and start snoring almost before he had the chance to fall sleep which made me wonder what it was he dreamt about. This curiosity then developed into the idea for Smudge’s adventures when every time he goes to sleep he has a different dream.
What time of day do you write?
I feel most creative in the early hours of the morning and don’t set an alarm but if I wake naturally I spend 1-2 hours writing on my laptop before going back to sleep. I have to be in ‘the zone’ to write so there is no set time during the day as writing is very mood dependent. I spend much of my day doing book related activities including updating the website, making merchandise to sell and working through my marketing campaign. My favourite place to write is on the swing seat in the garden in spring/summer and on a reclining chair beside the log burner in autumn/winter. To enable me to write creatively I need to feel totally relaxed and happy and then the words flow as my mind is full of ideas for Smudge’s next adventure.
Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the subsequent books?
I thoroughly enjoy writing and although Smudge is the main character who is featured in each book, every story is different which keeps things fresh and exciting. The publishing journey has been interesting and time consuming as it was a huge learning curve but subsequent books will be easier and quicker as we have a master template that Nicola, the illustrator, can use to incorporate the images and text. I have almost finished the second book called ‘Jamming in the Jungle’ which teaches young readers about the creatures that inhabit the jungle and animal characteristics including the chameleon changing colour to blend in with his surroundings.
The USP is educational fiction so I write a song with every book to teach the children in a fun and interactive way. Funky Planet Rap tells them unique facts about each planet and where they are located in the solar system. The words are in the book and there is a link to the video on YouTube so children can sing along.
What are the tools of the trade?
I write on an Acer Aspire laptop and use an online thesaurus to give me access to alternative words. I always have an iPhone with me so if I get inspiration I make a note to develop the idea when time allows. I have an office at home with a wireless printer where I do administration but rarely write there as it feels almost too formal – I prefer a relaxed environment. I find bird song very therapeutic so am most creative when the sun is shining and I’m enjoying the fresh air.
Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?
I encourage feedback from young readers and their parents so interact with them on the following platforms:
Instagram – Smudgesadventures6
Facebook – Jane Keightley
Website – smudgesadventures.co.uk which has a contact us section and a link to message via WhatsApp
The book is available for sale on:
Each book is signed by the author and a complimentary personalised message can be written in the front on request. Books bought from the above sources will be gift wrapped in tissue paper with a Smudge sticker so children can enjoy the big reveal!
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
My main goal when writing educational fiction for 3-7 year olds is to make learning fun and encourage young readers to be immersed in their imagination. I’m a great believer in the Dr Suess quote ‘The more you read the more things you will know, the more that you learn the more places you’ll go’. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor in success later in life.
Numerous studies have shown that those children who read for pleasure are the ones who are the most likely to fulfil their ambitions. If your child reads, they will succeed – it’s that simple.
Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?
I have various playlists with approximately 60 tracks on each and I choose different ones depending on what I’m doing. When writing I like to listen to ballads including tracks like Jon Allen’s ‘In your light’ and Ronan Keating’s ‘If tomorrow never comes’ as I find them calming and relaxing. If I am updating the website I like to listen to tracks like Meatloaf’s ‘Two out of three ain’t bad’ as the music is uplifting and makes me feel upbeat and positive.
What was your favourite book when you were a child?
The book I enjoyed reading the most was Charlotte’s Web and loved Wilbur, the enchanting little pig and how Fern saved him from being turned into bacon. I was impressed by how Charlotte spun a message into her web to prove he was no ordinary pig and he was taken to the country fair and although he didn’t win, was described as radiant, humble and terrific. Charlotte died after making an egg sack as she was so exhausted after weaving words into webs to save Wilbur. Temperton brought the sack back to the farm and 3 of Charlotte’s children stayed with Wilbur so the story had a happy ending.
Who is the author you most admire in your genre?
Julia Donaldson has to be one of my favourite children’s author as I read her stories to my children growing up and have a real affinity with ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’, ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’ and ‘Room on the Broom’. Another book we all really enjoyed reading endless times was the A3 version of ‘Giraffe’s can’t Dance’ by Giles Andreae as we laughed watching Gerald with his tall neck, bandy knees and thin legs do the most amazing dance. The last verse ‘Then he raised his head and looked up at the moon and stars above. “We all can dance” he said “When we find music that we love” – is very meaningful.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love listening to live music – I was at Live Aid in ’85 and have been hooked on gigs and festivals since. I enjoy the buzz of the city but am a country girl at heart and live in a barn I converted in a tiny hamlet with no pub or shops, just amazing country views. I like to go for two dog walks every day, listen to Fern Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’ podcast, carve and bake with pumpkins, experience different cultures and enjoy holidays in the sun.
What is your favourite quote?
My favourite quote for adults is ‘Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light’ – Vera Nazarian as I think it is very profound.
My favourite quote for children is ‘There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favourite book’ – Marcel Proust as that was definitely true for me.
How many bookshelves are in your house?
We have bookshelves in every room except the three bathrooms and utility room so have seven in total stuffed full of a variety of books that we treasure. I have kept the favourite books that I read to the children in boxes in the loft as they hold very special memories of happy times spent together.
If you could cure a disease, what would it be?
I wish I had the ability to cure all diseases but the two closest to my heart are Corticobasel Degeneration (degenerative brain disease) that my dad died of and Neuroblastoma cancer that cruelly took the life of Lex, my friend’s son, when he was only seven. Maxine and her family spent 10 days in Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice around the time Lex passed and were treated with great respect and compassion throughout their stay. As a tribute to Lex I am donating a percentage of all book sales to the hospice to keep his legacy alive and support other families. There is a section on my website about the hospice and the wonderful work that they do and a link to their website if anyone wishes to volunteer, donate or raise funds.
You can donate here: https://www.bluebellwood.org/
What’s your favourite spot to visit in your own country and what makes it so special to you?
My favourite place in the UK is Grasmere in the Lake District as it is nestled in beautiful countryside which is perfect for rambling. I particularly love the aroma surrounding the Sarah Nelson’s gingerbread shop and the taste of the gingerbread using the original recipe from 1854. I had some very happy holidays at the Moss Grove hotel in Grasmere as a child and return to the area regularly for rest, relaxation and to create new memories. I find inspiration walking beside the lakes, in the woods and through the fields and feel very creative on my return to the hotel.
Who is your hero?
Sir Captain Tom Moore is certainly one of my heroes because of his strength of character and determination to raise money for the NHS during the Covid pandemic. On 6 April 2020 at the age of 99, Captain Tom began to walk 100 lengths of his garden in aid of NHS Charities Together, with the goal of raising £1,000 by his 100th birthday on 30 April. In the course of his fundraising, he made many media appearances and became a popular household name in the UK, earning a number of accolades and attracting over 1.5 million individual donations. In recognition of his efforts, he received the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award at the 2020 ceremony. He performed in a cover version of the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" sung by Michael Ball, with proceeds going to the same charity. On the morning of Captain Tom’s 100th birthday, the total raised by his walk was £32.79 million. His birthday was marked in a number of ways, including flypasts by the Royal Air Force and the British Army. He received over 150,000 cards and was appointed as honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College. On 17 July 2020, he was personally knighted by the Queen at Windsor Castle. He died on 2 February 2021 at Bedford Hospital, which is where he was taken after being treated for pneumonia and then testing positive for COVID-19. He united the nation and gave us hope when it was needed most with his assurance that “Tomorrow will be a good day” and his legacy will live on through The Captain Tom Foundation.
Look out for Blast Off to Planet Fun! available for pre-order now