Looking After William, by Eve Coy (Andersen Press, £11.99) publishes today. It's always great to hear how a book comes to life, from the seed of the idea to the finished book you can buy in the shops, and Eve has provided us with a fascinating insight.
Congratulations on Looking After William, your début author-illustrated picture book, publishing. How does it feel to hold a copy in your hands?
It’s a mixture of emotions and it is somewhat overwhelming!
Where did the initial idea for the story come from? And how do your ideas usually come together? Is it an initial character sketch or scene that you develop out? Or do you work on an over-arching story first?
Libby Hamilton at Andersen Press acquired the book at Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2015, how did that initial idea or germ for a story develop into the finished book? Did it go through many changes or different directions?
The book went through many changes but generally the idea stayed pretty constant. Working with Libby and Beccy was brilliant. This is my first book and so I was definitely learning as I went along. Libby and Beccy were so encouraging of my ideas and designs that it was a real pleasure to work with them throughout the project. We used to Skype every couple of weeks to catch up on how things were going. One of my favourite parts was a suggestion made by Libby to have the cat trying to eat sugared mice. The chocolate shop is one of my favourite images and I particularly love that little detail. It certainly wouldn’t have been the same book without their excellent advice!
The text definitely came first but thats probably because it is such a short story, however I loved making the illustrations much more so I enjoyed taking my time over those.
I think it’s important to believe that if you really want to make a book, you can. Personally I find self belief really hard, but no one ever makes a book that hasn’t tried. So I’d encourage people to go for it, it’s a great experience.
A small thing I’d change is I struggled with the French ultramarine blue watercolour that I was using. It was particularly grainy and I even had dreams about granulating blues... I think I’d use a blue gouache paint instead now.
Can you describe your process for creating the illustrations from initial character sketches to the final art? What medium do you work in and do you have a favourite part of this process?
For this particular project I used Windsor and Newton water colour and pencil crayons and my favourite da Vinci brush.
My favourite stage is doing the rough drawings. I love the freedom of those early scribbles but I also love it when you have happy accidents with the finished artwork.
My roughs drawings tend to be really small because I can then draw hundreds of little images much quicker than I could ever draw big roughs. In addition small doodles feel far less intimidating.
Most definitely YES. The girl is based on a combination of my two daughters, she looks most like my second but is also like my eldest. William is most assuredly based on my husband, Will who is also a great dad!
It is also dedicated to your daughters, Polly and Bea. How much did they inspire you to begin working in the world of children’s books? And how much do they continue to inspire you in what you do?
My children have been a huge influence. I think I really discovered the joy of children’s books through reading to my daughters. Trips to the library became an essential part of our lives. My girls are also hilarious, like most children and so of course they have been hugely inspiring to the stories I’ve written.
You have worked in the world of animation, how does creating picture books differ from that?
Both art forms have their unique qualities. Animation is very much a team endeavour with often hundreds of people working on any particular project together. Working on books can be quite isolating, so having regular chats with a fantastic Editor /Art Editor and lovely agent can really help with cabin fever.
Working in animation has been really helpful because it has taught me to draw lots and to think about characters and story structure all of which has been very useful for making books.