by Julia Seal
What inspired you to write Bloom?
My head is always full of story ideas, inspired by things I’ve seen or overheard or read. In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, I spotted a shocking headline in the paper: “More masks than jellyfish, Coronavirus waste ends up in the ocean.” I was struck by the enormity of the problem, made suddenly worse by all the extra disposable masks and plastic waste that Covid was creating. I drew an image of a beautiful jellyfish surrounded by disposable masks, floating eerily in the water and this was the starting point of the story. The exciting thing about writing is you never know where a story idea might take you! My original plot involved a lonely jellyfish surrounded by plastics but after much research into jellyfish, I discovered that they are actually blooming in the polluted waters at the moment and the story evolved from there!
How would you suggest primary teachers use this book?
I’d love to think that Bloom would spark discussions in class about the environment and our impact on it. There are so many elements within the story that could trigger interesting conversations. My children were particularly fascinated by the underwater ‘cleaning station’ image. They were amazed to learn of the elaborate system that exists in the ocean where creatures present themselves to be cleaned at designated cleaning stations visited by cleaner fish!
Jellyfish are also incredibly intriguing creatures to learn about. My research for the book led me to all sorts of astounding discoveries. Did you know that jellyfish blooms are actually causing havoc all over the globe? They’re blocking up power stations and weighing down fishing nets. The rebellious jellyfish in the book were inspired by true stories!
I hope that the mischievous jellyfish in Bloom will encourage lots of creative ideas about how we can make small changes to help protect our environment.
What motivated you to begin a career in writing/illustrating?
I was always encouraged to be creative as a child. I would constantly be filling sketchbooks with half finished stories and drawings. My mother was an author and I would often sit with her and write. In fact, a lot of my childhood adventures appear in my mum’s books as she used us for inspiration! My love of art led me to study Graphic Design at University and upon completing my degree, I found a job designing greeting cards and Christmas crackers. I’ve always loved Christmas - it’s my favourite time of year - but it was a unique experience drawing snowmen and Father Christmas’ in the heat of summer! After four years of constant Christmas, I was lucky enough to find an agent and start illustrating children’s books. My illustrations have always got a story behind them so it seemed natural to start writing my ideas down!
What are the major influences in your work and how do you decide on your subjects?
In the early days of my illustrating career, I used to sit and read hundreds of picture books to my children – bedtimes would often go on for ages as I always agreed to ‘one more story!’ I’d marvel at the amazing illustrations and wish I’d come up with the storylines myself! Illustrators like Quentin Blake, Lauren Child and David Litchfield have all helped refine and develop my own style. I think you can absorb so much from reading.
Since I was a child, I have also kept a little notepad full of snippets of intriguing overheard conversations and ideas. It’s full of humorous things my children have said and done; it’s really helpful to refer back to this when I’m looking for inspiration.
Which books had a lasting impact on you as a child and why?
I was surrounded by books as a child. My dad had a study filled, floor to ceiling, with beautiful hardback books – all the classics from Dickens to Hemmingway. He’d often try and encourage me to read them but I was far more interested in the magical adventures of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl! One particular book that I read over and over again was a beautifully illustrated copy of Aesop’s Fables. I loved the way that each short story had a moral or a hidden meaning and I think this is something that I’ve carried over to my writing.