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Books: A children's story with a sweet message

An innovation consultant by day, Lily Clarke has written and illustrated her first children’s book, Hector’s Perfect Cake. She chats to Louise Cummings about what inspired the uplifting storyline

You’re a trained physicist, so what inspired you to pen your first children’s book?

I’ve always felt like more of an artistic person than a scientific person. I nearly didn’t study physics – I was very close to doing a more creative degree, but I changed my mind at the last minute.

I really enjoyed my physics degree, but two years in I was craving a creative outlet. I set up my small business, Lily in Space Designs, to try and keep me creatively fulfilled. The goal was always to use my business to help me develop a set of characters that I could eventually incorporate into a children’s book. The character of Hector has existed for a number of years, albeit with a different name until recently!

Hector's Perfect Cake(40120936)
Hector's Perfect Cake(40120936)

Tell us about the storyline of Hector’s Perfect Cake?

Hector is baking a cake for his Granny’s birthday and he’s determined that it’s going to be perfect. However, he soon discovers that he’s run out of the most important ingredient, peanut butter. Hector’s day goes from bad to worse when he manages to find some peanut butter, but accidentally smashes the jar on the way home. Convinced his Granny is going to be disappointed, Hector apologises. Of course – Granny doesn’t mind that the cake isn’t ‘perfect’! She is simply delighted that Hector has put in so much effort for her birthday.

Hector’s Perfect Cake is all about coming to terms with the fact that sometimes things just don’t go to plan. It also serves as a reminder that thoughtfulness and effort are far more important than the end result being perfect, particularly to those who care about you.

What age group do you think the story will resonate with?

The book is suitable for children aged 3 to 7. For younger children, it would make a perfect bedtime story as it is full of detailed illustrations. It may also provide a helpful stepping-stone for children who are starting to read independently.

I hope the message will resonate with early school-age children who may be starting to come across challenges in their education and struggling to come to terms with things not being perfect.

It’s quite a skill to write and illustrate; which comes easiest?

I definitely find illustrating easier than writing, particularly as it is what I’ve had the most practise at! Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed too – I did a lot of creative writing at school, but it’s been a while since I’d dedicated a lot of time to it. One of the things I enjoyed most about creating Hector’s Perfect Cake was re-invigorating my love of writing.

How long did it take to complete the book?

I started writing the book at the beginning of 2019, but it wasn’t until the beginning of March that I really started to commit to finishing and self-publishing it. The illustrations took about four months to complete from start to finish; it was quite an intense process to get it all finished while working full-time!

You ran a crowdfunding campaign to help self-publish didn’t you?

I decided to run a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds required to use a self-publishing agency – SilverWood Books. The campaign ran for 28 days in July and August, and I was delighted that it was successful!

Hector's Perfect Cake author Lily Clarke (40120941)
Hector's Perfect Cake author Lily Clarke (40120941)

Can you tell us about your day job?

I work as an innovation consultant for Innovia Technology, based in Cambridge. The job entails working with some of the world’s biggest companies (e.g. Procter & Gamble, Kraft Heinz, Medtronic) to help them solve their hardest technical challenges. My colleagues are chemists, biologists, behavioural scientists and designers, so it is an incredibly diverse mix of people!

You also run Lily in Space Designs; can you tell us about this unique business?

I’ve been running Lily in Space Designs since 2016. It’s primarily an online shop where I sell illustrated products, such as prints, stationery and accessories. My illustrations are typically inspired by nature and reading – I love to draw woodland animals, plants and books!

Pre-order Hector’s Perfect Cake (£9.99 in paperback; £7.99 eBook) at hectors-perfect-cake.com

It is due to be published late October/early November.

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