Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Children's Book Hero: Sarah McIntyre, Illustrator and Writer

Sarah's 'self-illustration' from Superkid
Sarah's 'self-illustration' as
featured in Superkid
 I am over the moon to welcome illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre to my blog as she truly is one of S's book heroes - so much so that we have blogged about her books twice in the short time I've been writing this blog! We first came across Sarah's work in the fantastic You Can't Eat a Princess which inspired me to download some activities from Sarah's website (you can read that post here) and I've also written about the second Princess Spaghetti book here.  We recently borrowed a couple of books from the library - When Titus Took the Train - and Superkid - and S loved both of them so much that I invited Sarah to take part in my (irregular) Children's Book Heroes feature. S and I are both thrilled that Sarah has taken the time to give us an insight into her world!

What inspired you to become an illustrator and what inspires you on a daily basis?
As a child, I loved diving into books and living in the worlds that their stories and pictures wrapped around me. And I've always loved to draw, so writing and illustrating books is the most exciting career I can think of.

 Do you have a favourite character in any of the books you have illustrated?
Two, I think: Vern the sheep in my Vern and Lettuce comic book is based very much on the loveable foibles of my husband and I'm very fond of him. In the book I'm drawing with Philip Reeve, Oliver and the Seawigs, I love Iris the mermaid because she's near-sighted and big-bummed like me and that makes me laugh. She has great hair that was loads of fun to draw. (I wish I had hair as awesome as Iris's.)

How do you choose which books to illustrate?
I spin a bottle. No, not really: a few years ago, I took assignments from publishers and they'd match me up with writers who were awesome, but whom I didn't know personally. Recently I've been getting together with my most talented friends to make books together, which is loads of fun. And as for the books I write and illustrate, I try to come up with stories that I know will be fun to draw.

Vern and Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre
Vern and Lettuce featuring one of Sarah's
favourite characters: Vern the sheep
What are your current and all-time favourite children’s books?
Growing up, my favourite books were The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pené du Bois, Watership Down by Richard Adams and In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. I'm very influenced by Satoshi Kitamura's artwork and recently I've come to love Philip Reeve's books, particularly Here Lies Arthur. I share a studio with Gary Northfield who has an amazing new book out called The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs. It was so amazing watching that book come together, I love working with super-talented people!

What qualities do you think make a children’s book become a classic?
I don't think there's any sort of formula for a classic, but I think books that resonate on different levels both with children and adults are the ones people keep close to their hearts all through their lives.

What do you think the rise of e-books means for the future of children’s books and picture books in particular?
As long as writers and illustrators still get decent pay, I think it's very exciting! But I don't think a picture book and an interactive app are the same thing, just as a play and a film are not the same. I hope there will always be stories that involve a parent and child sitting close and sharing it with each other.

Are there any books you would have loved to illustrate?
When I saw Viviane Schwarz's There are Cats in this Book, I thought, I wish I'd done that, it's perfect! I wish I had time to draw a regular strip for The Phoenix Comic, it's an amazing weekly comic. I did a four-page story with Philip Reeve for it, but I just haven't been able to draw them fast enough to take part on a regular basis. And I've got a bunch of stories up my sleeve that I'm dying to illustrate, if only I can find the time. The hardest thing about my job is having so many ideas but only being able to illustrate a few of them.

What do you love most about being an illustrator?I love making characters that look back at me, and creating worlds that I can imagine myself living in. And I love the people who work in picture books. They're the nicest, most interesting of all professionals, I wager. I can't think of a single successful children's book illustrator who isn't lovely. As you get into chapter books and even more so into Young Adults books, the creators can be a mixed bag of nice and not so nice. But whereas I think some Young Adult authors feel they need to prove they could write for adults if they wanted to, people who make picture books are content in our world of young children, burps, farts and bizarre, unexpected questions. It keeps us humble, in a good way, I think. You can't act all cool and aloof when an eager kid's thrusting her picture of a pink hedghog with giant bogeys in your face.

  • And check out my blog, which I update several times a week with drawings, comics and general news about the children's book and comics world. http://jabberworks.livejournal.com
All images are kindly reproduced from Sasrah's website: http://www.jabberworks.co.uk/ 

1 comment:

  1. PLEEEESE find those extra hours so you can draw a regular strip for the Phoenix!!

    Lovely interview :-D