Harrogate mum's long road to becoming successful children's author

Harrogate children's author author J. Knight Conry with the cover of her book Sir Trump-a-Lot.
Harrogate children's author author J. Knight Conry with the cover of her book Sir Trump-a-Lot.

A Harrogate single mum inspired by Beatrix Potter is to have her debut children’s book published in the USA - but she’s hoping its new President doesn’t take offence.

With a title like Sir Trump-a-Lot, it’s expected fledgling author J. Knight Conry will make an impression when her light-hearted story written in verse is released there next year.
And her book, the first in her Knights of the Pong Table series, featuring lovely illustrations by her brother Dominic Port, has also been published in the UK by Austin Macauley.
Based on the adventures of the gallant but rather ‘windy’ lead character, a smelly old knight in armour, it’s packed with good humour and invention, though a little less genteel than Potter’s famous characters like Peter Rabbit.
Joanna, who has worked in adult mental health for years and was a volunteer at Harrogate’s Saint Michael’s Hospice for 18 months, said: “When I first wrote the story three years ago, I had no idea who Donald Trump was. I don’t know what to expect when it’s published in America next year. It could go either way, I suppose.”
Being a lone parent of two children, Erin, 15, and Hugo, eight, is never easy and Joanna’s path to getting Sir Trump-a-Lot published has certainly had its bumps and knocks.
Joanna, 40, said: “Juggling everything when you are a single parent is the hardest thing in the world. I was down and depressed for quite a few years.
“My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer three or four years ago so I needed to be at home more. I couldn’t do the nursing job and I thought, what can I do to make my life better?”
Having been born in York, Joanna’s now lived in Harrogate now for 11 years but first fell in love with town in her late teens when she was studying Music & performing Arts at Harrogate College.
It’s fair to say her early adult years were eventful, living an almost celebrity lifestyle amid soap stars and rock stars during her first marriage to Emmerdale actor Paul Loughran.
It’s why she was able to get advice from Trainspotting author Irvine Welch who told her two things about being a writer - keep trying and don’t self-publish.
Throughout it all, Joanna has faced setbacks but, like her fictitious hero of her book Sir Trump-a-Lot, she has emerged triumphant finally.
She’d dreamt of being a musician when younger but her quest for a new goal was answered during a visit to the Lake District four years ago.
Joanna said: “I took the children to Beatrix Potter’s house at Hill Top. I loved it. It was so fascinating walking round the house. I must have visited the house three times that year. ”
Bursting with ambition, she joined the Writers Handbook online and enlisted the help of her younger brother Dominic, a talented and successful artist and digital designer who lives in Brighton.
She certainly plunged right in, coming up with outlines for six books in three weeks.
Still, there were years of near misses before Joanna finally found the right character in the right story with the right drawings to attract a proper publisher.
She said: “It feels great to have finally achieved something for myself and my children, especially as the title of the book was Erin’s idea from a knock-knock joke she liked.”
Last Sunday saw this new author doing a book signing for Sir Trump-a-Lot at WH Smith’s in Harrogate.

Part of the cover of new children's book Sir Trump-a-Lot.

Part of the cover of new children's book Sir Trump-a-Lot.

But the whole thing still feels a bit new to her.
Joanna said: “I’ve had to start putting myself out there a bit, doing promotional duties like reading at schools and setting up a website and doing interviews. It’s been exciting but a bit daunting.”
Sir Trump-a-Lot is available to order from Waterstones, WH Smiths, Blackwells, Foyles, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and most independent booksellers .