Meet The Experts
Lots of very clever people were involved in the research for the books, with creating the illustrations and 3D models, as well as checking every fact to make sure that the information is right up to date.
Writer and massive dinosaur enthusiast! Nicky Dee discovered her passion for all-things prehistoric after creating a huge dinosaur exhibition in the heart of London.
When did you first become interested in dinosaurs?
My interest began a little later in life than most dinosaur enthusiasts (the other side of 35!) but once I started to learn I became obsessed and wanted to find out more! A bit like a fact hungry 6-year-old, only a few decades older.
Why did you write the books?
Having looked at what was available, I could see a gap between the picture books aimed at very young children and the and encyclopaedia-style reference titles for older readers. I decided to fill that gap and create fun, factual books for 6-10 year olds. I want to take an in-depth, child-friendly look at one dinosaur per book and to fill them with lots of pictures and illustrations to help children absorb the information.
Did you get a publishing deal to produce the books?
No. I contacted lots of publishers and agents but didn’t get anything more than encouragement. At the beginning of last year I had to make a decision, to either find help to start the project or choose another career path. I didn’t want to stop writing so I decided I needed a new approach to get started.
How did you get started?
I met two ladies at a London Writer’s Club meeting, Jacq Burns, MD of the London Writer’s Club and Heather O’Connell, MD of Bluebird Consulting. After some great discussions a plan was set out for the development of the project.
Jacq and Heather mentored me throughout the process, creating a publishing team that would replicate the help and guidance that I would have got through a traditional publishing agreement. By funding the project myself I kept control of the whole process, a very important aspect for someone used to running their own business.
The ladies introduced me to a whole raft of experts and each has helped me to shape the project into what it is today.
How did you find your dinosaur expert, palaeontologist Dean R. Lomax?
I was looking for an expert consultant to work with when I read about a programme called Dinosaur Britain that was broadcast in the summer of 2015. The expert on that program was Dean and I was instantly impressed so decided to get in touch. Having found his website I sent him a message to say that we share a passion and an aim to tell the world that T. rex isn’t the only dinosaur that lived!
He called, we met and have now formed a brilliant working relationship that is set to last for years.
Where did you find the 3D artist, Gary Hanna?
I did an internet search for a 3D artist who already had an interest in dinosaurs and a reputation for creating great movement in images and I discovered Gary. As soon as I met him (over Skype as he lives in Seattle, on the West Coast of America and I live in London), I knew that he was the man for the job.
Check out his story about how to create a 3D model…
What’s your favourite dinosaur
If you ask me in six months time my answer will probably have changed as I am constantly learning and discovering new interesting facts about dinosaurs, but of the four that I have written about so far, I think it would have to be Coelophysis. The reason is that it was a survivor, living at a time when dinosaurs were not the dominant species and because they appeared to have had great family values, living in large communities.
What does your family think of your obsession with dinosaurs?
At first they thought it was a passing phase, but now that this ‘phase’ has lasted for seven years, they are greatest supporters of my new career. They help out with research and read everything I write, checking that I am consistent and that I haven’t made any spelling mistakes!
Why did you create the What’s so Special about Club?
Dinosaurs can help make learning fun! Through the games and quizzes children can practice adding-up, spelling, word recognition and so much more. The colouring-in sheets have been created to help children recognise the shape and name of that dinosaur as well as being great fun. There will be new games every month, so plenty to keep young minds occupied whilst I write the next four books!
Lots more books! Four more individual dinosaur books this year and one or two special books. Eight to ten next year and every year until I run out of steam or dinosaurs!
The first special book will be about the ‘Bone Wars!’ A great story about a bitter battle between two men, Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope that took place in the late 1800’s in the USA. Both wanted to become the world’s greatest palaeontologist and to be famous for discovering and naming the most dinosaur fossils: a quest that would make and then break them both. The story is packed full of exciting new discoveries, sneaky tactics, trains, Indians and lots of dynamite! This is the first time that this story will have been written and illustrated for children and I can’t wait to get it published!
How old were you when you first became interested in dinosaurs?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with all things prehistoric, especially dinosaurs. I have fond memories of learning dinosaur names at the age of 5.
How old are you now?
I am 26 (interviewed in Feb, 2016).
What’s your favourite dinosaur and why?
Very good question. My childhood favourite was Stegosaurus, but my favourite is now the mighty Baryonyx. The discovery of Baryonyx was incredible as nothing so unusual had been described in so much detail. Oh, and the fact that it’s the biggest British (found in Surrey) theropod dinosaur so far known!
What’s the best dinosaur fact that you know?
