Shropshire Star

Shropshire author brings kitten tales to life in new children's book

When retired vet Jessica Keane started to write stories to entertain her grandchildren, there was one, in particular, that really captured their imagination.

Author Jessica Keane, right, with illustrator Sue Richards

Now she is sharing their favourite tale of Mia the kitten with other young readers after publishing her first children's book.

Helping to bring the characters to life are a series of water colour illustrations drawn by her friend and artist, Sue Richards.

"About four years ago, I began writing stories for my grandchildren," explains Jessica, who lives in Telford.

"I have two granddaughters who are now 10 and seven years old. They loved the stories and kept pestering me for more.

"They particularly liked the story of a little black kitten called Mia that moved from a city to the country and struggled to make friends.

"Not happy with the story’s ending, they wanted to know what happened next to little Mia and so bit by bit the Mia books evolved, first in my imagination and then on paper."

She has written three books about the adventures of Mia and the first, Mia Is Lost, which sees the kitten explore the mysterious forest behind her back garden, is now available to buy through Amazon.

"I have chosen a black kitten as my hero as black cats often struggle more to find forever homes," says Jessica.

A 53-year-old German national, she came to the UK in 1997 to work as a veterinary surgeon in a mixed animal practice in rural Cambridgeshire.

She moved to Shropshire in 1998, after meeting her husband, David, on an activity holiday in Wales, and worked full time as a vet, first in Much Wenlock, and later becoming a partner in Gladstone Vets in Hadley.

Jessica working as a vet before she retired two years ago

She retired from the dream job she had chosen when she was "a four-year-old animal-crazy little girl" two years ago after giving it her all.

More spare time gave her the welcome opportunity to embrace her love of writing and, keen to hone her skills, she enrolled on two writing courses at the Writers College and joined writing groups both online and locally.

"I am lucky to be a member of the Much Wenlock U3A writing group ‘Writers on the Edge’. The other writers in the group have helped me become a better writer and I made some good friends.

"They forced me to read my stories out loud and critiqued my writing and bit by bit I got better and less shy to share my stories.

"They encouraged me to try and publish the first book so that more children could read about Mia’s adventures apart from family, friends and my writing group," explains Jessica.

Turning her story into a published book has proven to be a steep learning curve, requiring more time and effort than she had ever imagined.

But she has relished the exciting, new challenge and says she is grateful for all the support she has received along the way.

"One of the themes of the first Mia book is based on the quote from Helen Keller. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

"Teamwork plays a big role in the book as the forest animals and cats need to work together to rescue the kitten. Producing a children’s book is also a big team effort," says Jessica.

Retired practice nurse, Sue, who lives in Madeley, stepped in to illustrate the story with 18 drawings of Mia and the forest animals.

She has always drawn since she was a child and will carry a sketch book when she travels to record her journeys.

Working on the illustrations has been very rewarding for Sue and she enjoyed throwing herself into a different kind of project.

Sue with one of the illustrations from Mia Is Lost

"I will draw for no reason but it's always nice to have a reason," says Sue. "I read the book and I would write a note of a sentence that gave me an idea for a drawing.

"Having a vet looking at them, meant the animals had to be anatomically correct. I spent a lot of time making sure they were," Sue tells Weekend.

Jessica employed a professional editor to copy edit the book, Shropshire firm Youcaxton designed the cover and layout and her husband David built a website to promote her writing.

The book is aimed at young competent readers age six to nine to read alone or as a read together book for not so competent readers.

"My dream for the future is to visit libraries and primary schools in Shropshire, read about kitten Mia and her forest friends and hopefully encourage children to go on little woodland adventures and look for the book’s characters," says Jessica.

Jessica and Sue will be hosting a launch event for the book at The Orbit in Wellington on Saturday, February 11, from 11am to 1pm.

"Everyone is very welcome. There will be the opportunity to buy books, look at Sue’s illustrations in colour and get books signed by both of us," says Jessica.

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