Today I bring you a wonderful interview with Jan Latta. Jan was born in Sydney, Australia and has travelled around the world capturing stunning images of endangered animals in their natural habitat. She chooses to share her adventures in her ‘True to Life’ series of books. Lets find out more.
What inspired you to write books for children?
On a trip to Rwanda, in Africa, I came face-to-face with a mountain gorilla. My guide said there were fewer than 600 mountain gorillas left in the world, so I decided to publish children’s books on endangered animals.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing 27 years ago when I was inspired by the mountain gorilla to create children’s books.
How did you come to photograph wildlife / endangered animals?
When I decided to create books on endangered animals, I wanted to make the books ‘real,’ so I had to learn how to be a wildlife photographer to tell the animals’ stories. Karl Ammann, a famous photographer living in Africa was my mentor. He said I must learn how to be a wildlife photographer by following the animals in their natural habits. This was dangerous at times but with experience and research I have not been injured.
What do you like to read?
To create the 18 True to Life Books I do most of my reading about animal behaviour. And of course, all the great men and woman who have researched and written about endangered animals. David Attenborough, Dr Jane Goodall, Brute Galdikas, Cynthia Moss, to name a few.
Tell me about your work as a photographer?
I always travel alone, live in a tent (which was scary at first) and follow the animal for my next book with my guide. I had the pleasure of playing with pandas in Wolong in the mountains of China, a misunderstanding with a huge orangutan in Borneo, Uganda for Dr Jane Goodall’s chimps, India for tigers, Sri Lanka for the elusive leopards and all the way to Costa Rica to photograph and film the sleepy sloths. Each True to Life Book has a video so children can read the book, then watch the animal in action in the video.
Tell me about your work speaking at schools
I’ve been talking at schools for over 20 years. Before Covid I travelled to Hong Kong schools each year talking to children from Kindy to Year 6 students. Then I was a guest speaker at festivals and schools in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Bali and Sri Lanka. “Jan Latta has been a Litfest favourite over the years and has wowed audiences young and old. Her photographs beautifully illustrate her adventures in the wild and help draw attention to the pressing issue of wildlife preservation.”
“Her storytelling has been called a combination of Jane Goodall and David Attenborough, quiet in delivery, but inspirational.”
“The children were enthralled with her wildlife adventures. She is certainly one of the most inspirational women I have ever met. We could have listened to her all day.”
What feedback have you been given from both students and teachers?
My greatest reward is a child saying, “I want to do what you do when I grow up.”
Teacher’s comments: “You have certainly sparked the children’s enthusiasm for reading about the world’s endangered animals.”
“You left a strong lasting impression on the children attending your workshop. Your presentation of your life experience will stay in the minds of the children and perhaps inspire them to follow their passions in life. Your books give children the opportunities to read and value their world environment and our endangered animals.”
I must ask you this. What would be your spirit animal and why?
The cheetah. I had a magic moment in my life when a cheetah came up to me in the wild. It was such a privilege to have the trust of a wild animal.
Tell me about your new release titled ‘Doing It My Way
I was encouraged to write my memoir during the second Covid restrictions. I wanted to share my journey about travelling worldwide, how to conquer the ‘glass ceiling’ in advertising, and publishing in Hong Kong. Also learning to be brave following animals in the wild and a terrifying experience when a lion chased a wildebeest through the middle of my tent.
What advice would you give a new author?
Just start writing. I was daunted by the thought of writing 50,000 words, but when you start, you can’t stop. It’s so rewarding. The most important person will be a good editor. They will help to mould your story and give you encouragement when needed. Then decide if you want to be a self-publisher or try to attract the attention of a publishing company. ASA often allow members to do a 3-minute pitch to big publishers.
What does literary success look like to you?
When I have an email from a reader saying I have encouraged her to be brave.
“Jan Latta’s distinctly readable memoir had me chuckling constantly, filled me with awe, and inspired me to wonder how she’s still alive! If you want all the thrills of exploring the world, without having to take the risks Jan did – start reading now! “
“I've just finished reading 'Doing It My Way' and enjoyed it immensely! How Jan survived all those close encounters in the wilds of Africa and other exotic countries, is astounding ... hugging wild animals, swimming near a hippo, and cavorting with chimps! This is a book worth reading.”
“ Such a fabulous read. I totally recommend this book. A life well-lived xxx”
What do you like to do when you are not writing? I’m a member of the Northern suburbs CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) and involved in planning many school-related events. I also like to paint and draw and exhibit my work in art exhibitions.
Wow, what a woman. A big thank you to Jan for sharing with us on the blog. If you would like to check out her work, click on the link below: