Findhorn beach has proved inspirational for many people and recently for author Lari Don and her childrenÂ as they made shapes in the sand â€” footprints, handprints and finally bottom prints. The shape of a bottom print seemed to Lari such an inherently funny idea that she rushed to her ever-present notebook to sketch the bottom shapes that she and her daughters had made. As soon as she got home she wrote the story which would be become her latest book: The Big Bottom Hunt.
The Big Bottom Hunt is a funny picture book telling the story of two children who spot a lost telescope on the beach and determine to find its owner from just a tracing of a bottom shape in the sand. They ask everyone in their Scottish coastal village: Is this your bottom?
Well known for her two books for older children First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts and Wolf Notes and Other Musical Mishaps, this isÂ Lari’s first venture into picture books.
“I had probably the perfect childhood for anyone who wants to be a writer,” she recalls. “I grew up in the north of Scotland and spent ten childhood years living beside a distillery, a river and a railway line, giving me lots of opportunities for exciting â€“ but potentially dangerous now I look back â€“ outdoor games.”
If Lari ever imagined being a writer it was not something she felt should be attempted straight from school, rather something she would do when she was ‘granny aged’. She worked as the Scottish NationalÂ Partyâ€˜s Press Officer and then as a researcher and producer atÂ BBC Radio Scotland.
Choosing to stop work to have her family, allowed her to begin writing. She started with short stories which could be fitted in round a new baby and was surprised and delighted when her first effort won the Canongate Prize.
“That gives you a lot of confidence as a writer,” she says, “but I didn’t capitalise on it and write a novel as I wanted to have another baby. I assumed I would write a book at some point but couldn’t face working on something for 18 months and then being horrified to discover it didn’t work. I couldn’t commit to that long term a project. In a way I was surprised, but maybe not, when my first book turned out to be for 9 year olds. It happened because I was starting to think more about stories for children â€“ and then I found an idea that I could commit to.”
The decision to become a full time writer and not go back to work when her younger child went to school, was something she discussed with her husband. There was enough momentum there to encourage them to give it a go. “You don’t choose to become a writer; writing chooses you,” she says, “but if there was ever a time when I made a choice to write, that was it.”
Clearly, Lari loves her job, she loves the creative side as well as the challenge of editing it into the best possible piece of work. She also loves storytelling, usually Scottish myths and legends, and visiting schools to promote her books and to talk about writing. At a recent author event, she encountered two of her daughter’s friends. It hadn’t occurred to them that their friend’s mother was a ‘published’ author’. So she was able to say that if she could be a writer, so could anyone.
Juggling being a mother of young children with everything involved in running a small business leaves little time for other interests but if pushed Lari says, reading and writing are her hobbies and going to the cinema when she can get a babysitter. We had also caught her having just come back from a run, which is her way of keeping fit and checking up on the herons in the park.
She was about to return to chapter 9 of her next book, confessing that she hadn’t a clue how it was going to end. “I don’t plan my plots at all. There is a queue of books in my head,” she says. “I will write more children’s books, fantasy, magical, maybe historical or thrillers. I’m unlikely to write a ghost story or a romance but you never know. Stories have a life of their own. The main thing I want my stories to be is exciting.”
The Big Bottom Hunt is illustrated by Gabby Grant. It is great fun and just a little bit ‘cheeky!’. The Big Bottom Hunt is available here from Amazon.