We are delighted to welcome Cara Mailey & Chrissie Sains to the blog today to answer questions about their new book, I Got This.
Cara Mailey, who is 12 and has achondroplasia (the most common form of Dwarfism), like her mother and younger brother, appeared in a BBC One documentary, Keeping Up with the Maileys, alongside her Belfast-based family. Cara has also appeared in The Dengineers on CBBC, and a CBBC documentary, My Life: Made to Measure, in which she designed a fashion line for children with achondroplasia. Chrissie Sains is the author of the An Alien in the Jam Factory series, which features a main character with cerebral palsy. Cara and Chrissie have collaborated on I Got This.
For 9+ readers, I Got This is inspired by Cara’s daily lived experiences and is Cara’s way of helping children to understand her condition a bit more. It’s a heartfelt story about a young girl who is growing up with achondroplasia. It follows Erin, who finds that being small has big challenges, especially when she starts secondary school. But Erin also has big dreams! I Got This is not just about life with achondroplasia, it’s about how limitless life can be with positivity, empathy, and support from the people who love us.
We had the chance to interview both authors this week – read on to find out more about how they worked together on the book, what Cara wants people to know about achondroplasia and why diversity in children’s books matters so much to both authors…
with Cara Mailey & Chrissie Sains, authors of I Got This (available here)
1. Can you tell us what inspired you to write I Got This together?
Cara: Our documentary was on BBC – Keeping Up with the Maileys – and not long after that mum got an email from Scholastic asking if I would like to do the book! I was a bit surprised, as I wasn’t sure how I could do it. Then we were introduced to Chrissie and the rest is history!
We were introduced by Scholastic last year and we hit it off right away! I was so thrilled when I was told that Cara wanted to work with me in bringing ‘I Got This’ to life and I’m really proud of what we’ve created together.
2. How did you work in collaboration to write the book?
With a lot of loooooog Zoom calls! It was a really lovely collaborative process. Initially, we spent a lot of time brainstorming with our Scholastic editor, Linas Alsenas and our agent, Kate Shaw. The four of us had a lot of ideas and together, we gradually developed the characters and built the story arc. Cara had a really clear vision of what she wanted the story to be – full of fun, warmth, humour and truth – and we all worked really hard to create a story that would bring that vision to life.
Cara: Most of it kicked off during the pandemic. so it was over lots of Zoom calls! I remember it felt like I was talking about myself all the time – haha! In the end, the Zoom calls didn’t seem like work and it was just like calling friends and having lots of giggles!
3. For any of our readers unfamiliar with achondroplasia, please could you briefly explain what it is and how it affects day to day life for you, Cara?
Cara: Achondroplasia is the most common type of dwarfism. It basically means that I’m smaller than other people my age. My arms are also shorter and also my fingers. Other than that, I’m pretty much like everyone else! I love sports and dancing!
4. Your book has been described as being about ‘how limitless life can be with positivity, empathy and support from the people who love us’. How do you both stay positive in life and what are you hoping that readers of I Got This will take away from the book?
Cara: The love and support that surround Erin and her family is key! No matter what happens in the story, they don’t let it stop them. It’s important not to get too annoyed about the things we can’t do, but to concentrate on what we can.
The lovely thing about ‘I Got This’ is the universal message that our friends and family can help us achieve great things, and that’s certainly something that I massively connect with. I’m not sure that I’d be doing what I’m doing without the never-ending support and belief of my family – they always keep me positive! I really hope it’s a message that young readers connect with.
5. What have you been most looking forward to about launching the book into the world?
I am excited to see people’s reactions to the book – I really hope they love it as much as we do!
Cara: People’s reactions! Also, people getting answers to maybe questions they don’t want to ask about achondroplasia and maybe just teaching everyone a bit more about my condition.
6. In the story, the main character Erin is desperate to win a competition to perform with her favourite band. Lots of young people will relate to the notion of never feeling likely to ‘make it big’ in life. What advice would you give to any readers who are struggling to believe in themselves?
Cara: Go for it – anything is possible! I remember when I wanted my sweetie den from the Dengineers and if I had listened to my Mum, who said I had no chance, I don’t think I would be where I am today. From then, I have always said to myself, “I may as well try!”. Dad always tells me to never have regrets either. Keep telling yourself “I got this!”
I think that everyone struggles to believe in themselves at one time or another, I know I did when I first started trying to become an author! Just like Erin in the book, I was encouraged and motivated by my friends and family – sometimes they believed in me more than I did! So I would say trust your friends and family, push those doubts away and go for it!
7. There are so many brilliant children’s books available at the moment, but still so many young readers struggle to see themselves represented among the characters on their bookshelves. What inspires you both to write about characters who are often under-represented in fiction?
Chrissie: I strongly believe that all children should be able to see themselves in books and that’s something that I’m eager to support in any way that I can.
Cara: I am part of a group called ‘Still I Rise’ which was set up by Orla, a friend of my mum, in 2019 – she’s a single mother with a mixed-race son. When she didn’t see families that looked like theirs or heroes that looked like him, she decided to find the books and read them! Still I Rise Diversity Storytelling creates trusted spaces for all children and young people to feel seen, heard and valued through story sessions and workshops. This is exactly what our world needs today.
8. What are some of your other favourite children’s books right now?
There are so many great books coming out at the moment and my TBR pile is huge! One of my stand-out favourites this year was ‘The Amazing Edie Eckhart’ by Rosie Jones – I’m really looking forward to the sequel! I’m currently reading ‘Doomfire’ by Annaliese Avery (the awesome sequel to ‘The Nightsilver Promise’) and I’m enjoying it so much! I’ve also loved ‘Dreadwood’ by Jennifer Killick and ’The Lost Whale’ by Hannah Gold. Oh and I’m massively excited to read ’The Animal Lighthouse’ by Anthony Burt, which is out in May!
Cara: Hair Love (by Matthew Cherry & Vashti Harrison) – purely because it is about love and pride for Afro hair! Wonder is another novel I have loved.
9. Cara, can you tell us briefly about your fashion range ‘She’s Fierce -by Cara’ and what the reaction to it has been?
Cara: I worked on this range with two amazing ladies called Amanda Rabor and TJ Hanif. They helped me create looks to suit girls with achondroplasia. Many clothes we wear not only need to be adjusted but they need to fit a certain way to look good on us. The clothes are available to buy from ,minimode-emporium.com.
10. We’d love to know…do you have any other book projects together or separately in the pipeline?
’Treasure Under the Jam Factory’ (the second book in the ‘Alien in the Jam Factory’ series) has just come out, so this has been a really exciting time for me! I’m thrilled that there’s going to be a third Jam Factory book coming out next year and a fourth in 2024 so watch out for those!
I’d absolutely love to work on another book with Cara – keeping my fingers crossed for that!
Cara: Not for me! Though if someone ever asked me to create more in the future with Chrissie, I would jump at the chance
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> Order I Got This on Amazon
Many thanks to Cara and Chrissie for
visiting our blog and answering our questions.
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We are delighted to welcome Cara Mailey & Chrissie Sains to the blog today to answer questions about their new book, I Got This. Cara…