Updated: Oct 3, 2022
What inspired you to write?
I was inspired to start writing soon after the birth of my first child in 2017. I bought my son a t-shirt with a cartoon flamingo, wearing a pair of basketball trainers. As I pushed my son through the streets of New York, I imagined a whole adventure for this flamingo and his magic shoes! I subsequently wrote a chapter book series called, “Freddie’s Fantastic Adventures”, and after starting work again, 5 months later, I pursued publishing interest. Alas, the story did not take off, but I did however learn a lot through this process and ultimately decided to seek coaching support as was not ready to give up yet!
How long have you been writing?
2 years on from my first draft, I created a brand-new structure for my story but was also now heavily pregnant with my second child. I was fully intent on rewriting my flamingo adventures after the birth of my daughter. However, I soon realised that my passion for the story and the time I needed to write it were not the same as before!
It wasn’t until I was out walking with my baby daughter this time, now back in the UK, that a new idea struck me on how to bring my flamingo story to life! I had literally just passed a hairdressing salon and asked myself the crazy question, “What if flamingos ran a hair salon?”. This seemingly random and curious question inspired the idea for my first, self-published audiobook, Flamingo Fashion.
Flamingo Fashion became a story about two fashionista flamingos, Freddie & Fifi, who decided to open a fashion boutique on the African plains. The silly outfits they created have comedy outcomes for their customers, ultimately teaching the invaluable lesson that we are all perfectly pretty the way that we are!
When did you consider yourself a writer?
It was at this point I considered myself a writer. I wrote Flamingo Fashion under the coaching support of an author connected to the Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. She taught me what it takes to write and structure a children’s book to not only meet the needs of a child’s imagination, but the needs and experience of an adult reader and the basic requirements that must be met to appeal to the publishing industry.
I completed Flamingo Fashion just before the start of the coronavirus pandemic and decided to release the book myself as an audiobook, for a children’s literacy charity. I approached an old family friend, British stage and screen actor, Michael Maloney, who very kindly narrated story and it was at this point that I also found Maggy Roberts, the incredibly talented illustrator of my newest title, “The Coconut Cup”, who very kindly offered to do some illustrations (which are fantastic!).
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I loved writing Flamingo Fashion, but this was a story that ultimately started with the birth of my son. I therefore felt that I needed to write at least one more, inspired by my daughter.
I started to write my next book about one of my daughter’s interests at the time, horses. However, as I was imagining the arc of the story, I soon learnt that I did not know much about horses which severely limited my ability to write well about them. However, the piece I was enjoying about this concept was inventing names for the horses, blending together different types of dessert.
It was through this creative struggle that I landed on the idea for my current title, “The Coconut Cup”. I asked myself, “If I don’t know much about horses, what do I know and what do I like?”. I love desserts (and so does my daughter!) and as an ex-professional swimmer I love and know all about competition. I therefore asked a new question, “What if it is the desserts that compete in an event, and not the horses?”.
This is how the idea for, “The Coconut Cup” came to life, a concept inspired by my children and brought to life through my openness to ask some very curious questions, my knowledge, my passions and lastly my values, as each of my stories has a heart-felt message at the centre of it.
“The Coconut Cup”
Can you share a snippet that isn’t in the blurb or excerpt?
Lastly, it’s time for the final showstopper,
where each event winner takes part.
The puddings must swim through a canyon of custard,
it’s Sponge verses Ice verses Tart!
The desserts all dive in, but it quickly goes wrong,
when Pavlova gets stuck in the spray.
The jam roly-poly starts turning to sludge,
and Knickerbockers’ flake drifts away!
What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
“The Coconut Cup” is all about the power of collaboration and the possibility of what we can create when we combine our own strengths with others. I feel that this is an incredibly important message for young children to learn as I believe it forms part of the diversity conversation i.e., we need to teach our children to not only embrace people’s diverse heritage, religion, race and sexuality, but also our cognitive and physical abilities. I am a big believer that there is no such thing as the “lone genius” when it comes to creating change. The secret to change lies in the dynamic convergence of our unique differences!
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
At the end of the day, this is a fun story that essentially flips a traditional baking competition on its head and reimagines how desserts compete to win in the kitchen! The story is designed for families to read and laugh together and also to start a conversation about what your own individual strengths are and what would happen if you combined your own strengths with someone else’s?
In addition, there is also a hidden learning opportunity in this story as food is a tangible way of experiencing a country's culture and brings communities together. I would love for children to read this book in social or school settings and reflect on a dessert that is part of their national or family heritage and what it means to them. Our cuisine typically shapes part of our identity and talking about our dinner table customs can help educate and connect people.
For example, my Scottish father has always put milk on his crumbles which has now been a custom for 3 generations in the Hunter household and my husband comes from an Irish family where there was never just 1 dessert on the table, but 3! This spectacle was always looked forward to, talked about and savoured.
What was your favourite book as a kid?
The first book I remember reading again and again as a young child was Matilda, a story about a little girl who loved to read! This may seem a very twee reference point but books and storytelling have always been a big part of my life. When I was a little girl, I used to go to my mum’s office in London every summer and would sit down and write creative stories for fun. As I grew older, my creativity helped me forge a career in management consulting, but it took having a child of my own to reignite my passion for writing. Books essentially decorate all the rooms in our house as I am a big believer that stories have the power to change your life!
What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
There is no denying it, Julia Donaldson is the role model to aspire to when writing a children’s rhyming book! Her work is the bar to strive for whilst adopting your own approach to storytelling. However, I am also a big fan of Peter Bently’s writing and the sense of fun he brings to his stories. “Those Magnificent Sheep in Their Flying Machine” is a family favourite!
Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source)
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars!”
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
When I am not writing, you can often find me doing project work for my business, Natural Born Thinkers, on my yoga mat or most importantly, being a mum and spending treasured time with my family and friends. Writing is not yet my full-time career but I have many ideas and many more stories to tell, so who knows what the next chapter of my career will look like?!
Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?
You can find me on Instagram @samhunterbooks. I will confess though that I am not a big fan of social media and use it infrequently. I am currently in the process of updating my Natural Born Thinkers website where I hope to host existing content from my existing Flamingo Fashion Book webpage: https://flamingofashionbook.squarespace.com/ and activities to accompany “The Coconut Cup”.