BatChat

Angela Mills; Bobby the brown long-eared bat

February 23, 2022 Bat Conservation Trust Season 3 Episode 32
BatChat
Angela Mills; Bobby the brown long-eared bat
Show Notes Transcript

S3E32 Join Steve on the Welcombe Hills overlooking Stratford-upon-Avon as he sits down with the author of Bobby the brown long-eared bat, a children's book which follows the adventure of a baby brown long-eared bat who lives in the attic of a farmyard. Sitting in the autumn sunshine on a wooden bench watching the world go by, Angela reveals to Steve where the inspiration for Bobby came from, how she got into the world of bats, the challenges of publishing as well as revealing what's next in store for Bobby!  

  • Angela is on twitter and Instagram
  • Find out more about Bobby the brown long-eared bat on his own website!
  • Get your own signed copy direct from Angela from her online shop
  • or order from here and 10% of the proceeds will be donated to the Bat Conservation Trust
  • Support your local bookstore by shopping on uk.bookshop.org where you can name your local bookstore to support them whilst you shop.

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Producer: Steve Roe @SteveRoeBatMan
Cover Art: Rachel Hudson http://rachelhudsonillustration.com/

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Steve Roe:

This week we come to you from the Welcombe hills overlooking Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire. This is BatChat from the Bat Conservation Trust. Hello, and welcome to BatChat. This is the podcast where we bring you the stories from the world of bat conservation. I'm Steve Roe a BCT Trustee. And if you're a regular listener, it's good to have you back with us. And if this is your first time listening to BatChat, welcome along. Episodes are being released every second Wednesday from now through to the spring, and you can join the conversation online using the hashtag bats chat. that's all one word. As we meet each of our guests, you'll hear from people working to make a difference in the world of bat conservation. As well as keeping up with the latest news and hearing from people in the world of bats. We hope that you'll be inspired to get involved because bats need our help. As last summer was joined to a close, I headed to the Welcombe hills overlooking Stratford upon Avon and found a sunny spot to sit down with Angela Mills. Angela's book, Bobby the brown long-eared bat has been a popular hit with children. It follows the adventures of a baby brown long-eared bat who lives in the attic of a farmhouse. In this chat with Angela, we find out what inspired her to sit down and write it. Her advice for any budding writers out there, and how she got involved in the world of bands. Angela also reveals what's next in store for Bobby. It's very, very sunny day. In the middle of October, Autumn is officially here. And I'm sat on a bench in the Welcombe Hills, which is overlooking Stratford upon Avon with Angela Mills, who is the author of Bobby the brown long-eared bat. When we were setting up this meeting today Angela suggested Stratford because it was roughly halfway between the two of us. So Angela, thank you for coming on BatChat today. Where is home for you?

Angela Mills:

Thanks, Steve. What a great spot you've chosen actually. And what a great day. I'm home for me Well, originally Dorset and now Oxfordshire, Simon South Oxfordshire. And I've been there for now three and a half years.

Steve Roe:

Nice. What any reason the change that sparked the move.

Angela Mills:

Yeah, I moved for work. I was an ecologist down in Dorset. And as I've gotten older, I decided that I didn't want to do so many dusk and dawns and falling through loft spaces. So I wanted to be in an office. And I worked for the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology for gosh, nearly three years in their office, they're licencing out their datasets and I've recently moved to another position in Oxfordshire. So that brought me here, and it's a it's a great County, Oxfordshire. And the idea was Dorset a little bit but exploring lots which has been fun.

Steve Roe:

Nice. And we're going to touch on Bobby the brown long-eared bat, the book you wrote in a bit but I mean, you left career in banking to study biology as a mature student at the University of Southampton. So what sparked that change from the finance sector over to ecology?

Angela Mills:

Yes, you know, I was always going out at weekends doing volunteering with Dorset Bank Group, or Dorset Wildlife Trust, or Dorset countryside volunteers. And I loved it and I thought, oh, do I really want to be in banking for the next 20 or 30 years. And the funny thing is, Steve, when I was leaving school, I didn't know what I wanted to do. But I knew I didn't want to work in a bank. And I ended up in JPMorgan for 10 years. But I have to say I don't regret that it was a great job and a great career and it was really dynamic. And I suppose set up my business acumen. And but there was always that yearning to go and learn and do something more meaningful. And I think helping nature kind of fulfils that. So hence the decision to go and study Biology at Southampton University in my 30s.

