Following on from Inside Ecology’s review of children’s book – Bobby the Brown Long-Eared Bat by Angela Mills (published in 2016). Angela explains how her love of all things batty developed…
What made you change career from banking to ecology?
After 10 years in banking I felt it was time for a change. I must say though that at the time, banking was good for me; it was a very dynamic environment, and I was working with an excellent team of people, some of whom I still keep in contact with today. Banking gave me a great grounding in business, and client and
project management but it didn’t fulfil me, hence the decision to make a change.
As a child I adored animals and the environment and I aspired to be a vet, however, the only science subject I really enjoyed and was good at was Biology, so I gave up that idea! I never went to University but I always thought it was something I might do later in life, so in my thirties I decided to revisit the desire for study, change career and try to make a difference through research and conservation, my childhood passions.
How did your interest in bats come about?
That is a thought-provoking question actually because at University my main interests leaned towards plants and climate change, and as a child, I preferred cute, fluffy mammals to bats which I thought (incorrectly as I discovered), were menacing. I have always volunteered for local conservation groups but I never imagined that I would find bats so endearing, yet this is exactly what happened as I discovered the world of bats through my local bats groups, Dorset Bat Group and East Dorset Bat Rescue and Rehabilitation. I’d like to thank and recognise all those dedicated members who helped me get to grips with all things batty and who strive to make a difference for bats. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that I decided to focus on becoming a bat worker as part of my career change, and to this day, I still find bats exhilarating and never tire of seeing them in the countryside.
What inspired you to write the book?
As my volunteering work and bat ecologist work increased, sometimes when visiting home-owners it was difficult to persuade them of the privilege of having bats in their attic. We grow up hearing so much myth and legend about bats, almost all negative, which then understandably, in turn, leads to public misconception. This really highlighted to me how important it is to change public opinion regarding bats and to get children on board when they are young and enthusiastic, helping them to appreciate bats and nature, as they are our future environmentalists and potential bat workers.
Little existed in the market that realistically promoted bats for children and I wanted to write a book that was true-to-life, educational yet exciting, removing some of the falsehoods around bats, showing bats in a more positive light, so children and their families could learn to like them and get to know more about these amazing little creatures. I also wanted to help the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) who do fantastic work, therefore the venture had to be not solely commercial, but also a platform to raise awareness and funds for BCT.
The story began to develop one summer; summer being the bat workers busiest time of year, I would often be called out to rescue pups, who were always getting into difficulty, falling into places they shouldn’t or being attacked by cats, and this is the theme in the first of Bobby’s adventures. The book would probably not have got off the ground however, if it was not for Marc Smith of the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Marc along with Nicola Dennis released a book called Bizzy the Blenny in aid of the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Marc provided me with lots of information at the outset, giving me confidence and inspiring me to have a go at writing and self-publishing my first book. Thank you Marc for all your help.
Self-publishing hasn’t been the easiest route but I don’t regret it; the book is bringing joy to many children. If there is a publisher out there who would like to help me take Bobby further though, please do get in touch.
Why brown long-eared bats?
I wanted to change the public’s perception that bats are ugly and scary. In my opinion, brown long-eared bats are one of our more appealing native species, with their massive long ears! I hope you and your readers think the same.
How did your collaboration with artist Kate Wyatt come about?
The book was written and the brief for artwork compiled, but the artist was proving elusive! I searched for a very long time to find an artist, as I wanted Bobby to be anatomically correct so children could have a true sense of what a brown long-eared bat looks like. I remember one day frustratingly saying out loud ‘if this book is to be published, please help me find an illustrator!’ After further googling, Kate’s details appeared on-line. Kate is a well known wildlife artist in the UK and abroad; her pictures are so life-like and real that I knew instantly she would be able to deliver the illustrations I had in mind for the book. I was very pleased Kate took up the assignment; she has beautifully brought Bobby to life; he is child friendly and also looks like a brown long-eared bat, just as he should be!
It has been great to chat with you further Kate; a very happy batty October to you and your readers.
About the Author: Angela Mills left a career in banking to study Biology as a mature student at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2009. Since then, she has worked on many administrative and ecological projects, and works freelance as a licenced bat ecologist, which is how and where the idea for the book developed. She enjoys volunteering for her local wildlife groups, in particular, Dorset Bat Group and East Dorset Bat Rescue and Rehabilitation.