Hello Natalie I’m delighted to be featuring you as I love the illustrations and message of your books and we featured your books in the Christmas Gift Ideas special for West London Kids. I would love you to answer a few questions about your book(s)/ business and your background.
So to start with … Where about in West London do you live and how long have you been there?
I live in Barnes – also known as the village on the river – I’ve lived here 8 years now.
How do you find being a parent in West London? What are the main advantages and disadvantages?
Barnes particularly is full of families – the majority of which I’d say (if I’m not wrong) have young children. Its great to walk out and always know people and there always be children for the children to play with. We are lucky to have a lovely green around Barnes pond and the river along side so there is always a good opportunity to explore nature. We are also not far at all from central London with its host of things to do! Parenting in SW London is definitely helped by the number of other parents that there are, which means lots of groups, support and simply people in similar positions to share with.
What inspired you to start your first business/ write your first book? Why did you choose to write for children?
I have always written since I was a child – and in fact my first book was not actually for children, more young adult/millennial. It was when my children went to school though and I saw how hard it can be for all these children taking such a big step and not necessarily knowing how to deal or manage all of it, that I began to write for young children. I wanted to do what I could to show young children the importance and benefits of being kind to each other and how easy it is to do.
Where do you prefer to work/ write?
At home at them moment – though I am going to start going out to do it – I am a member at the Olympic members club in Barnes which is a vibrant inspiring place to be either socially or workwise and I plan to start spending a bit more time getting creative in there.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
When I look through my many years of diaries, which I have written since I was just 13, it shows me intending to write a book of my life from my early twenties. So, I guess a general focus on writing as a career has been a long time coming.
How did you come up with the main characters in your books?
I wanted to create simple but appealing characters that personified the message they were giving – so hearts seemed the natural answer – it all happened quite organically to be honest – they just came to me.
What activities do you enjoy doing as a family?
We love eating out together and holidaying in different countries. The kids love swimming which is always fun too. We try to spend a lot of time with family that are dotted around London at weekends, whenever possible and at home we enjoy spending time playing in the garden, cooking, doing puzzles, playing family games and whatever else the children come up with. We try to let them lead the decision for free time usually. Our aim is to start involving more sports together and getting more active as a family.
What’s your favourite West London restaurant to eat out as a family?Gosh that’s a difficult one – it would have to be Benihana in Kings road for special occasions, OKA in Barnes for sushi (the kids love it) or Riva our local family Italian, which is also incredibly good.
What was your favourite book as a child?
The Secret Garden. I’ve always loved a little (a lot) of escapism.
What are your main writing goals for the next few years?
To publish the entire series of Henry & Henrietta Heartbeat and begin building the brand in a more encompassing way, branching out beyond books alone.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I actually wanted to be a TV Presenter – but my parents were a little hostile in my narrowing down my opportunities so precisely, plus I’m not actually sure how well I would have had handled all the behind the scenes issues there as I do believe it’s a bit cut throat…. Other than that I wanted to be a buyer, basically because I love shopping and travelling. I ended up doing neither!
Do you have any advice for would-be new authors?
Follow your dream. If you can dream it – you can do it! Don’t give up at the tricky hurdles – today more than ever there are an infinite number of ways to get your story written and out there in the hands of the public.
Do you think living in West London hinders or helps your writing? Is there a particular London spot that inspires you to write?
Barnes itself can be a bit of a bubble, I have to say – a strength and weakness – but it works with kids and the vicinity of everything allows more time to work as most things are close. As I mentioned though, I do feel the need to get out now and take my work elsewhere for a while. I am not so familiar with the rest of south west London as I actually grew up in North London, however having lived in central London for a period I would say the diversity, multi-culture and inspiration of the bustling centre provides great stimulus for any creative!
Natalie’s books are wonderfully positive and help to teach young children about important things such as empathy and kindness. Highly recommended! You can find out more about Henry and Henrietta Heartbeat and buy the books on the website: www.henryandhenriettaheartbeat.com The books can also be purchased on Amazon in paperback, hardback and Kindle versions.