Steve Roe:

And, I mean, what was it about the natural world that made you want to work in it? You know, Have you always been interested in in nature?

Angela Mills:

Yeah, I think so. Since a child, I always remember a teacher saying to me at primary school, what do you hate most Angela? And I said cruelty to animals. And I think I've always been a bit of an animal person, you know, I like people but I prefer the fluffy kind more. So I'd like to try and help nature and inspire children now about nature.

Steve Roe:

You've written Bobby the brown long-eared bat and it's for children. You know why? Why a book for children? What was it that the major writers kids, but rather than, you know, an adult adult novel,

Angela Mills:

yeah. Well, I'm not an actual writer. First of all, I just had an idea I had been volunteering in Dorset and I remember thinking gosh bats are so misrepresented. You know, we grow up with this myth about them, myself included, I used to watch horror movies, and I thought that was scary. But the more volunteering I did, the more I thought, gosh, these were amazing little creatures. They are really amazing. So I thought I wanted to kind of write that wrong. And the idea of the book was developing as I was doing, volunteering, which often included going out and rescuing baby bats, the pucks in the summer that had fallen into rooms, they shouldn't be in people's household. The idea for the book was developing and I thought one month you know, I had no work actually come in you was almost like divine intervention is a free month off you go write this book. So I had a go. And Bobby was the result. And, you know, I think it's important to inspire children while they're young and enthusiastic to either write or read or draw. So hopefully I'm beginning to achieve that, that wish.

Steve Roe:

And you say you've just moved to Oxford? I mean, how would your parents describe what you do for a living, what's the day to day job,

Angela Mills:

and that's recently changed. So I was working for the Centre for Ecology and hydrology and the office there. And but a really great opportunity came up with the science technology Facilities Council, working on the European Space Agency, business incubation Centre project, and that is helping startup companies with a space focus, helping them start up their business. So I'm in the office there. So it's still science related, but very different. Very different. So you know, you never know like where you're going to end up but I'm enjoying it. It's, it's probably my my second best. Well, my second interest actually next to bats astronomy, I suppose. All of it stargazing, don't we? And so I think now I'm working in that sector. So it's all very interesting, and exciting and very new. So I'm exploring that now.

Steve Roe:

Um, I mean, what's your first memory of a bat? I mean, do you remember seeing them as kids? Was it something that sort of came on your radar as an adult?

Angela Mills:

Yeah, very much as an adult, you know, I don't remember as a child seeing a bat, apart from on the TV, which was, like, as I say, never in a positive light. So I think it wasn't until I started volunteering, and probably, I probably give credit to Dorset bat group for that probably Jan Freeborn, Sally Humphries who does backcare as well. And Nick, so the team down in Dorset really introduced me to bat for us to go out doing bat box checks in The Woodlands, checks around with a ladder, and sometimes very ugly places. But, you know, the sight of a bat and a bat box is always there was always thrilling. And sometimes we do as part of the NDMP we would do evening projects. I remember standing outside mangatoon Mill in Dorset and watching the serotines fly and you know, I never tired of watching them. So yeah, thanks to Dorset bat group for introducing me to that.

Steve Roe:

I mean, where did the the inspiration for Bobby come from? And why was it a long-eared bat that you chose to write about?

Angela Mills:

