Blog tour: ‘Rory’s Room of Rectangles,’ by Ian Eagleton, illustrated by Jessica Knight.

When you open a book written by Ian, you know that you are going to go on an emotional journey. But also, that you are in a safe pair of hands. This remains the case in his latest collaboration with inclusive publisher Owlet Press, where we meet a young boy torn between his two families as Father’s Day approaches.

Make sure you scroll down to read a Q&A with Ian exploring what life is like as a writer and what happens when inspiration strikes (or doesn’t!)

‘Rory loves his Dad, but he also really likes his Step-dad, Tony. He has weekends with Dad in the park and makes imaginary dens with Tony, so when Father’s Day comes, who should he make his card for at school?

Spotting his frustration, Tony spends his “rainy-day pennies” to take Rory somewhere new – an art gallery, full of wonders. As they pause to reflect in a huge room of rectangles, Rory sees his conflicting feelings glistening back at him in many powerful colours. Afterwards, a “chance” encounter with Dad, under a red sky, helps Rory realise that he doesn’t have to feel torn at all.’

Now for a Q&A from Ian Eagleton about life as a writer:


Do the themes, the characters or plot come first for you when writing?

Hhhhmmmmm! A tricky question! It all usually starts with a conversation with someone or me overhearing something! All three sort of work in combination because you want a picture book that has an interesting, engaging plot which keeps your reader wanting to continue, but you also need three-dimensional characters who go through a journey and learn something along the way. When I wrote Violet’s Tempest, which is illustrated by Clara Anganuzzi, I initially saw in my mind a little girl looking out of her classroom window onto a rainy playground. This got me thinking about why she was so sad and what had happened to her. Sometimes, the need to disrupt or disturb the status quo drives my writing. When I wrote Nen and the Lonely Fisherman, illustrated by James Mayhew, I was very much thinking about the need for a gay relationship in a fairy tale and how we don’t often see them. I do think characterisation is incredibly important though – a story can be full of action and fun but if the characters feel a bit lifeless and not particularly well-rounded then the story can fall a bit flat. Basically, what I’m saying is, I have NO idea!

What is your typical writing day like?

I have a desk in the living room and that’s where I write. I often spend a lot of time day-dreaming, thinking about my characters, reading poetry, having make-believe conversations with my characters! When I’m actually writing, I write QUICKLY. I write without a care in the world, full of freedom and creativity and fun. The editing process is the part where I really dig in and take a long time. Sam at Owlet Press will know that I’m a perfectionist when it comes to picture books – every word has to be in the right place and convey the right feeling. We’ve often had conversations which have lasted FORVER about one word in the text. I really do believe that our children deserve the best so crafting a story takes a lot of time, thought, problem-solving and passion from EVERYONE involved in producing a book!

Sometimes I have to write around my little boy. He might go off for a few hours with my husband, or Granny and Grandad will have him for an afternoon. I might have to work during the day (I’m an educational resource writer) and then write from 8pm until midnight. Sometimes I write on my phone while I’m out walking the dog or sat at soft play. I’ll write whenever and wherever I can!

Snack wise, give me strong, black coffee. Give me Jelly Tots. Give me Tori Amos, Mariah Carey, Bjork on repeat. Don’t expect me to respond to you or answer any questions! I’m busy dreaming and writing and shoving Jelly Tots into my greedy mouth!

What do you enjoy most about being an author?

I love most things about being an author, actually! I don’t like all the waiting, and the ups and downs, and the business side of things BUT I love writing and creating, sharing stories with young readers and their families. The best bit is doing author visits and virtual visits and getting to meet lots of children. I love running poetry workshops and helping children find what’s special to them so they can write their own stories.

What is the biggest challenge when writing?

Lack of sleep is one! When I’m writing or have an idea, I have to keep going until I find a suitable place to stop. This often means writing all day and late into the night. I usually spend a lot of time in the early hours of the morning thinking about my characters and how they might react to certain situations.

Being a dad and working three days a week also means finding time to write is tricky. I’ll often be scribbling things down on my notepad or on my phone. It can mean I’m a bit preoccupied or distracted as I find ‘switching off’ quite difficult.

Is creative block ever a problem for you?

ALWAYS! After EVERY book I’ve written, I’ve said to my husband, “Right! That’s it for me! I’m exhausted and have no ideas left!” It usually takes a few weeks of not writing for me to suddenly think of an idea, usually in the dead of night. I then spend quite a long time reading around the themes I’m going to be including in my books and also reading a lot of poetry linked to the story I’ll be telling. I’m currently working on a spooky book so I’m reading lots of Chris Priestley and Jennifer Killick! I often find having a long chat with my editor or agent really helpful. My agent once asked a question that kick-started a whole new book. The question was, “Well, what stories do you like reading?” And one of my editors asked me about childhood memories which turned into a new story too! Talking around a story really helps!

Has your teaching career influenced your writing? Have you included any of your own teaching experiences, students or colleagues (!) in your stories?

Oh, definitely! Rory’s Room of Rectangles has very much been inspired by my career as a teacher. I’ve taught so many children that have a different family life to the ‘dad and mum’ set up we’re used to seeing in picture books. At one school I taught at for two years many of the children had blended families and were living with step-dads and step-mums, so I wanted to reflect their reality in this book. In the first double-page spread of the book, the illustrator Jessica has really captured what it’s like to be in a classroom. I often described my classroom as ‘creative chaos’ when we were doing art and I think she reflects that beautifully! 

Rory’s Room of Rectangles by Ian Eagleton, illustrated by Jessica Knight, is out now, published by Owlet Press.

Thank you, Ian for sharing those insights into your writing world. I love how you craft your books to reflect the realities of the children you work with to ensure that all readers see themselves represented in the titles they read. It is SO important and starts so many conversations. I am very much looking forward to reading whatever you publish next – especially that scary story!


*Many thanks to Owlet Press for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*

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