Yvonne’s characters already feature in a number of books
When Co Londonderry mum Yvonne Fleming began to tell her two children night-time tales, little did she know that she would end up with a series of books, animations and a potential TV deal all based on her characters.
And the latest addition to the series, a book featuring 13 new songs from the characters, has just been released.
After previously working as a hairdresser and childminder for over 20 years, Maghera mother-of-two Yvonne was encouraged to make her idea of the Weatherbies into a career after her husband Peter overheard the stories.
“He was walking past the bedroom door and heard me telling the story,” Yvonne said.
“He listened for a while and then when I came downstairs, he said he thought it had potential. His background is in the music industry, for years he has been writing and creating music.
“The kids kept asking me for these stories and I couldn’t remember what I’d said two nights back, so I thought I’d better start writing them down.
“I started writing stories and songs, and then Peter would write and record the music for them.”
Though her children are grown up now Yvonne still runs ideas past them. She is also dealing with publishing deals and working with Peter Rabbit movie script writer, Jodi Reynolds, as well as UK production company, Threewise, with the potential for a 52-week series of Weatherbies TV programmes.
“The very first time I read the stories to anyone else was to my wee boy’s P1 class 12 years ago,” Yvonne said.
“They had invited the parents in to read a book. His teacher suggested I read my own. I went in thinking I was going to be in the school 15 minutes or so. I was in that P1 class for two hours. The other P1 teacher came in and said, ‘You do know you’re coming into me after lunch’. I was in the school nearly a whole day talking to the kids and reading some of my stories without a lot of artwork and they all loved it.”
All Yvonne’s Weatherbies stories are based around a group of weather-themed characters who live in Skytown including Sammy Sun, Rosie Rainbow, Colin Cloud, Flo Snow, Ronny Rain, Willy Wind and many more. As well as being a fun set of stories, there is also learning for the target age range within Key Stage One and timely environmental messages.
“Children are like sponges and sometimes people underestimate the knowledge a child has and their ability to retain information and understand it better than some adults,” she explained.
“There have always been environment issues, but it is now at a stage where it can no longer be ignored.
“I’ve always taught my kids the importance of recycling. If kids are more aware of how their actions can affect the environment, they can adopt a more sustainable lifestyle at an early age.”
The characters also help children learn about the different forms of weather and with the help of her husband songs have been developed to accompany the books.
“We self-published the first book, Sammy Sun Is Coming Out To Play,” Yvonne said. “It did well and then six months later we published Rosie Rainbow’s Recycling Day and we got another good response.
“We went to the London Book Fair, where we met Tiny Tree Children’s Books and they published our third book — Colin Cloud Is Making Shapes.
“We’re also exploring animation. We have developed an animation pilot with Flickerpix Animation Studios, which has led us to work with Michael Ford from Threewise Productions.”
Tapping into that network is taking the characters to a new level.
“Michael sent my work out to five or six writers to see if they were interested,” she said. “Jodie Reynolds had come back and said she thought it was a phenomenal, very strong concept.
“She said sometimes you get things sent to you and you read them and you don’t see a lot of potential — maybe one movie or maybe one series and nothing else. But she said the Weatherbies had it all. She was very excited about it and wanted me to know how strongly she felt about the project and how much she would love to work with me on it.
“I was blown away by this because you always second guess your work. For someone with her track record in the industry to see the potential and want to put her name to it was just amazing for me.”
Yvonne is currently working with Jodi developing scripts and creating the character and story ‘Bible’ for the series, while working with her illustrator, James Salenga on a new Weatherbies book, Sing a Song With the Weatherbies. However, Yvonne always keeps in mind who her audience is.
“Children are very blunt,” she said. “If they like something they’ll tell you, but if they don’t like it, they’ll also tell you.
“I feel relieved that none of the kids have actually said they don’t enjoy it. I think it must be okay if I’m still pleasing the audience.”
Sing a Song with the Weatherbies contains 13 songs from each of the characters who live in Skytown and is available now.