Yeah, I think the idea develop as I was doing the volunteering. I remember Sally Humphries used to send me out to collect bats. And I remember actually collecting a little pipistrelle bat from a school, once that fallen into the lobby. And maybe it came from there. I don't know, it was that it was kind of putting two and two together and thinking, you know, bats are misrepresented and wanting to inspire children and maybe make a little difference in the world somehow. And so I think that's probably where the story came from. And obviously working as well, as an ecologist, I could see that maybe people weren't so back friendly as I would want them to be. So I think that's where the the idea came from volunteering and working in that field. So when I was writing the book, I thought, What shall I choose? And I guess, long-eared bats are quite appealing with their big long ears. But, you know, having said that, there are lots of other bats that are on my radar that I really liked. The pipistrelles are very cute. And we've got a lovely black dog. Joining us. Hello, hello. We've got a black dog bat fan. That's fine morning. Saying that, yes, brown long's-eared and grey long-eared's are really appealing with their long ears. But I do like the pipistrelles because they're so cute. And you know, also the barbastelles with their their ears joining in the middle there and it makes them look a little bit weird, but wonderful. And also the serotine. Because scruffy but they're really elegant fliers, but I think it had to be a long-eared bat just for the sake of the fact that it's appealing. You know, he's appealing for children.

Steve Roe:

And for people who haven't read reds, Bobby, are you able to give us a rough plotline of it?

Angela Mills:

Yes, well, it's summer, baby bats, the pups are being born. And Bobby is born in the attic. And it's basically his first journey outside, and what happens to him. And I don't want to put too much away. But it's educational. It's realistic. So you know, hopefully people, when they read it to their children will learn something as well. Because I think as an adult, we don't understand a lot of, you know, the bat lifecycle and the back of the book. There's also some bat facts courtesy of the Bat Conservation Trust.

Steve Roe:

I mean, by the time we released this podcast, which will probably be in the new year, by the time people are listening to this, it'll have been getting on for five years since since the book was published. How well has it been received in that time?

Angela Mills:

Oh, it's been really well with the Thank you. I mean, you know, Chris Packham did the foreword, which is always lovely. And Kate did some lovely illustrations. So as my first attempt, I think it's been a pretty good attempt when I go into schools and read the book. You know, the kids are so enthusiastic, and I even had one little boy Say to me once, this is the best day of my life, and I thought, Wow, that's amazing. But he was a real fan. And I'm sure that that best day of his life will change as the years go by. But for now, he was he absolutely was enthralled by it. And that's always pleasing to see. And, you know, I had another little boy who was on the spectrum, and his mom was saying, He's not normally very engaged, but he's willing engaged with this. And, you know, it's I think it's reaching lots of different people for different reasons. And, you know, that's great. You know, it was hard work putting the book into publication, I self published it. But you know, when you hear feedback like that, it makes it all worthwhile.

Steve Roe:

I was gonna say, How long does it take to write something like that?

Angela Mills:

Yeah, I guess it was about a month and I got it. Proof read by Jan Freeborn. very kindly read it. And I wanted to make sure it was inaccurate and read well, and then I had a child psychiatrist, read it, and give feedback, then some children read it and give feedback. So I suppose it was a good year or so getting into production, though, by the time I gave Kate the brief for the, you know, the pictures, and it went through the, you know, the printers. So yeah, it was it was a good year or so getting it out into the, into the public domain.

Steve Roe:

And you mentioned Kate a couple of times. Yeah. How'd you go about finding an illustrator who's got that abilities to capture the feel of the book that you're looking for?

Angela Mills:

Yeah, it was difficult, actually, because I wanted Bobby to be realistic, but also appealing. So I started looking for illustrators initially endorsed it and on my doorstep, but couldn't find them. And then it was so difficult. And I remember Gosh, thinking, you know, I've got this idea for the book, but how am I going to get it into production, I can't even find an illustrator. And I remember saying out loud, you know, if you really want this book and publication, come on, find me and illustrator is putting it out there to whoever's listening, if you believe in that sort of thing, and, you know, within a few days, I found Kate on the website, and I made contact with her. And she seemed a perfect fit, because she's a wildlife illustrator. And she managed to accurately draw Bobby but also make him appealing, which is great. She's really bought him to life.

Steve Roe:

Yeah. And when you're chatting to kids, when you go and do readings in school, you know, what, what's the current perception about bats amongst kids today?

Angela Mills:

Yeah, kids are more open minded, I think, you know, which, which is always great to see, of course, I get the COVID question now, which is a bit worrying. You know, so we need to make sure that everyone fully understands around that. But that, you know, kids are really open minded about things, and normally, very enthused. So that's good to see.

Steve Roe:

And you said, You've been volunteering with Dorset Bat Group, when you got the idea? Did you have to get out there and learn anything else about longer bats in particular before writing? Or did you already have that background information to hand?

