The former dancer and model turned children’s author tells us about how her world (and her Christmas time) has been taken over by dragons…
What are your tips for surviving Christmas with kids?
Julia: Surviving with kids?..the only way, I just become one 🙂 which means what doesn’t get done often stays undone in terms of tidying up, at times at least. I try not to sweat the small stuff and know it is of course a messy time. My son (Elliot age 10) and my nieces and nephews always go for lots of walks which frees my mind from the confined noise levels. And the Xbox is a recent saving grace, once they are in the conservatory on that I then have a few hours space. In terms of activities we love baking too, and have the annual fairy cake baking competitions. At bedtime the story time is always ‘freestyle’, I love making up stories up for them and as book one is now written I am working on book two so this Christmas they should have lots of new excitement. As one of my nieces is 15 and my one of my nephews 12 I encourage them to do their own fantasy storytime and they make up a story in turn, we find it more fun than just reading, and we have created some really funny and memorable scenes.
What’s Christmas Day like round yours?
Julia: Usually it starts with the some of Elliot’s cousins stopping over but I try to get them in bed by 10pm (if I am lucky!!) and the day starts at 6.30 am start of ‘please can we do presents’ in dressing gowns. From then on there are relatives coming and going all day. My two elder brothers with both their two children always visit, and extended family pop in, or Elliot and I do the rounds to their houses depending on the schedule. Mum is always close to hand for helping make the big Christmas dinner, which is always a monstrous affair and enough on our plates for four persons. From 4pm onwards its sleep after too much turkey, films and then games. There is never a quiet moment and I have to admit I am rarely without a glass of Baileys in my hand.
How do you maintain a yummy mummy image when you’re so busy?
Julia: Is a big cuddly dressing gown yummy mummy? No seriously, I always try to get dressed and preened early so to set my day straight and if I feel good my mind performs better. I do have quite a fixed routine that works for me, of which painting nails before bed has become engrained. It means I dont knock them because sitting for half an hour waiting for them to dry and doing nothing never ever works for me. Ive never managed it once!.
Re Health and skincare, I think it helps that I have a real love of fruit and juices so no matter how hard pushed I am I squeeze my nutrition boosts in. There are rare occasions I dont have time to eat so I grab smoothies. I do have a total weakness for anything chocolate and for Walkers and I won’t limit anything I fancy, but I do think that keeping busy boosts your metabolism and I always seem to dash everywhere, taking the stairs rather than lifts. When I am on the phone (usually a couple of hours per day at least on business calls) then I tend to pace the corridors, it helps my thought processes and no doubt burns extra calories. And if I feel the squeeze I enjoy a couple of hard hours at the gym including a swim. I am blessed that I have a wonderful ‘Mummy’ of my own who helps me when facing any burden, she lives very close by and takes any pressure from me. She is very much a person of routine and discipline so I learned alot from her.
What made you start writing the books and what’s your inspiration?
Julia: After A level in English I studied creative writing at University as an addition module to my business studies degree. But it was ten years later until I considered writing a book. If I say ‘it was a vision ‘ it sounds rather cliché. But one day I saw an image of a picture just of a dragon and I at first I felt a dragon as an icon fitted my business brand as by this time I had set up my own company. Dragons to me are unique, with fire and drive and are spirited and I love them for this reason. But then this character and land just formed from it in my mind. It came to life so vividly, and grew all about ‘health, happiness and beauty’ inside and out. It seemed so natural to write the story and as it developed with him facing challenges that we all deal with, I reflected on life and wrote of a world I felt we all would love to live in. I then wanted to share the excitement of a magical world where all things were possible and many people I spoke to about it loved it so it just went from there.
Who are the books aimed at?
Julia: The core target is children 8 to 14. However I am finding adults love to read it too, and children younger love it being read to them.
What does your son think of the books? Has it made him more popular at school?
Julia: Oh he is a popular boy actually, a lot more confident and outgoing than I recall I was and has always been free from any real issues at school. His friends have read and love the book and he says he is very proud of me and that it’s not ‘just because I am his Mom’. When he first finished it he gave me a hug, (he refused to read it until he had the proper book in his hand- he is somewhat of a perfectionist). He then said to me that he felt after reading the book that he just wanted to love everyone even those who are bad to him and finds it hard to be horrible to even the mean children. It was a very proud moment for me as I feel the book had a positive effect on him.
Having said that he was told off by me last week for being a little naughty so he then told me it’s the worst book in the world, I have to admit his adjective description was quite amusing and I suppose it was his way of dealing with being told off.
How do you feel when you see people reading the books?
Julia: Thrilled, delighted and a little surreal. Every time I hear someone has read the book or see them read it is the same.
Julia Suzuki is the author of Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms – from the Land of Dragor series. Listen to a sample audio chapter here http://bit.ly/nclVt9