Mark Lemon is a dad of two mixed race kids: Otis and Thea. While Otis and Thea loved all the classics, Mark couldn’t help but wonder if there were any books out there with characters that looked like his children. Disillusioned by the woeful lack of diverse characters in children’s books, he took matters into his own hands and started penning his books during his daily commute. Since then, Mark has currently sold over 500 books through his own website and his books are now available in Waterstones, Foyles and Amazon and independent bookstores throughout his home town of Bristol. He provides books to local children’s hospital libraries and has worked closely with a number of primary schools having created schemes of work to go with every book.

1. Tell us about Lemon Drop Books.

Lemon Drop Books is a husband and wife team, based in Bristol. We’re a self-published, award winning company, producing children’s books and much more. This is only just the beginning!

2. What inspired you to write children's books?

I have always enjoyed writing, but never thought to do it it as a career. After our first child was born, I had the idea of writing Otis’ very own adventures. We quickly noticed a lack of children’s books featuring non-white protagonists. I wanted to find books that the kids could look at and relate to and imagine themselves being a part of. So, in an effort to diversify children’s literature, I created my own.

3. How did you come up with the company name?

With a name like Mark Lemon, we had to fit Lemon in somewhere! Lemon Drop Books seemed to have a memorable ring to it.

4. Do your kids love that the stories are about them?

Otis loves the books! I have been to read at his school, which was fantastic. He was a bit of a heckler though “Oh, I know what happens next”. One of my favourite moments from this whole process has to be when I first came home with the printed copy of; Otis Lemon and the Spectacular Submarine. It was a magical moment reading to Otis from the book.

5. How did you come up with the story lines?

I have no idea! I would try and take inspiration from stories that I loved as a child; Roald Dahl books, Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland have all played a key part when creating fun characters that children would enjoy. I wrote Otis Lemon and the Spectacular Submarine on a plane journey to Spain for a friends ‘stag do’, not your usual surroundings when writing a children’s book.

6. What made you create your own self-publishing company?

Initially I started like all authors out there, sending out text and story lines to agents to then hopefully receive a glowing ‘yes we love your work and would love to take you on’, but understandably due to the amount of manuscripts the top agents receive they can only take on a small amount of writers. Due to being impatient I decided to set up my own label, ‘Lemon Drop Books’ and self publish my stories. The best part of self-publishing is being able to have complete autonomy over how your product looks.

We will be releasing our second in the Thea series; Thea Lemon and her Super Sporty Fairy Godmother in Autumn 2016. This will be our fourth release, since creating Lemon Drop Books last year.

7. You recently won a (very well deserved) platinum Junior Design Award - How do you feel knowing you have accomplished so much in such a short space of time?

I feel extremely proud to have won Platinum at the Junior Design Awards. We were up against some fantastic children’s books, which made it even more rewarding and completely unexpected. I guess the award has reassured me that there is a place in the market for a small self-publishers from Bristol. For the short space of time that we have been going, we are very pleased with the feedback from both parents and the children.

8. What are your next plans for Lemon Drop Books?

Continuing our quest for World domination! We have the new Thea Lemon and her Super Sporty Fairy Godmother story coming out in autumn 2016. We’re currently working on an exciting You Tube story telling channel, hopefully ready for Christmas. Very soon we will be planning an exciting trip out to the Caribbean to visit schools across the islands. This will either be at the end of this year or early 2017. And last, but not least, I have a new story written about a magical barber from Bristol!

I’d love for the books to be turned into cartoons. I could definitely see, Otis and Professor Poopy in there own children’s series, it would be fantastic!

Finish the sentences:

When I was little I wanted to be... A footballer.
Fatherhood is... to be there for your children, throughout the good and bad times and hopefully inspire them to make the right decisions in life, whatever these might be. I lost my father suddenly at an early age, so it’s always been very important to me to be there for my children during their earlier years.
Happiness is... doing what you love, so you can spend more time with your family.
My biggest inspiration is.... my family.
My favourite book is... Erm, Charlie and Lola? I only read children’s books these days!
My favourite quote is...”In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”
This week I'm going to... Continue building the Lemon Drop empire!

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