Angela Mills:

Gosh, I was a well I was a class two licenced by that stage, and I had done a lot of courses, the Adrian down in Devon, whose surname escapes me

Steve Roe:

Bailey?

Angela Mills:

That's right. Yeah, he was, you know, fundamental. In my training, I did some courses, a lovely farm. And so I've done a lot of courses all about that biology and all sorts of things. But and also researching Bat Conservation Trust online resources helped me learn more about brown long-eared bats, but it's because you know, I have a general understanding of bats, but maybe not so specific. And then I guess, nothing too specific was needed for the children's book. It was just a general kind of introduction to that. So yeah, I think I did have to prepare a little bit and say thank you to everyone that's helped me with that over the years training, and all the BCT resources out there. But yeah, on the whole things, I'm, you know, back licence, I kind of know more than the average person about, I suppose, which helps.

Steve Roe:

And were there any books you read as a child yourself, which inspired that love of nature to connect, I guess, with the natural world?

Angela Mills:

Wow. I mean, as a child, it was always Beatrix Potter for me, you know. And I think that's probably, I wouldn't dare say I'm a modern day beach. It's what I would love to be, I would love to be able to paint and draw and write more as a natural writer and illustrator, and also buy land for nature. I mean, that was great. What she did, I think that really inspired me, I'd love to be able to do that. So you know, I think it's mainly Beatrix Potter and of course Winnie the Pooh. But nature books, my sister used to have a book called buzzy wing. And that's a really old book about a bee and I used to love that. And then there are all these lovely these lovely Penguin Books, I think, well they laid the verb books, and what to look for in autumn, winter, spring and summer. Do you remember those? Yeah. So I think all those sort of little book systems by me as a child,

Steve Roe:

when I was chatting to Emma Reynolds a few weeks ago, we were chatting about how there's very few kids books out there about bats you know there's yourself. There's Emma's new book, there's books that I read as a kid which was Sunwing and Silverwing. But there's not very many books about bats for kids. And in general, probably nature. Why do you think that is?

Angela Mills:

Yeah, I think there's bats are perceived as not very friendly, I think, which is a bit of a shame, and scary, you know, so I think we need to get more bat books out there. Having said that, I have just completed the second one, Steve.

Steve Roe:

But I was gonna ask if you got any more in the pipeline?

Angela Mills:

Well it's ready. But it's getting it out there. I mean, the first one was difficult to get out there, like I say, and it was, it was expensive, I did a print run. So this time, I would have to think about, you know, do I do print on demand, but with print on demand, you've got the colour vibrancy issue, because the prints maybe not quite as good. So I guess I'm looking for an agent or publisher, if anyone's listening, face to make contact, the second book is out, you know, ready to be out to go out. And we've even penned a little cartoon, but that needs a bit of work, you know, any kind of script writer would be, I'd be very open to a script writer getting contacted, you know, I was thinking Hollywood owes us because it's due to Hollywood that we have this bad perception of bats, you know, the scary movie. So, you know, Hollywood film writers, please contact me, let's make, let's make my cartoon get on the screen.

Steve Roe:

There you go folks, get in touch with Angela. We'll put it we'll put Angelo's email address at the bottom of the shownotes.

Angela Mills:

So, yeah, we definitely need to inspire more people to write more books. That's for sure about that. And actually, when you think about other animals that perceived as scary. Are there any books about snakes? I don't know, I haven't been in the children's section lately at the bookstore that is normally fluffy, fun creatures, isn't it? But maybe we shouldn't maybe think about writing that. So yes, get my two books, please everyone.

Steve Roe:

And is the is the new book about bats.

Angela Mills:

It's a Bobby sequel. So it's ready to go pretty much as long as someone would like to publish it, print it.

Steve Roe:

And what inspires you to sit down and you know, pick up the pen and start writing?

