Q & A with Nicky Johnston

Why did you decide to write your book?

When my son was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (at just 5yrs) I went in search of children’s books that we could use to help him understand what he was feeling and strategies to help him learn to manage his worry thoughts.

I was extremely surprised to find that there were very few available, so I decided to write and illustrate my own. The books became our mantra in dealing with his anxiety and were a turning point for his little world. Five years later, I have produced three children’s books that have helped thousands of little worriers all over the world.


Who/what inspired you to write?

I am an avid reader, of a whole range of different books. I believe my love of reading at a very young age inspired me to become a writer. I have been writing stories, journals, articles, etc. for many, many years.  

I love being involved in school visits presenting to both primary and secondary students – to reach the children when they are young, inspire them to develop their creativity in writing and illustrating; they are the authors/illustrators of our future.

I am inspired daily by my children (I have four boys) and I love reading to them and telling them stories. Their interests and imagination intrigue me and often ignite many ideas for my children’s stories – I have notepads full of ideas and illustrations. One day I will work through them all!

What was the most rewarding part of the writing process?

As I am both author and illustrator, I really love the extension I can get with my illustrations adding to my story. I tend to write first in illustrations, edit the text developing it further, and then create the illustrations to extend on the text even further. I often wonder if an author who isn’t an illustrator is able to visualise the story too.

For me the most rewarding part is receiving the very first copy of a new book at its completion. It is amazing to see 18mths–2yrs of work finally as a real book.


What are your top tips for writing a book?

Read, read, read. Write, write and write. When it comes time to edit, I revert to my ‘reader’ knowledge as to what parts to develop further and what to cut out, then apply my writing skills as to how and what I will rewrite.


Which books/authors have inspired you?

There are so many authors and illustrators who inspire me, and great books that I love, I don’t know that I can choose. I am inspired by people who are passionate about what they do (write or illustrate) and it is this passion that I try to focus on in myself. I admire people who remain true to themselves in the work that they do.


Why did you decide to self publish and why Palmer Higgs?

Due to the particular niche of my books (mental health of children) my books were not considered ‘mass market’ by traditional publishers. However, I knew what a massive market there was to reach, so I took a leap of faith and jumped into the unchartered waters of self-publishing. It has been one of the best decisions I have made.


What do you hope your readers get out of your book?

I want children to know that they are not the only ones to have worry thoughts, and that anxiety IS manageable. I also want to give parents a resource to help them teach their little worriers valuable strategies that WILL help them beat their worry thoughts.

Due to the quantity of heartfelt emails, letters, messages I receive I know that I have been successful in achieving this.


Would you consider writing another book?

I have written and illustrated two children’s books, Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts and Happythoughts are Everywhere. And on 3rd August I will be launching my third children’s book Actually, I Can.

I have many ideas for stories and I plan to continue to work through my ever-growing manuscript folder to produce them into other children’s books.


Do you have any other tips for new authors (i.e. book launch, research, marketing etc.)?

I always tell any aspiring author to research the book market that is already covered by other authors and identify the angle that makes your book different from all others. Don’t rush any part of the process, set realistic timeframe goals. Be prepared for lots of hard work, which really isn’t hard when it is your passion.

Don’t forget to continue to write, plan future projects, keeping your passion and creative mind active.

Enjoy the journey, for it is just that – not a final destination. Remember to celebrate achievements no matter how small they may seem.