You may have noticed that we have a new book out! It’s called Saving Gracie – the Story of Cow 812, and it’s selling like hot cakes – you would hardly believe that 3 months ago, at the beginning of lockdown in Scotland, I had never heard of Gracie, and, even though we live in the same wee village, I had never seen a Youtube video by the Hoof GP.

So what came first? The idea! As well as being a publisher, I run a village shop and Post Office, and Graeme (the Hoof GP) and his lovely family are regular customers. Graeme came in one day and said that his boys loved reading the farming stories of Curly Tale Books and he was looking after a cow – Cow 812 – who had really captured his followers’ imaginations. Maybe she would make a good book?

Hmmmm… well after work I sat down and searched for the Hoof GP Cow 812 on Youtube. Well! I was instantly hooked! Poor Gracie! The transformation from seriously ill cow to cow-on-the-mend was incredible. And the comments under the videos showed how many people cared for Gracie and were interested in her story. I was immediately inspired and sat down that evening to write her story, in rhyme. So that was the first day! Believe me, writing is not always that easy.

I sent it to Graeme for approval, and, with a few minor tweaks the story was written. So on to the illustrations. Watercolour painting is my happy place, so it was not a chore at all. I was able to get Gracie from Graeme’s videos, but there were details of her farm that weren’t in his videos – Scotland was in lockdown, so I couldn’t visit for myself. What do to? Well, lucky for me, help was to come in the form of Farming Files! As part of home education during lockdown, the lovely children at Gracie’s farm have been producing a video a day to teach people different aspects of farm life – it’s awesome, and I was able to use loads of the views on their videos to help me make Gracie come to life. There are 15 full colour illustrations plus the cover in the books, each one took about 10 hours to complete. This was by far the most time consuming part of the whole process. The Hoof GP was visiting Gracie in 6 weeks to monitor her progress – I had to have something ready by then!

There was one picture that needed something else – Gracie alone in her shed, missing her friends. I had the idea of getting some local kids to make her Get Well Soon cards – the results were great and you can see them in the finished books.

Not only am I the author and illustrator of Saving Gracie, I also do the design and layout, so I was able to work on that as I went along, and by the time Graeme visited Gracie again I had a mock book ready for him to show his fans. There were still 2 pages missing but Graeme artfully managed to avoid showing them! Scanning the images, manipulating them in Photoshop, adding text, doing the author page and the dedication page was all done as I went along, which meant that we could start to take pre-orders while I got Gracie to the printers. Now many publishers send books abroad to be printed, which is cheaper; but takes months. I print only within the UK, which meant that Gracie was back – 3000 copies in 3 weeks! That meant I only had 3 weeks of sleepless nights worrying that I’d put the pages in the wrong order! And all I can say is, with all the pre-order, I’m glad I live in a Post Office so I could post in my own time rather than make everyone wait in line while I posted over 200 packages!

So that’s the story of Saving Gracie – thanks so much to the Hoof GP, Farming Files and the children who made Get Well Soon cards. It’s not in any way usual to produce a book in 3 months, but I hope you will love the result!