Heidi Will is the author and illustrator of The Ghillie Girls. She based her book on the experiences she and her friends had in Irish dance. Heidi is expecting her first child in March, and her friend, who is also represented in the book, is expecting a child on March 17th-St. Patrick's Day. Visit Heidi online at http://www.ghilliegirls.com/.
What prompted you to write about Irish dance?
I initially wrote The Ghillie Girls as a Christmas present for three of my Irish dance friends. Kim (“Addy”) had moved away from Phoenix to New Hampshire, Beki (“Libby”) and I had stopped dancing competitively, and Jacqui (“Keelin”) was the only one left at our old dance school. It seemed that we were drifting apart, and I wanted to do something to bring us together and celebrate the friendship we had developed through Irish dance. It started as The Wig Sisters, which is what we called ourselves. That first version was quite a bit different than the final published version of The Ghillie Girls (I changed the name to make it more specific to Irish dance). I printed copies for everyone and they loved it, and suggested I publish it. I decided to tweak the book to be an introduction to Irish dance in the hopes of exposing more people to this wholesome and enriching art form. I happened to stumble across the Irish dance world in my college years, and still view it as a well-kept secret that needs to be shared!
Your illustrations are unique, how did you design them?
Thanks! I considered many different illustration styles and finally chose a simple, modern look. I love color (as one can tell instantly upon entering my home) and so I had fun making the book very bright and colorful. The illustrations translate well into coloring pages, which I use a lot with my own Irish dance students at the Phoenix Irish Cultural Center.
What were the challenges you had in bringing your book to life?
I wanted to make the book accessible to non-dancers so I got feedback from several people who knew nothing about Irish dance to be sure that I explained things that dancers take for granted—especially the pronunciation of Irish words. Since every Irish dance school does things a little differently and calls things by different names, I consulted people from different schools and regions to make the book as accurate as possible. It was hard to decide if I should seek a traditional publisher for my book, or attempt to self-publish. I finally chose the self-publishing route, because it allowed me to have complete control over the final product. As a graphic designer, I enjoyed every aspect of the process—writing, illustration, and layout design.
Do you have future plans for the Ghillie Girls?
I have more books in mind, if I can make the time to write them. I would love to write about the adventures we had while competing in Irish dance. We had so much fun traveling together; going to Oireachtas, taking road trips, visiting friends across the country while “feising.” I would also like to explore the struggles we had, competing against each other. Sometimes it really strained our friendship, but in the end, I value our friendship and the memories we made so much more than any medal I won. That is what I want to communicate to young Irish dancers: to appreciate what is really important, and not to get hung up on winning.
Can you share anything with us from what you are currently working on?
The book that has taken the most shape in my mind tells the story of how the Ghillie Girls meet and become the Ghillie Girls. It is longer, with more words and fewer illustrations. I’m also working on a coloring and activity book.
What book are you currently reading?
I’m always in the middle of reading or listening to several books (I am a huge fan of audio books; there are always a few on my iPod). I love all kinds of fiction, and some non-fiction, but mostly I’m a sucker for a good story, regardless of genre. As an example of my eclectic tastes, right now I’m reading Shadow of the Hegemon in the Ender saga, as well as the third book in the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Since I’m currently expecting my first child, there are also a few books on babies and parenting on my night stand, as well as a book of celtic folk stories that Kim brought back for me from her trip to Scotland for Worlds.