A passion for writing well – At work and in life

Writing a children’s book is no child’s play – But it’s just as much fun!

At Humanise, we like to celebrate employees’ amazing projects – whether they’re done at work or in their personal lives. Today, we’re talking to Madeleine Allard, Senior Copywriter and Editor at Bleublancrouge Brand Language, to learn more about the creative process involved in writing her latest children’s book, Madame J. et les paquebots.

Humanise: What attracts you to writing/children’s literature?

Madeleine: I have four children, so I’ve read tons of children’s books! I love kids’ stories, their playfulness in particular, but also the object itself: the illustrations, the hard covers, the large pages… As a mother, I also loved all the moments I spent reading with my kids. Visiting libraries, going to story time, reading stories before bedtime… They’re great memories.

My writing style, which is very straightforward, lends itself well to this type of literature. I like the freedom. I feel that I can say anything, and I just have to figure out how to go about it. Every word counts and must be chosen carefully. In short, it’s right up my alley.

H: Tell us about your creative process. 

M: I almost always start with an everyday event. In fact, I always say that in my books, nothing really happens! The “events” are often very much internal.

I like to get inside the heads of my characters, to make their inner voice speak out. I love streams of consciousness. For me, what counts when I write is to tell something that’s true. Not biographical, necessarily, but real, reflective of reality. I want people to think, “this person really exists.” I want them to understand how he or she thinks. It has to be coherent. Once I have a starting point, I go all in: no plan, no goal. I follow the story where it leads me without trying to control it. I don’t have a didactic approach at all; I don’t try to get a message across. I try to stay close to my characters, to understand them, to grasp their essence.

Once I have an outline of the story, I strip it away. I remove anything that seems superfluous. I trust that my reader will see who my characters are by their actions and by how the story unfolds. I know I don’t need to explain everything.

This process applies to all literature, whether for children or adults.

H: What inspires you?

M: Daily life, people, my own demons, other people’s books, history. 

H: This isn’t your first publication. How is this release different from previous ones? How is it similar?

M: I wrote Madame J. et les paquebots over five years ago! I wrote it quickly, but the road to getting it published was tortuous. It was a very important book to me when I wrote it, but I became detached from it over time. And with the current climate, I was prepared for it to go completely unnoticed. So it’s a really pleasant surprise that it’s been so well received. But at the same time, it’s strange to dive back into this story now that I’m elsewhere in my creative process.

The other curious thing is that my book has some autobiographical elements to it. It’s an amalgam of several periods of my life. And it’s the first time I’ve written something so personal. So, the book’s publication, and the way it’s being received, it feels different this time around. It’s stirring up more stuff.

H: Do you have any other writing projects in the works?

M: I have another children’s book coming out this fall, with illustrator Agathe BB. I have a third one in the works, too. And I also have a novel, for adults this time, that should be published in the fall of 2023. Otherwise, I have a lot of projects in the works and in my head, but I never have any time! I would need a second life to get everything done. Long live BBR’s flexible schedule – and my kids growing up!