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"Nanna Maureen": How one writer's children's book about her late mother becomes a global success.

Casey Gillespie is a mother of two who lives in the Gold Coast, Australia. Her first book Nanna Maureen was written for her children and niece and was inspired by her own mother, who passed away before becoming a grandparent. Casey wrote the book to include her in their lives. It became a surprise global hit and found a royal fan in Sarah Ferguson the Duchess of York, going on to reach bestseller lists and making worldwide news. 


Images courtesy of Casey Gillespie


1. Tell us about yourself and where your passion for writing stems from?


I live in the Gold Coast and I have a hidden creative side. Growing up my mum was highly creative and would tell my brother and I stories about magic. Now that I am a mum, I love reading stories to my kids. The more I read stories to them the more I wanted to share my own with them. 

2. Tell us about your mother and what inspired you to write and self-publish “Nanna Maureen"?


My mother was very funny and had a sharp mind. She sadly passed away from cancer while I was in my mid-twenties. She never got to meet my husband or my children and never got to become a grandparent. She was so excited about one day being one. When my children and niece were born, I imagined what she would have been like, how much she would have loved them, and I felt sad for them that they were robbed of such a great Nanna. I decided to write “Nanna Maureen” to involve her in their lives. It was such a difficult thing to talk about for me, so I did not. 

My son got to an age where he started asking questions and the way I explained it was, Nanna Maureen has passed away she is watching over us from above and making sure things always work out for us. I have used books to explain things in the past and I thought how nice it would be to have a picture of them all together so I decided to create the book for them and then I realised this book could be comforting for other children who have an “invisible Nanna”

3. What impact has the book had on your children and niece?


My daughter Scarlett who is 2 points at the book and says, “that is me and Jesse and Harper and that is Nanna Maureen, she is your mum”. They understand and now in a way have Nanna Maureen in their lives. They are too young to fully understand but it has been a nice way to include her. They can also see that anything is possible. I have published a book with no prior publishing or writing experience. All I had was a story to tell. 


4. You wrote the book whilst in lockdown and have described this experience as an example of finding strength in setbacks. How did you gain the courage to use this difficult period to write a book?


When Covid happened my work hours were reduced and I was on partial stand down. Local parks were closed, and we spent more time indoors doing craft activities and reading. It was such a difficult time and I decided to see the time at home as a gift. When my mum was sick with cancer it taught me that life is a gift no matter the circumstances and sometimes, we need to find a way to “dance in the rain”. Writing a book is something I always wanted to do and spending more time at home meant it was time. 

5. Your book is now an Amazon best-seller, available at 40,000 retailers worldwide. What has the journey been like for you and did you ever imagine that it would do so well? 


It has been like a dream come true. I was happy that my children and niece liked the book and thought wow it would be amazing to sell one copy. When I did, I jumped up and down I couldn’t believe someone actually bought a book that I wrote, then I watched it climb the seller ranks over the next few days and weeks. 

I had hoped the book would be successful, it has exceeded my expectations. To be on national TV and have articles go viral and to be on the front page of the paper was so exciting. After that, I received so many messages from people who had also lost their mother and felt like they really understood me and how much their children loved the book and so many that said it made them cry. I also got so many messages from other authors who told me I have inspired them to publish their own book. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive.

6. Since publishing, "Nanna Maureen" has been read by Fergie the Duchess of York. Tell us about this and the impact it has had.


Fergie has shared the book on her Storytime twice. The first time she invited me to the show to film myself reading the story. I was so excited, and it resulted in a lot of media attention. I am a Royal fan and so was my mum. The second time Fergie read the book herself, this was an hour after Princess Eugenie announced her pregnancy on all of her social channels it was quickly noticed the book was called Nanna Maureen and Fergie was about to be a Nanna herself. This caused the book to go viral once again making worldwide news. She called the book very good and a wonderful story. She also did an amazing job reading it. 



7. What would your advice be for parents trying to help their children understand the passing of a loved one?


My advice would be to talk about it with them as much as possible and include them in memories. 

Not talking about someone passing doesn’t make it less true. It took me 10 years to able to talk about my mum the way I do now, and I wish I started sooner. Kids are very resilient, much more so than adults. 



8. Have any other parents reached out to share with you the impact your book has had.


So many parents have reached out, it happens daily. The part I find interesting is they mention how much the kids love the book and how much they also enjoy the book. I think that is one of the reasons the book has been so successful, it appeals to kids with the magic and rhyming and it appeals to parents who understand the deeper meaning.


9. What's next for you?


I have my new book “Ice Cream for Breakfast” which is a bit of a fun and silly book about a boy who outsmarts his parents. As well as writing a book series for “Team Rescue” They are a fantastic musical children’s group who sing about safety. The group was started by a fireman all the songs are written and produced by Greg Page (the original Yellow Wiggle) Which is especially exciting because I am such a fan. 

I am also starting to publish other authors and working on another special children’s story that tackles pregnancy loss which I hope will bring comfort to children that were expecting a new baby brother or sister that may not arrive. 

You can find out more about Casey and "Nanna Maureen" on her website: https://australianpublishinghouse.com/


You can buy Nanna Maureen: Here Not Seen on Amazon

Magic is happening all around the children. What could have started it? Who is watching over them? A Heart-warming, rhyming tale of magic sure to become a family classic. Nanna Maureen is magical and invisible and spends her time looking after her grandchildren Jesse, Harper and Scarlett 

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