I have lots. But, I think it has to be that dinosaurs are NOT extinct. They are still among us today; the birds. Yep, birds are dinosaurs.
If you could go and see any fossil in the world, where would it be and why?
Mongolia, Asia. Growing up, I remember reading about the ‘fighting dinosaur’ fossil found in Mongolia. This fossil has both a Velociraptor and Protoceratops locked in combat. It quite simply captures an incredible moment in time.
What do your family think about your love of dinosaurs?
My family have always been supportive of my career in palaeontology, even though (literally) none of them understand what I actually do, ha ha! Both my Mum and Nan have always been so very supportive of me.
Which of the three dinosaur periods do you find most interesting? The first one, Triassic when the dinosaurs first appeared; the middle, Jurassic when the dinosaurs spread across the world and became the dominant species or the last one, Cretaceous when the giants lived?
Wow, that’s a difficult one! I have a very special interest in each of those periods, but I think, perhaps, and it’s a tough decision, it would have to be the Triassic. This period was not only when the dinosaurs first evolved, but many fantastic animals, such as the ichthyosaurs.
What does your title (Honorary Visiting Scientist) mean?
This means that I am affiliated (linked) with the university as a scientist. I have access to their fantastic library, lots of cool equipment, some great fossils and I also mentor students as an expert advisor. I also work with other palaeontologists. The affiliation works both ways as any of my research studies, media and additional works are linked to the university.
You won two big awards in 2015, one called the Mendel Award and the other the Marsh Award, what were they for?
The Mendel Award (named after botanist, Gregor Mendel) consisted of a Gold Medal for excellence in science communication. This was awarded at the House of Commons, London, after I won the incredible Set For Britain 2015 event. The Marsh Award was given to me for my outstanding contribution to British palaeontology, especially for furthering the public’s fascination with British dinosaurs. It was awarded by the Marsh Christian Trust in conjunction with London’s Natural History Museum.
Do you think that you will always be interested in dinosaurs?
Absolutely. It’s not only dinosaurs, but the entire history of prehistoric life, from tiny fossil insects to footprints, that really capture my interests.
What do you love most about your job?
That I am able to travel through time studying fossils from tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of years ago, and then share the information with everybody. To me, that’s the most important thing, getting people of all ages actively interested and engaged in the science I love.
Have you ever named a dinosaur?
Not yet! But, I have named at least one new species of ichthyosaur, an extinct marine reptile. The specimen is on display at the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery. I rediscovered the fossil in 2008 and immediately recognised it to be something unusual. I am currently in the process of describing new fossils, so watch this space!
Ian is an artist and illustrator based near Cambridge in the UK. He studied printmaking and in recent years has embraced digital technology to produce his work. Check out www.behance.net/IanDurneen
to see more of Ian’s work.
Ian created the sketches for the guest dinosaurs on the ‘Who Lived in the same Neighbourhood?’ pages as well as the Alligator in the T. rex book.
As a professional paleo artist, Scott has become best known for his skeletal reconstructions, providing material for books and museums globally. Scott also works as a consultant for TV and film. Scott provided some the skeletal images of Coelophysis, Stegosaurus and T. rex as well as the silhouettes for Allosaurus, Diplodocus and Troodon
Professor Emeritus NAU Geology. Dr Blakey has spent over 20 years creating paleogeographic maps. His maps appear in numerous books, professional publications, visitor centers and museums throughout the world. Ron has won numerous awards for his maps, books, and lectures. Currently Dr. Blakey is President of Colorado Plateau Geosystems Inc.
Ron gave us permission to use three of his maps from 220 mya, 150 mya and 66 mya for the ‘Weather Reports’, showing how the land split apart during the Mesozoic Era. cpgeosystems.com
Nobumichi is a freelance digital paleoartist from California, interested in scientifically accurate representations of prehistoric animals.
His illustrations can be seen in numerous books, websites and Natural History Museum displays. If you’d like to see more then check out his blog at paleoexhibit.blogspot.com and his portfolio website spinops.blogspot.com. He worked with palaeontologist Dean Lomax on the “Dinosaurs of the British Isles”.
Nobu gave us permission to use his image of Edmontosaurus in the T. rex book, which Ian then recreated in the style of the guest dinosaurs in each of the books.
Jacq Burns has over 22 years publishing experience: commissioning books at Random House and Harper Collins, as a literary agent, and now Director of London Writers’ Club, she enjoys developing stand-out concepts that transform a book from good to great, and working to maximise opportunities for authors and books. Once the creative work is done she applies her editorial eye to the fine detail.