Self-publishing attracts a wide and diverse range of writers. Like, staggeringly wide and diverse. You know why. Because we all have stories to tell, wisdom to impart, and a desire – almost a need – to share those stories.
Today we’re going to hear from just such an author: Hannah Russell, the author of The magical adventure of Little Alf. Her stories are geared toward younger readers, but show how anyone can take their ideas and their imagination and turn that into a story. Read on to learn a little more about Hannah’s unique author journey.
What do you do when you are not writing about Alf?
Haha, funny questions, if I’m not writing about Alf I am usually thinking about Alfie and what he is up too, we are never usually that far apart. But in my spare time, I love reading, I think this is a common hobby in authors we are either writing or reading. I love all books literally I will read anything. I also love visiting quaint and quirky shops in the UK especially books shops there is something about them that is just so magical. And if I am not doing any of the above you will find me with my pets. I have 13 pets so I’m usually chasing one of them around the house or garden… they always create such mischief…
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Hmm well, my name is Hannah Louise Russell, I am 20 years old and live in the stunning Yorkshire Dales. I live near a small market town called ‘Leyburn’ which is in the heart of Wensleydale. I have 13 pets all different shapes and sizes, I have 4 guinea pigs, 4 horses, 2 rabbits, 2 dogs and 1 robo hamster, who keep me on my toes. I love hot chocolate and drink at least two cups a day through the winter months and I love all things animal related! I’m usually in my office at home writing which has a small window where I can watch my horses in the fields.
Tell us a little bit about Little Alf
Where do I begin?! Little Alf is my little bundle of cheekiness. He is a miniature Shetland pony who stands at just 28 inches high due to him having dwarfism. He is 5 years old and is always playing in the field. Alfie has a best friend who is another miniature Shetland called Pepper.
How did the two of you come together?
Back in 2012 I heard about a miniature Shetland looking for a home, due to him having dwarfism his previous owner could not keep him and as soon as a saw him I fell in love, he was a hairy mess and looked like he belonged to a hippie rock band. Alfie came to live with me at a point in my life where I needed a new focus, I was 16 years old and had just found out that I had fractured my vertebras in my back and was likely never to ride again… He came to me at the ‘right time’ and completely turned my life upside down in the best possible way and gave me a new focus. I’ve never looked back since and couldn’t imagine life without him.
What made you decide to share your life with Alfie with the world?
I felt like I had a story to tell which could inspire so many, I was so stressed doing my A levels at college so ended up ‘dropping out’ which wasn’t very common although my family were really supportive. I felt with my story I could share it with other individuals. I’m a big believer in ‘Do what makes you happy’ and felt like my story could reflect that. I also wanted to share Alf’s story and his cheeky adventures and raise awareness about animals and pets in general. All of my animals are rescues and life for pets who aren’t considered ‘perfect’ can be unpredictable. In my book, you can read about all my daily activities with my pets and what extra care they need!
Are you surprised with how popular Little Alf has become?
Yes, 100%! When I was 17 years old (2 years ago) I was just a girl writing about my pony, and now his fan based is completely crazy. It’s been hard work over the past 3 years, it’s not that easy being an author but this year with his memoir been published I’ve felt incredibly proud of what we have both achieved together it’s all still very overwhelming! Alfie even gets fan mail which is so adorable we get the best drawings and presents sent to him!
What made you want to write a book about Alfie’s adventures?
Alfie! Alfie is my inspiration he always has been, he’s full of life and mischief and he’s just the perfect character for a story, he’s always up to no good but that’s what makes him him!
Have you always enjoyed writing?
No, not all! I hated writing and English at school I was more of a maths and number type of girl. I never imagined one day I would be a writer and author. I loved reading through school and also liked writing stories but did not enjoy anything to do with English literature or language. I’m actually a terrible speller and really struggled with writing through schools. Once I left college and Alfie came to live I started writing a blog about him and loved it… then a few months later his first children’s book was published.
How did you come across Lulu?
Word of mouth actually! I knew of a local author who lived nearby and my mum went and knocked on his door actually which was very nice of her, I was so shy at the time! He invited us in and told us all about LULU and how to use to the online site. I have kept in touch with him ever since and he is a big supporter of the Little Alf books.
How did it feel to publish your first book with Lulu? What was it like when you got it in the post?
Amazing! I felt so proud of my first ever book, I remember holding in my hands and just been so proud and overwhelmed… Who knew back then that one day Alf would have his own empire.
What kind of impact do hope your books will have on the children that read them?
My children’s books have lots of magic and adventure, I hope it gives them a sense of adventure when they read the books and makes them believe in the magic…! I visit schools quite regularly for talks and it’s always lovely to hear what children think of your books!
Can you tell us a little bit about the awards the books have received?
I currently have 5 awards sat on my shelf at home which have been for the books, which is very overwhelming! When I was 17 years old I was nominated for a local award close to home it was ‘5* book review’ it’s quite a big award for authors in Yorkshire, one of Alfie’s fans had nominated his Christmas book and very surprisingly we won. I remember being told the news I think I just sat in my office and cried it meant too much. Then after that, we received an author award for inspiring children with the stories. And in 2016 me and Alf where shortlisted ‘young entrepreneur of the year’ for the whole of the UK, where we came runner up! This year me and Alfie got a very special award from HRH ‘Princess Anne’ which was unbelievable, that was for the Little Alf children’s books and helping raise awareness for the Riding for Disabled Association – It’s been quite a whirlwind the past few years.
Has writing these books provided you with opportunities that you would not have expected?
Yes! I would have never imagined getting an award of meeting Princess Anne one day! I’ve had the most exciting year this year, I’ve met some Olympic horse riders and been to huge events book signing, it’s been crazy.
What advice would you give to others out there that may be interested in writing a book, but are afraid to give it a chance?
Go for it and believe in yourself. Everyone has a story inside of them it’s just whether you wish for it to come out. Make some notes, start writing and go for it! It’ll be the best thing you ever do, whether you write a chapter every night or on weekends just start writing! Believing in yourself is a huge aspect in life, it’s something I never did until now, it’s hard I must admit as sometimes you take 1 step forward and 2 back but you’ll get there. Hard work does pay off and it’s really worth it!
What’s next for Hannah and Little Alf?
Who knows! Even I don’t really know, this year I opened up the first ‘Little Alf’ shop in Leyburn Market Town. It’s really small but perfect for me and the Little Alf products. I would love to open up more shops across the UK. I have a few exciting campaign I’m working on for 2018 for charity and one campaign for a feed brand which is very exciting! Next Spring I’ll be publishing the next children’s book so at the moment my office is covered in sticky notes and coffee mugs. Other than that I’m not sure I just love spending time with Alf!
Hannah Russell is the Author of the Little Alf adventure series, her first book ‘The magical adventure of Little Alf – the discovery of the wild pony’ was published when Hannah was just 17 years old.
The Little Alf books are based on Little Alf, who is Hannah’s miniature Shetland pony who stands at just 28 inches high. Hannah had the idea to write books about Alfie due to his huge cheeky personality!
Check out her Author Spotlight for all of Little Alf’s Adventures!