Interview with local author, Mariesa Dulak

Interview with local author, Mariesa Dulak

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mariesa Dulak, the talented author behind the enchanting picture book "There's a Tiger on the Train." Since its publication, the book has garnered wonderful reviews, with The Times praising it as "a rhythmical, rhyming story with exhilarating illustrations and a heartwarming last line," and The New Statesman describing it as "pointedly satirical and highly enjoyable."

Mariesa Dulak, originally from Yorkshire, was drawn to the world of books from an early age. This passion led her to earn a degree in English Literature, followed by an MA in Children's Literature, and eventually a career in publishing. With the support of the GEA, Mariesa transformed her scribbles into engaging stories. Now, she writes picture books that explore themes of identity and family life. A primary school librarian, Mariesa lives with her family in Northfields, Ealing.

See the interview below and head to Instagram to enter our competition to win a copy of "There's a Tiger on the Train."

"There's a Tiger on the Train" creatively explores the theme of disconnecting from technology. What inspired you to write about this topic, and how do you hope it will resonate with young readers and their families?

My book is about a little boy whose dad is so involved in his mobile phone that he doesn't notice what's happening around him. The story was inspired by my own experience of balancing full-time work with a young family and feeling that I wasn't making the most of the precious time I had with my children. "There's a Tiger on the Train" is about taking time out to connect with those you love. I hope that children reading the book will join in with the rhymes and rhythms, have fun making some new animal friends, and enjoy the ride! And I hope that their grown-ups will be reminded to look up from their phones once in a while to see what they might be missing in the wonderful world of their own child’s imagination.

Your background includes a degree in English literature, an MA in Children's Literature, and a career in publishing. How have these experiences influenced your approach to writing picture books, and what advice would you give to aspiring children's authors?

Publishing is such a fascinating and creative industry, and as a self-confessed book nerd, I felt at home there. It was here that I learned the nuts and bolts of the industry. But my passion for the books themselves and the craft of writing led me to an MA in Children's Literature. This was where I learned about the genres, techniques, and themes of picture books, and it was around this time that I started to write my own. My advice to aspiring children's authors is to think about the age that you want to write for (a book for five-year-olds is very different from a book for nine-year-olds), then go to your local bookshop and library and get to know the market. Look at what modern children are actually reading. Then read as many books as you can so you know what works (and what doesn't!). We are very lucky to have two excellent bookshops on our doorstep: Waterstones Ealing and The Pitshanger Bookshop, both of which have very knowledgeable booksellers who can point you in the right direction. Then after you've done all that research, you write, write, and then write some more until you get better.

As a primary school librarian, you interact with young readers regularly. How do these interactions shape your storytelling, and have any specific experiences with children influenced the characters or themes in your books?

I love working with children because they are so refreshingly honest—if they don't like something, they will tell you so. But it also makes them a tough audience to please. An adult might persevere with a book and give it a chance, whereas a child is more likely to give up after the first page and pick up or demand something else. You have to grab their interest quickly and then work hard to keep it! Picture books are designed to be shared between an adult and a child and are often read multiple times. So when I write picture books, I try to make the sharing and reading aloud experience as fun as I can for all those involved. For example, I wrote "There's a Tiger on the Train" to echo the rhythm of a chugging train, and there's lots of repetition, rhyme, and noises for little ones to join in with. I was very lucky to be paired with award-winning illustrator Rebecca Cobb, who brought the animal characters to life and added lots of little details for children to spot on the pages too.