Gianna Pollero is the author of the hilariously funny Monster Doughnuts series.
Meet Grace: monster-hunter extraordinaire!
Meet Mr Harris: grumpy and smelly cyclops!
There's nothing Grace is better at than wiping out monsters single-handedly. From a Sock Stealer to a Slime Imp, she's got them covered – with the secret weapon she has up her sleeve. Grace owns a very special kind of bakery – and everyone knows how much monsters love doughnuts and cake!
Just don't tell Mr Harris about the secret exploding baking powder inside...
The Monster Doughnuts series is a side-splitting adventure with Grace and Mr Harris leading the charge. Ten-year-old Grace is a wonderful protagonist: fearless, intelligent, tenacious. She will not stop until the world is safe from deadly monsters, and she has solved the mystery of her missing parents. With help from her sister, some monster-hunting friends (and maybe a monster along the way) Grace sets about making the world a safer place, one doughnut at a time.
Becoming a writer has been Gianna's lifelong ambition. She worked on her debut novel while undertaking Curtis Brown Creative's Writing YA and Children's Fiction course in 2016. Now represented by Rachel Mann at the Jo Unwin agency, her first book Monster Doughnuts was picked up by Piccadilly Press. Three books later and some exciting plans in the pipelines, Gianna is making a fantastic contribution to the world of children's fiction. We were delighted to catch up with Gianna in the midst of her super hectic schedule to ask about writing, monsters and Garibaldi biscuits.
BG: Where do you find your inspiration?
GP: I take my inspiration from all sorts of places, and mostly it sneaks up on me unexpectedly – it could come from somewhere I’ve visited, something I’ve seen in a shop or someone’s house, a story someone’s told me which gets my imagination whirring, or – in the case of Monster Doughnuts – a character my daughter came up with (which I stole with permission) that ended up being the inspiration for a whole series of books!
BG: How long did it take to write your first book?
GP: Once the idea for Monster Doughnuts was clear in my head, it took me around eight weeks to write the first draft. I tend to write in the evenings but I work quite quickly when I’m inspired. It literally feels like the words are desperate to get out onto the page when I have a story in my head.
BG: Why were doughnuts your weapon of choice?
GP: My daughter and I discussed what might make a good, but unusual, weapon for destroying monsters, and doughnuts seemed like an excellent option! Plus, who doesn’t love a doughnut?!
BG: If your books were adapted for screen, who would you want to be the voice of Mr Harris?
GP: There are so many people I would LOVE to hear as Mr Harris! I think if I could choose anyone, I’d probably go for someone like Hugh Bonneville, Eddie Redmayne, or possibly Simon Pegg – someone who could add real humour to the character.
BG: How important are your relationships with other authors, your agent, the publishing team?
GP: As with almost everything, relationships are really important. Children’s authors, in my experience, are a friendly bunch and it’s very helpful to hear about their experiences because they’re often very relatable. It’s also lovely to be able to speak to like-minded people!
The author-agent relationship is absolutely vital – your agent has chosen to represent you and your work so getting on well together really enhances the whole writing journey. Agents are also a fountain of knowledge and can advise you on a whole range of things that you might know very little about. It’s so important to listen to them, take their advice and ask for guidance when you need it. I am so lucky to have my agent, Rachel Mann (Jo Unwin Literary Agency) – she has believed in me from the very start and I couldn’t have done any of it without her!
For many of the same reasons, it’s important to get on with your publishing team too – they are so experienced and are rooting for you and your books to do well, so working as part of one big team makes the process a really enjoyable one for everybody.
BG: What’s the most rewarding moment of your writing career so far?
GP: A while ago, I did a school visit and was asked to meet a little boy one-to-one after my workshop as he was a big fan of my books. Although he was a little shy at first, we had a really lovely chat about why he loved my books and who his favourite characters were. It wasn’t until after he had gone back in to class that I was told he is mostly non-verbal.
It’s experiences like this that make me realise just how important reading is for children and how much of a positive effect a good story can have on them. I don’t think I have ever felt so touched or privileged. It was a hugely significant and special moment and one that I’ll never forget.
BG: Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?
GP: I have a few things in the pipeline but, at the moment, my main focus is on writing a brand new children’s book. There are no doughnuts in this one (well, not yet, anyway!) but there is a talking dog with attitude and a whole new world where everything has gone very, very wrong!
BG: At Inky Frog, we often work with writers at the very start of their journey. What three pieces of advice would you give beginning writers?
GP: Firstly, read and write as much as you can. Reading gives you tips you don’t even know you’re getting and, as with anything, the more you write the better you get at it.
Secondly, be persistent and resilient! You have to be prepared for knock-backs and you need to put them down to experience rather than allow them to dent your confidence. Learn from everything and do not give up.
Lastly, take advice. Speak to other writers, editors and agents if you can, and get people to read your work and offer honest feedback. Listen to what they say and see if there are elements you can use to improve your writing.
BG: Who are your favourite children’s authors – past or present?
GP: SO many. I have a soft spot for Roald Dahl as his books made me want to be an author. I also loved Michelle Magorian, Joan Aitken and Jill Murphy as a child. Now, I will read anything and everything by Rick Riordan, Jack Meggitt-Phillips and Michelle Harrison, to name but a few!
BG: If you could be any children’s book character, who would you be?
GP: That’s such a difficult question – there are so many amazing characters out there who I would absolutely love to be. If I had to choose, I think I would be either Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter, Red from 13 Secrets, or Daisy Wells from the Murder Most Unladylike series. I love brave, feisty characters who are surrounded by intrigue, with a little bit of magic thrown in.
BG: And, most importantly, what’s your favourite biscuit?
GP: That’s probably the hardest question you’ve asked me as there aren’t many biscuits I don’t like, and they play a very important part of my creative process (in that I eat a lot of them while writing!). I’m going to say chocolate chip shortbread for today, but let’s not completely disregard Viennese Whirls, chocolate digestives and the very much underrated Garibaldi!
A massive thank you to Gianna for taking the time to chat with us. We can't wait to see what comes next – and next time I'll bring the Garibaldi!