It's finally here! Solly-Baby-founder-turned-children's-author Elle Rowley is launching her latest book and we couldn't be more excited. We sat down with Elle to get some fun inside peeks at her writing process, the inspiration for the book, and what's next for Agnes.
For how long has it been a dream of yours to author a book?
Honestly since the day I wrote my first story about Santa Claus in 1st grade. I looked up the word “author” in the yellow pages after I’d finished, thinking that was the process to getting it made into a real book. Sadly that didn’t take me very far, but the dream lived on!
Agnes & the Sheep is inspired by your own pup, farm and family—regale us with a real-life tale that wove its way into the story.
I’d say they more than inspired it, they pretty much wrote the book! A few years ago we introduced three Dorper lambs to our backyard farm (following a Solly Baby farm shoot!). Not long after, our family went out for the evening, returning home to what looked like a crime scene. Plants were knocked over, rugs were disheveled, and as we looked closer, we could see sheep droppings in near perfect lines throughout the house.
We followed their trails to each and every plant in our home, all of which had been at least partially eaten, with their leaves strewn about the floor.
Our dog, a Great Dane with an uncanny gift for opening doors, had let the sheep in the house as she let herself in to find her bed for the evening, giving the sheep free rein to pursue our houseplants while she presumably slept (her favorite pastime). The next day we found the sheep completely exhausted, but also with (thankfully, mild) stomach aches, giving the perfect ending to their “grass is greener” fable.
Where did you write most of the book? (At your desk on your laptop? On a walk in your head? By hand in the one-room schoolhouse? Set the scene for us!)
I worked on the initial draft in our little office we have in Carlsbad Village with just a window bench and a chalkboard (it used to be a Solly Baby storage room, but we gave it a revamp and made it my little writing nook), but after that first draft, most of my writing happened in my bed.
My best writing is generally first thing in the morning and I could also bring in my kids easily to hear each iteration of the story. They gave such insightful feedback and continue to as I am working on the next books in the series! My 8-year-old submitted her own drawings to the publisher of what she imagined the sheep doing while we were gone (think KISS sunglasses and a disco ball) and it really has created this alternate world that our family can visit together. It has surprised (and delighted) me just how much of a family experience this has been.
In what ways did the story evolve from first draft to final copy?
Although the story is quite simple and has stayed pretty true to the real-life story, the characters definitely evolved throughout the process. I spent a lot of time creating and personifying each character, especially Agnes, to give them the depth I wanted. Agnes is, of course, inspired by our dog (who is truly wise and kind!), but also my grandmother who helped raise me and Queenie from a British show called "Larkrise to Candleford," so creating her character was a sweet experience as I tried to channel these great women.
What do you hope readers (adults or children or both!) feel as they read Agnes & the Sheep?
I sincerely hope that this simple story will bring families together to deepen connection, build character, and create cozy memories. Reading with my family is easily my favorite activity so imagining this book gathering families at bedtime is so meaningful to me.
Tell us about the process of working with illustrator Clare Therese.
She’s just THE BEST. I don’t know what else to say except that I looked for an illustrator for months and months and could not find anything that felt right until Clare’s work with Solly Baby hit me right in the face. Even though she hadn’t illustrated a children’s book before, I immediately knew that she was the artist to create Agnes’ world. She has exceeded every possible expectation and, also, she’s just a truly lovely person to work with.
What are your own children's reviews of the book?
I have given them ample opportunities and even encouraged them to tell me that they hate it, but they keep telling me they love it! Solomon is offended that we changed our dog’s name to Agnes for the book, but otherwise they’re pretty big fans. Hazel and Frances, my two youngest, ask for it almost daily. I cannot deny that this delights me.
In addition to Agnes & the Sheep, what are five favorite books you'd recommend for any family library?
- Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partidge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas
- Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli and Paul Yakowitz
- The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward and Marjorie Flack
- A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
- The Empty Pot by Demi
What's next for Agnes?
The next book in the series will be out mid-2023, which I couldn’t be more excited about!
Will Tigerlily be joining you on your book tour?
The husband says no because Tigerlily gets carsick (Great Dane vomit is no joke), but I’m still crossing my fingers for local stops!