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Tails of Tangleby – How a local Gardener Became a Children’s Book Writer

Authors, Tamariki & Rangatahi

When Sue Heazlewood was in her garden, just north of Christchurch, one day – the idea for a children’s book just popped into her mind.

While she had already self-published a cookbook – inspired by her garden at Tangleby – she’d never attempted to write a children’s book before.

Within a few months, Tails of Tangleby was finished and the rest, as they say, is history. The book – about two rabbits called Marmalade and Montgomery –  is a mixture of story, illustration and photography and even has recipes that children can learn. Sue now has big plans for the Tangleby books – another is coming out this year – and she’s also designed a range of toys.

We spoke to Sue about her journey into publishing…

Tell me how this book came to you?

It really just all fell into place. I’d always wanted to write, and I’d been in property for years, and after I finished with that, I created my dream garden and I had already created a recipe book and the children’s book just came to me one day and I went for it.

Had you written anything before? 

Never! I’d never written anything. But it was a lot of fun. I found that I really had to go away to write though. I have to get away from my busy life and really live the life of my characters, but once I am able to do that my imagination just gets away on me and it all falls into place.

You are quite prolific!

I started with the recipe book and then Tails of Tangleby came after that – I’ve written the second book of it which will be in the shops in August, so yes, when I want to do something, I really throw myself into it.

Your writing came when we were in lockdown is that right?

Well, the first lockdown was very much about being at home, in the garden and the idea of sustainability was very much at the forefront. Growing your own vegetables, eating from the garden and pantry. I’ve always grown my own vegetables as organically as possible and so the recipe book really came out of that time.

And of course, being at home – you had to find something to do?

I’m not good at just relaxing. Being at home at the time, I just started writing and ended up with three chapters!

What was the process for you?

I just wrote every day really. I knew it would be a book from the first line, so I really just dove into it and wrote as much as I could. I then got in touch with Jane Smith – who’s based in Mapua – and she did the illustrations while her husband did all the photography. I wanted to create a beautiful book that was a storybook for children but also has recipes that children could learn.

Did you talk to any publishers?

No. I was keen to self-publish because I really wanted to have total control over the content and look of it. So, once I’d written it, I got it edited and then sent it off for publishing.

How has it been for you in terms of marketing?

It’s been very much a case of cold calling into about 100 shops!

What has the response been?

Well, it’s terrible when you first arrive at a shop because people have an assumption that self-published books are low quality, so you have to convince them to even look at it. I’ve been fortunate because as soon as they see it, they buy it, and the response has been brilliant. Easter has gone mad!

And you have more plans of expansion?

I do! I’ve actually made the two main characters into soft toys. They’ll have their own full wardrobe and hopefully they’ll be available in shops by Christmas. I have lots of ideas, and I want to make this a real brand.

It’s interesting you say you have lots of ideas, because I suspect a lot of people have ideas, but they simply remain as ideas – but you seem to be able to action your ideas – what’s your secret?

I don’t know. I just do it. I just go full bore into everything I do. When I decided to have children, I ended up with six kids under six, and when I decided to write, I wrote four books in eleven months, so I do tend to really just go for it when I have an idea.

What’s next for you?

Well, the second book is on its way, the toys are due at the end of the year, and what I’d really like to do is one recipe book and one children’s book each year. This is really my passion and I want to do as much as I can to realise it.

Where can people get a copy of Tails of Tangleby?

They can get it online or in selected bookshops or online.


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