Originally from Thamesmead, a suburb of London, I now live the rural life on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. My love for the countryside comes from my Irish roots in County Mayo where my grandmother Kearns was born; she was an avid horse rider and adored animals.
Growing up in London as a child, of Irish descent, was fun and exciting, especially experiencing many adventures with my siblings in the concrete jungle of Thamesmead with our cats who followed us everywhere.
My love for animals grew even stronger from the age of seventeen when I was introduced to the sheep by my mum, Cora, on the Isle of Sheppey, as well as all the residents at her farm cottage, namely the chickens, the ducks, and a goat who ate up all her roses! Understandably, mixing with these animals influenced me to become a vegetarian.
In 2016, whilst studying for my English language and literature degree with the Open University to become an English teacher, I had an idea for a picture book series and Cora Farm was initiated. Learning about instruction and delight really resonated with me when studying children's literature and I felt compelled to create stories for others to learn from but also enjoy.
In 2018, my mum sadly passed away and my mission was to instruct and delight children through the eyes of Cora. Countlessly, I read my stories to my two daughters who championed me right from the start of my picture book idea. In 2019, I was so fortunate to find an amazing illustrator, Sarah-Leigh Wills, originally from the Isle of Sheppey, who connected with my written instruction and created delightful, fun and vibrant illustrations to bring Cora Farm alive.
I was inspired to write picture books after becoming fascinated with the concept that the words could not be separated from the pictures, as they ultimately belonged to each other to fulfil their purpose.
'Cheeky Chickens' is Rachel's debut title in the 'Cora Farm' series and it is now available to pre-order from https://www.partnershippublishing.co.uk/product-page/cheeky-chickens
What inspired you to start writing?
RL: Whilst studying Children’s Literature at the Open University in 2016, I was inspired to write picture books after becoming fascinated with the concept that the words could not be separated from the pictures, as they ultimately belonged to each other to fulfil their purpose. This idea really resonated with me and made me reflect on how children needed a sense of belonging, whether at home or at school. So, I thought of a fun and interactive learning concept of animals belonging to a farm owner called Cora, who I lovingly named after my mum. Sadly, my mum passed away in 2018 and therefore, my picture books became a tribute to my mum, who owned a farm cottage where she kept chickens, ducks and a goat called Pebbles, who I have used as a muse in my picture book series, Cora Farm.
How do you do research for your books?
RL: Once I had the idea of Cora Farm, I used my past experiences and memories with the animals on my mum’s farm cottage, along with old photos of the animals taken there. I combined these photographs with postcards, calendars and memoirs of farm life that I had collected over the years to compile a mood board from which I drew inspiration when writing the series.
Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
RL: I am a secondary school teacher, but I have worked with primary school children which has helped me know and understand how young children learn. The combination of instruction and delight demonstrated in picture books has compelled me to teach children through the eyes of Cora in a fun and unique way. However, the more Cora Farm grows - the closer I get to become a full-time writer which is my ultimate goal.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
RL: What surprised me the most when writing the Cora Farm series is how easily each book linked with the previous book and also the next book in the series. The continuation and flow of each book came about by chance through the use of repetition at the beginning and end of each book.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?
RL: Yes, Donald the daft duck in Daft Ducks! He is based on a real farm animal owned by my mum, Cora. He used to meet and greet me at the farm gates with a quack and a peck on my feet! He would continue to peck at my feet until I picked him up and placed him in the pond so that I had enough time to quickly run away and escape from him before he started to waddle after me in the hope of just one more peck before I was safely inside the cottage!
Which of your books were the most enjoyable to write?
RL: Perky Pigs because Sarah-Leigh Wills, my incredible illustrator, absolutely loves pigs! Writing this book gave me great joy as I kept imagining Sarah squealing with delight and totally in her element whilst designing happily to bring the perky pigs to life.
Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?
RL: Yes, whilst growing up on the west coast of Ireland, my mum had a chicken called Chuck who was treated just like a family pet where he was mollycoddled and kissed repeatedly! Hence, Chuck has been brought back to live to become a cheeky chicken in Cheeky Chickens!
What was the inspiration for the story?
RL: My mum, as she adored animals just like her mum, Anne Betty Kearns, who was an avid horse rider. Therefore, to keep my grandmother’s legacy alive, along with my mum’s, I have used her surname Kearns to create, Cora Kearns, the farm owner character in the book series.
What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
RL:: Animals are clever, humorous and have character just like humans.
Who is your favourite author and why?
RL: Virginia Andrews. My mum introduced me to Flowers in the Attic back in the 80s when I was a teenager and thereafter, I read Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday and Garden of Shadows - I was totally hooked on the series. The titles really appealed to me as they depicted elements of nature, however, the concept of the series was a force to be reckoned with just like Mother Nature. Nevertheless, the reading material was compelling and one of the reasons why I loved to read as a young adult, thanks to Virginia Andrews and my mum!
What are you reading now?
RL: Looking for Alaska by John Green. Seriously, I started reading this book a good few years ago when my eldest daughter was a teenager, she passed it onto me! I have recently picked it up, after reading many books since, and found a beautiful red rose bookmark in it which is uncanny as Gloria, one of the main characters in my picture book Gracious Goats, loves to eat all of Cora’s red roses as she is too gracious to eat nettles!
Favourite book when you were a kid?
RL: Stig of the Dump by Clive King. A classic story of a blossoming friendship with plenty of adventure. This book really melted my young heart and troubles away.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
RL: I wanted to be an air hostess. An interview with Virgin Atlantic, in my mid 20s, was the closest I got to becoming one - I even got to wear the classic red suit!
What’s your favourite food?
RL: Chinese. I absolutely crave a Chinese takeaway. My favourite treat ever!
If you could only have one season, what would it be?
RL: Autumn. I love the vibrant colours of nature during this time. I love the way animals prepare for the winter by storing plenty of food in their warm hibernation homes during this time. I love the way farmers harvest their ripe crops during this time. During this time, abundance, prosperity and wealth is phenomenal just like the universe. Infinity and beyond. Autumn is definitely the season for me!
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