Angela Mills:

I think it's all about timing in and I think you have to be in the right mood, because I work full time as well. You know, you have other constraints. So when did I last pen this one? I think it was at Christmas, I did have that in the back of my mind, actually, that I would do it when I had a bit more holiday time. Yeah. So a bit you do definitely have to be in the mood and you start maybe jotting a few ideas down as you think about them the plot etc. And I think it's the I normally do dedicate some time around it. But it does definitely has to be the right time, if I'm not in the right mood to sit down that it doesn't get done. But you know, I have some great friends that I bounce ideas off of and and they've been really helpful with getting the getting me to write the second.

Steve Roe:

What would you say to any budding writers out there who just don't know where to start? What would be your top tip?

Angela Mills:

Well. I think if it was children, I would say follow your ideas and inspiration. You know, I used to have a magnet on my fridge at home that said, Follow your dreams. That's where destiny is found, you know, go for it have a go. I mean, I'm not an actual writer, but I just gave it a go. And you know, Bobby's out there. So for children, you know, believe in your dreams, go for it, and give it a go. For adults yeah the same applies. But also I suppose more practical advice would be do your research. There's the writers and artists year book, which is really helpful. If you're thinking of getting a book out there, that's like the Bible for writers I was I would maybe start there and go into book shops and have a look and see who's publishing the sort of books that you're going to, to write if you're going to, you know, apply for a publisher to publish the book. If you're going to Self Publish now. Gosh, that's that's a whole whole different approach. I did do a course once in my local library, how to self publish, I'm happy to help people if they want to. But that's a lot of research. You know, make sure you you decide between a print, run or print on demand. And know your margins know your market. And the marketing is the most most difficult. I think that's probably the most difficult, but I would definitely say give it a go. And, you know, don't be deterred, because you know, you have ups and downs. And it was No, it wasn't straightforward getting the book into publication, that's for sure. But it will happen at the right time.

Steve Roe:

And we should say where it's available to purchase.

Angela Mills:

Oh yeah, that's true. So it is on Amazon, but I also have my own website, which is

https:

//www.bobbythebrownlong-earedbat.co.uk, maybe a long domain name, but I wanted children to learn at least one native species name so that they can buy the book there is in Waterstones. Some book shops can order it so it's out there and I think there's links on the BCT website. Thank you for that.

Steve Roe:

I shouldn't say we'll stick a link in the show notes. And which three books would you say are a must read for listeners to have on their radar?

Angela Mills:

I must read Oh, my gosh, that's interesting. And I suppose apart from Bobby, of course, nature books. Oh, you know, actually really like Luna Moon hair. But that's maybe not a children's book. It's more. It's maybe more of a pagan book but it's about the the seasons and the wheels turning through the year. But it's about the beautifully written, and I can't remember the name of the author. That's why the lovely that sits quite proudly on my mantelpiece. Yeah, another book, I'm trying to think. Oh, you know, an adult's book that I read in the summer, which was beautiful, where the crawdads sing. And she's actually a scientist, and it's beautifully written, and it is about her life growing up in the lagoons of the deep south in America. And, you know, it's quite a difficult upbringing, but she finds solace in nature around her. That's one of the beautifully written since that's an adult's book, but the children I suppose Beatrix Potter. Yeah. But then, you know, that was my inspiration as a child

Steve Roe:

and do much to get out during the summer months to go and watch bats. And if you do, where are the best places to go? Washing that's where you live.

Angela Mills:

Okay. Wow. You know, in my village, we have literally up the lane from me a 250 strong soprano. pipistrelle bat roost. Nice. So I popped my neighbours now and again. We have a nice little coppice in the next lane, which is quite good for bats. And I know we've got a brown long-eared next door in an old barn. And actually my neighbour just down the road a little bit further down the road in. This is Clifton Hamden. She has quite a big bat roost, but we're yet to determine what she's got! But all I can tell you is when I came out one evening from a very nice barbecue, we could hear the bats chattering in her hall, so we're probably determined what they are actually a bit locally Oxfordshire back group, I have been out with them and Newnham Courtney, we did an NBMP survey there and we saw some long-eared's come out. So thank you, Kathy. And for that, I don't know Oxfordshire that well. That's the thing. I know Dorset, but not Oxfordshire. So well. But, you know, I think bats turn up in all sorts of places, don't they? I was just saying to you as we were walking here that, you know, in Didcot we had about outside a shop one day and there was not a very good tree line or connectivity there. So, you know, I just think look up at dusk, and you'll probably see them

Steve Roe:

Got another inquisitive dog. Yeah, he's lovely. Isn't he got forgotten when we were completely forgotten when I got out of the car. And so Angela, Angela reminded me that we'd both been stood carrying what did they called it was Biggles, Biggles the bat for the Chris Packham's walk for wildlife in London back in Canada. When was that? 2017? 2016?

