authors, interviews

Kitty Black on writing A Crocodile in the Family


Kitty Black

Kitty Black is a Western Australian author of picture books and children’s novels. Kitty currently lives in Perth with her husband, two children, two cats and a puppy, but she has also lived in Melbourne, Hong Kong and Mt Isa. Kitty’s first picture book was Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf? (illustrated by Laura Wood), and her latest picture book is A Crocodile in the Family, illustrated by Daron Parton.

From the publisher:

A family of birds stumble across an egg in the bush and take it home with them. The family are thrilled when a little crocodile hatches from the egg, but the other animals are a little confused.

‘Why do you keep him?’ they ask. ‘Is it because he’s helpful?’

‘He is helpful,’ replies the family, ‘but that’s not why we keep him.’

A crocodile in the Family by Kitty Black and Daron Parton

When you’re writing a new story – pen & paper? or computer?
Always pen and paper for a picture book. I have a few writing books and while they’re meant to be used for different things if a story shows up then I grab whichever one is closest. My last picture book idea was written in the margins of a middle grade novel writing book. Never underestimate the audacity of ideas, they don’t care what you’re meant to be working on!

I swap between laptop and paper for the novel, just because typing is faster and there’s a lot of words. But if I get stuck on what happens next I always swap to paper. Paper just feels friendlier. Plus it doesn’t run out of battery and if you leave it in the garden overnight it’s probably okay.

Both of your picture books include animal characters who don’t seem to fit in – at first glance. Is this a theme that’s common in your writing?
Definitely. Growing up with undiagnosed ADHD meant that at school I always felt a bit different and I couldn’t figure out why. I have an affinity for the different kids, the ones who don’t pay attention to the ‘right’ things or get rowdy or spend loads of time day-dreaming. I want them to know there’s a place for them, just as they are. I’ve realised in hindsight that I also chose tough/creepy animals? Wolves and crocodiles! My next picture book in 2021 is about a bat. I guess I like different animals too!

Did you communicate with the illustrator of A Crocodile in the Family? Or did you each work separately?
We worked separately. I’ve never spoken directly to him! However, my commissioning editor at Hachette would tell me nice things he said, and also pass on nice things I said to him. So we knew we liked each other’s work. Despite the not talking directly we were both involved in all the choices and I think we worked really well together.

Do you have a tip for kids who love to write?
A tip that I’m using at the moment is to think about what my main character doesn’t want to happen – and then do that.

Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
I was lucky enough to receive an Arts Grant to develop a middle grade novel, so I am deep in a fantasy world with witches and magic and talking bears and monsters. It’s fun! Although not for my main character at the moment because that thing they didn’t want to happen, just happened.

I’m also working with the illustrator from Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf? on our next book – Mr Bat Wants A Hat. She likes creepy animals too.