Helen Milroy presents: Stellarphant creator James Foley discusses how he made the leap from day job to full-time author

The Fremantle Press Podcast
The Fremantle Press Podcast
Helen Milroy presents: Stellarphant creator James Foley discusses how he made the leap from day job to full-time author

James Foley says the transition from a part-time day job to making a living from his craft was huge and he does not recommend any one quit their job, overnight, on a whim. It took James 14 years to get himself to the point of earning an income from his work as an author/illustrator. In the meantime, he says he was standing on two icebergs: one was his day job, the other his creative work. He says, ‘after a while, the two icebergs started to drift apart and I was doing the splits, and I can’t do the splits, so I had to choose between books and the day job … I was stubborn. I was not going to not make books.’

Listen to the whole podcast to learn more about James’ journey and his new book Stellarphant.

Topics discussed:
Benefits of reading to kids
Diplomacy and the editor/creator relationship
Pros and cons of being a writer and an illustrator, not one or the other
Self-care for writers
To quit or not to quit the day job
Trusting that your inspiration will return

Show Notes

About the host

Dr Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She was born and educated in Perth and has a passionate interest in health and wellbeing, especially for children. She is currently a professor at the University of Western Australia, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, and Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission. Her books have been shortlisted for the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards (2019, 2020), the Readings Children’s Book Prize (2020) and the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year (2020). And her book, Backyard Birds, won the Whitley Award for the Young Children’s Reader Category (2021).

Backyard Bugs, Backyard Birds and Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories are available in all good bookstores and online. Her new book, Backyard Beasties, is coming soon in 2022.

About the guest

James Foley is an ambassador for Books In Homes and Room To Read. James makes picture books, middle grade novels and comics for kids. He’s the author/illustrator of the S.Tinker Inc. graphic novel series for middle primary: Brobot (2016), Dungzilla (2017), Gastronauts (2018) and Chickensaurus (2020). The series stars Sally Tinker, the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve, and Joe Tinker, full-time baby. James also illustrated the Toffle Towers series written by Tim Harris; the cult-favourite and CBCAChildren’s Book Council of Australia-shortlisted My Dead Bunny (2015); and its follow-up, There’s Something Weird About Lena (2020). James contributed to Total Quack Up (2018) and Funny Bones (2019), both anthologies of funny stories, with proceeds going to charity. His earlier books, In The Lion (2012), The Last Viking (2011) and The Last Viking Returns (2014), have all scored several honours, including children’s choice awards, shortlistings in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year awards, and selection to the International Youth Library’s White Raven list.

His next book, Stellarphant, is out now.

Books, authors and organisations mentioned

Aesop’s Fables


Graeme Base

CBCA Make your Own Story Book WA

Norman Jorgensen

Ira Glass, creator of ‘This American Life’ podcast, quote [quote comes from Ira Glass interview with Current TV, 2009)] ‘Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.’



Jan Ormerod


Shaun Tan

The Literature Centre

Original music Steel Cap Serenadeby Aidan D’Adhemar, © 2021

Sound engineering Aidan D’Adhemar, Fremantle PA Hire

Produced by Claire Miller, Fremantle Press Marketing and Communications Manager

This podcast was produced in Walyalup in Whadjuk Boodja, on the lands of the Noongar people.

Books discussed
Backyard Bugs
Backyard Birds
Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories

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