In the latest instalment of the Aggie Flea series, Aggie Flea Steals the Show!, author Tania Ingram reflects on childhood experiences and encourages children to embrace their imagination.

What do you love about writing children's books?

I love the absolute escape of creating stories that aren’t limited by ordinary life boundaries or adult perceptions. Writing children’s books is the closest I can get to the magic I believed in as a child.

What inspired you to write the Aggie Flea series?

I was reflecting on my own childhood and how my big imagination used to get me into trouble - I once thought my new neighbour was an alien-robot! (turns out he was Greek). Also, I really wanted to write a book for girls with a character that was over the top, hilarious, and perfectly imperfect.

What inspired you to write your newest addition to the series, Aggie Flea Steals the Show?

The fact that Scholastic wanted a second book was a big motivating factor!

Seriously though, I had so much fun writing Aggie Flea and I jumped at the chance to do a second book. I loosely based the story off another childhood incident, (which may or may not have ended with me knocking a Wise Man and Joseph off a stage during a Christmas nativity concert!).

What is exciting and challenging about writing a new addition to a series?

The exciting part would be having the opportunity to explore a character and their world in more depth. It’s akin to making a new friend and learning wonderfully interesting things about them. It also allows you to delve further into secondary characters in the book and flesh out their personalities a bit more as well.

The challenging part is to not write yourself into a corner or add things that may mess up future storylines. Also, for the Aggie Flea series, there are 3 graphic novel inserts of Princess Zombie in each book (Princess Zombie is Aggie’s favourite book series). The Princess Zombie sections are hugely tricky – the 3 sections need to have a similar theme to something that is happening in Aggie’s life prior to the insert (e.g., Doing what is right, even though it might be hard / Looking for the positives in life / It’s not fun to be misunderstood, etc) but they must also make sense as a short story in itself, so that there’s a logical flow between the 3 inserts. Furthermore, I’d never written a graphic novel before, so writing all of the illustration and action elements was challenging too.

Did any personal experiences contribute to this new book?

As I mentioned earlier, Aggie Flea is basically me as a kid (and even a bit as an adult!). There’s a lot of personal experiences in this book – probably more than I should publicly confess to really!

Do you have a typical writing process? How did the writing process for this book compare?

I’m a panster for the most part, so I don’t usually spend a lot of time planning out stories. With these books, I let the Aggie Flea narrative just unfold in a ‘panstery’ (is that a word?) way but I had to do more planning for the Princess Zombie sections. I’d say the process was a bit slower than it would normally be because of this.

What do you hope your readers will take away from Aggie Flea Steals the Show?

Two things immediately spring to mind.

Firstly, Remember to love your BIG imagination, because it really is one of the most precious parts of childhood. Imagination is the first casualty of adulthood and knowledge, sadly, so love it while you can.

Secondly, Being yourself is ALWAYS enough. I think this is a message that kids especially need to hear in our ‘social media era’ where photos are curated to almost impossible to achieve standards. If we can embed this message into children’s psyche at a young age then hopefully, they’ll have some immunity to the pressures and accompanying mental health issues that arise as they get older.

What was it like to work with an illustrator on this story? Were there particular images or experiences that you were excited to see?

I didn’t have any direct contact with Anne Yi - everything went through our editors, but I couldn’t be happier with the illustrations for Aggie Flea. Anne did a superb job! As Aggie has such an over-active imagination, I had a lot of fun thinking up things she’d imagine, such as bagpipe playing vampires, and alien brothers, and Anne nailed it every time! My favourite illustration from Aggie Flea Steals the Show! is the one of the giant pineapple after the accident – I love how Anne illustrated the hole Aggie makes as an agape mouth. It’s perfect!

Do you have any other projects in the works?

I have a picture book called Walls (illustrated by Ruth-Mary Smith) coming out in July 2024. In this book, a Viking lives on one side of the book and a Knight lives on the other side. They have a disagreement over who has the better side and both decide to build walls to keep them ‘safe’ from the other. In building the walls though, they create a situation that puts the entire book in danger.

I also have a middle grade novel coming out in July 2024 called The Other Shadow. This book is about a boy called Thomas, who is struggling with grief, loneliness and neglect after his father dies and his mother’s mental illness worsens. At the moment of his father’s death, a shadow appears on the wall of the hospital. A shadow that follows Thomas home and wants to be Thomas’s friend.

I’ve also recently been contracted for another picture book, which may be coming out later this year, and I have several books out on submission. At any given time, I have 3 – 4 stories that I’m working on and another 10 bubbling away in the background. I came up with a new story today while loading the washing machine (and it has nothing to do with washing machines!). In order to get all of the stories out of my head, I think I'd have to learn to type faster or give up sleeping!