Angela Mills:

I remember that. That was a great day. Great turnout. Great energy.

Steve Roe:

Yeah. This week on the news, we've heard lots about the Earthshot prize launched by Prince William, if you had the prize money of 1 million pounds to spend on the natural world, how would you spend?

Angela Mills:

Oh my gosh, I think it would have to be land, you know, protecting the land for nature and creating connectivity for wildlife. So I think buy as much land as possible, I think with that. And also we'd have to have a back flight and a back carry sanctuary. Because maybe that's one thing that BCT is lucky. I know you've got your individual people around the country, but we could have a nice big centre, just for BCT have their back carers and maybe a place where people could visit that and learn about that small.

Steve Roe:

Good answer I like that.What's the importance of children's books and the long lasting power of the books that we grow up with?

Angela Mills:

Oh, interesting, isn't it? I suppose they touch us in so many different ways don't they books as do films and all sorts of you know media. But for me, it was very much you know, reading that book at night the anticipation of turning the page and discovering what happens next or that beautiful illustration that you particularly like, I think yeah, books are special. And I think it's also that quality time you spend with the people that are reading them to you. If you can't read them yourselves you know is that memory of sitting down with mum and dad or granddad granddad or brother sister? But the book itself? Yeah, it stays with you Beatrix Potter in the Flopsy bunnies on my favourite What was your favourite Beatrix Potter? Oh,

Steve Roe:

Beatrix, my favourite Beatrix Potter book.

Angela Mills:

I'm sure we're all a bit little bit scared by Mr. McGregor.

Steve Roe:

Well, Beatrix Potter wise, probably Mrs. Tiggy Winkle my favourite. Favourite kids book is Swallow's and Amazon's for me. Yeah, yeah. The whole series actually.

Angela Mills:

Fantastic. Yeah.

Steve Roe:

Where can people find you online? which platforms are you on?

Angela Mills:

Oh, really? Yeah, maybe I didn't permit myself as well as I should online. I'm not very techy. I'm on Facebook. And I have my website. And by all means people can make contact through my email address, which is on the website. I'm on Instagram as well. I think that's pretty much it.

Steve Roe:

Angela Mills, thank you so much for coming on the

Angela Mills:

show today. Thank you so much. But Steve, I want to give you a book. And I don't know whether you want to maybe make this as a like a competition. And also, I've got some books that you might like to give to your primary schools. Is that okay? I'll get those to you in a minute.

Steve Roe:

Oh, thank you very much.

Angela Mills:

You're welcome. Thanks for having me. It's been lovely.

Steve Roe:

A big thanks to Angela for taking time out to meet me on that lovely autumn day. And thank you to you for listening to this episode. I really hope you've enjoyed it. If there are any script writers out there for Angela's cartoon, please do get in touch with her fire her website. We've put links to Angela's Instagram and website in the show notes. And as you heard in that episode, Angela gave us the idea of launching BatChat's first ever competition. Angela has kindly donated a copy of Bobby the brown long-eared bat signed by both herself and Chris Packham and Emma Reynolds from Episode 26, has donated a copy of her book Amara and the bats. To enter the competition and win one of these brilliant books. All you have to do is write us a review about the show. And the two winners will be picked at random at the end of this series, which is now not that far away with just two episodes left, so you need to follow the instructions in the show notes if you want to be in with a chance of winning one of these prizes. We've loved reading all the reviews so far and it keeps me motivated to keep creating the show. Remember, we need to be able to contact you if you win. So when you leave your review, make sure you give us your twitter or instagram handle in the review. I'll be back in two weeks time joining volunteers to count out to bat roost for the National back monitoring programme and speaking with Philip Briggs, monitoring manager for the Bat Conservation Trust