'Loxley and Betty: Swimming at the Zoo' is a great, adventure picturebook to be shared with your little ones, coming this Winter 2021. Details to pre-order are coming soon...
Jill Pepper lives in Essex with her family. She loved all sports at school and competed at county level before leaving education.
After working in an office for a few years she left to pursue voluntary work and also part-time promotions in London and the South East including advertising work for 'Proctor and Gamble'. She then moved to retail joining an Essex wine company for five years and then continued in retail until 1995.
After having her family she returned to work at a local children's toy shop where she still enjoys working today. She has always loved a good book and poetry. She likes to write poems for herself and her family and decided to write one about her grandson Loxley and his pet hedgehog Betty.
Jill is currently writing their next adventure...
What inspired you to start writing?
I have written poems when I have been inspired by something that happens or an event. For example, the time when we forgot friends were coming over for a meal and we had already eaten! I ran up and down the road to find someone with a microwave to defrost a meal. Fortunately they laughed about it and I wrote a poem. That's usually how it works for me. After I got married, had my daughter and when my Dad retired and when I joined the over 40 cycle club, I chose to write poems.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for myself for about 40 years but only when something inspires me to put pen to paper. I did have an idea that I would like people to tell me what they wanted to say at an event like a wedding etc. and I would make it into a poem for them, but I didn’t pursue it. I just made up the business card! Last year I told my daughter that I had an idea for a children’s story so she told me to 'write it then!' So I did... the family encouraged me to get it published. So here we are.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
My characters are real so I let my imagination go and see where it leads them.
What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?
I believe that success isn’t about what you have materially, it's about having good friends and family around you.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
That I could do it. Actually write a story in poetry form that people liked and thought was good enough to be published and enjoyed by others.
Who is your favourite character?
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?
My favourite character is Loxley my Grandson who has just turned two years old. Obviously he is very special and has brought unending joy into our lives and is the reason I wrote my first story.
Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
It must be fantastic to write as a career, as you can do that anywhere in the world, but as we need to pay the bills, I don’t see that being a possibility at the moment.
Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the subsequent novels?
I think its going to be more challenging to write another adventure but I have a few ideas up my sleeve.
Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart?
The main character is Loxley my grandson who holds a special place in my heart.
What was the inspiration for the story?
A photograph of my daughter and her cousin walking down the road holding hands gave me the idea for a story about them walking hand in hand to the zoo to swim, but I only wrote one verse. Then twenty years later, I said to my daughter that Loxley our new grandson and his hedgehog Betty would make lovely characters in that same story, so my daughter told me to “write it then!" So that inspired me to finally complete it.
Your story is set in the zoo. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?
The story is set in the zoo because when I was eight years old we lived near Chester Zoo. Children went out on their own in those days and had adventures. We would walk across the fields and spend the day playing in the zoo. Later, living in Essex we would visit Colchester Zoo and later I took my daughter there too. So, I love zoos. The story features animals I remember from both Chester and Colchester Zoos.
What was the highlight of writing this book?
The highlights were completing the story! My family were really excited about it and encouraged me to get it published. Now, seeing the words I have written brought to life with wonderful illustrations is a significant highlight.
Who is your favourite author and why?
I usually have a favourite author until I’ve read all their books and then find another one. Ive read all of Robert Goddards books. Often he combines real historical events with a thrilling story, which I love. I also love Donna Leon who writes about crimes set in Venice and takes you on a journey through life in the city with her main characters along with great stories. I am a huge fan of autobiographies and recently enjoyed Robert Wagner's 'Pieces of my Heart' and then a book about the history of Hollywood which he has also written. My other favourite authors are a couple who take real history and make it interesting and exciting. They are Roy and Lesley Atkins. I loved their books 'Trafalgar' and 'The Keys of Egypt'.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I did want to be a secretary.
What was your dream job when you were younger?
I always wanted to be an air stewardess because it seemed such a glamorous job, but of course when you grow up you realise just how hard the job really is.
Have you ever been on any sports teams? If so, what sport?
I loved all sport at school and played for a local hockey team for a couple of years.
What’s your favourite spot to visit in your own country? And what makes it so special to you?
I love Derbyshire and the Lake district. We spent family holidays camping on the shores of Coniston when we lived near Chester, so it became a special place with lots of memories. Later we moved back to Essex and then began caravanning each summer at a farm near Hartington, in the Peak district. The whole family have continued to go there with the next generation. When we visit now its a comforting place to be and we still do the same things and visit the same places.