Eve Coy's picture book, The Huffalots, publishes today with the lovely folk at Andersen Press. It's a timely and universal story exploring our emotions and what we can all do to help each other feel better.
We caught up with Eve to find out about her writing and illustrating process...
The Huffalots is a charming story, one that many parents and carers I’m sure will relate to. What inspired you to write it?
I love my family dearly and so far the stories I write are always based on experiences and relationships within families. I also like to be honest about those relationships, a family can be loving and supportive and still be grumpy with each other.
Does it take you a long time to write a text, once you’ve had the idea? Do you have any special writing rituals you can share with us?
The main bulk of this particular text came fairly quickly once I had had the idea. However I try to develop lots of ideas and many go absolutely nowhere, so The Huffalots was a lucky four leafed clover amongst many less inspiring three leafed versions.
Once I've had an idea, I’m a fan of sitting in coffee shops to work out the details and sketch out characters and scenes. I take a lot of time trying to figure out where the page turns should be. I like the reveal of a page turn and I always try to consider how to use them effectively when I'm planning a story.
Can you talk us through your illustrating process?
I tend to draw really tiny pictures because I worry about making mistakes in my drawings and for some reason when I draw small, I trick myself into not worrying as much about the outcome. I then enlarge the drawings to work out a rough plan for the book. The initial idea for this book came out of a doodle of grumpy siblings sitting back to back. I then made a little note by the drawing, calling them The Huffalots. I liked the mirroring of the postures, it felt like it really demonstrated the lack of ability to see the other child's perspective whilst at the same time behaving in an identical way.
I think every project has a few sticking points. Deciding on the colour palette is difficult for me but I find that discussing it with Beccy, my brilliant art director, is often really helpful when I get stuck.
For example the spread where the children are at the park was tricky because the image kept feeling too green overall (below) and it was difficult to try to balance that. Often these issues will arise at the beginning of the artwork phase and once its worked out for one spread, its much easier to resolve for the rest.
Do you have a favourite spread?
Hmmm, I think I’d say I like the kitchen spread because I really enjoy putting details into the backgrounds of my illustrations. For example I have cards on the fireplace of a cat and a mouse which I like to think represent the children when they’re fighting. I then also add bits from my own life like the girl is holding a dinosaur biting puppet.
My youngest daughter had one of these and she would endlessly run around with it trying to bite me. As I previously mentioned, the girl in The Huffalots is not based on my youngest daughter …honestly.
It is absolutely a tricky time for many people. I hope people are finding ways to cope and ways to stay positive, but there is no doubt it is a difficult time.
I’ve done a reading of The Huffalots for Seven Stories which will be coming out on 8th May and I will also put some downloadable activities on my Instagram…once I’ve worked out how to do that. Thankfully I have two children around who will be able to teach me.
Finally, what’s the first thing you’ll do when we’re out of lockdown?
I will be giving my Mum and Dad a hug.