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Happy Book Birthday Interview with Farren Phillips, Author-Illustrator of WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING! Plus a Giveaway!

When I’m Not Looking

Written and illustrated by Farren Phillips

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Happy book birthday to When I’m Not Looking!

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a special blog post celebrating a book birthday for Farren Phillips and her new book When I’m Not Looking!

Be sure to read to the bottom to learn how you can get your name in the hat to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking, compliments of Yeehoo Press (US only). Thank you, Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu, for this opportunity!

On with the show.

Welcome, Farren! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a children’s author and illustrator from England, currently living in Scotland. I studied illustration and children’s media for five years at Cambridge School of Art and graduated with an MA in 2019. Since then, I’ve been establishing myself in the industry and passionately etching away at new projects. I mostly specialise in picture books, but I’ve worked on a few more comic-style books for older children, as well as some non-fiction kids’ books.
I’ve been obsessed with picture books since I was about seventeen. I’d always known I wanted to study art and do an art-centric job, and at the time I was working in a children’s library surrounded by children’s media. I quickly realised that the picture book is my favourite story telling format and since then I’ve never stopped collecting them, studying them, and making them!

I will admit to being somewhat (hugely) envious of your living and working in Scotland! And studying at Cambridge. I’m right there with you on collecting, studying, and making picture books. I just accidentally deleted a folder containing one of my nearly ready picture books. EEEK. But I was able to recover it. Whew.

Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING?
Thank you! I had a few inspirations with this book. I’ve always been really interested in philosophy and love to include philosophical and ethical ideas in children’s stories, because really all kids are born little philosophers and it just makes sense. I’d been reading about Schrödinger’s cat at the time, the famously known paradox of quantum superposition. The idea was that when inside a box with a deadly subatomic event which may or may not happen at any time, a hypothetical cat could be considered both alive and dead simultaneously. The idea just really interested me, and I started thinking about other paradoxical ideas, such as whether a tree falling in the forest would make a sound if no one were around to hear it. It was amusing to consider that when not seeing or hearing something, as humans we have no real proof that it exists, so in theory when you turn your back the world could fall away behind you and you’d have no idea. I loved the potential of this concept as a story, and with some thought and condensing of the larger idea, I came up with When I’m Not Looking; a story about a young philosopher who ponders the more wacky and irrational things of what could be going on behind her back. Originally the story was called Paraducks, but was changed in the early stages of editing.

Fascinating! I also love the original title. Perhaps that title will find itself on a book cover one day. Your premise is perfect for kids who love using their imaginations!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you wrote this book? As both author-illustrator, how did that impact your creative process?
Believe it or not, I actually wrote this book a few years back for a project in University. The story and original illustrations picked up some interest when I brought my Portfolio to the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, and as a result I started working with a few publishers on other works. I’d worked on two books with Yeehoo Press prior to When I’m Not Looking called The Orb and The Death Book, by this point in time I had assumed my old graduate project had been long forgotten by publishers, but out of the blue they brought it up and took a renewed interest. I took to re-working the text to make the story a more interactive affair, and re-did all of the illustrations from scratch, it really became a passion project for me, and I love how it turned out.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading When I’m Not Looking. There are so many details to enjoy. Well done!

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how will you celebrate the book birthday of WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING on May 18?
I’ve put together a fun little interactive story time video as well as a follow-along craft teaching children how to make their own dancing duck puppet. It’s a shame that Covid restrictions make it harder to put on physical events, but we do what we can with what we have! I hope once things become a little more normal again that I could perhaps attend an event in person to celebrate too. For now, I’ll probably treat myself to a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake in celebration while staying indoors and keeping safe.

Oh, fun! I hope I can catch the video. I have a grand who LOVES ducks. He might enjoy making a puppet. Tea and cake sound perfect!

I love the detailed illustrations! There is so much going on and so many surprises for readers to discover. What strategies do you use to get into the creative zone and create such fun illustrations?

With the illustrations, I’d previously always stuck to more simplistic and minimal styles when working on books just out of preference, but since the book had originally been produced for a university project, I wanted to push out of my comfort zone and try something very different with lots of detail and colour. I’ve always been fond of books which are good at telling a second story or explaining the characters’ motives using the backgrounds, so I spent a lot of time looking into realistic family homes and drawing from observation, refusing to wash over the bits people usually leave out of nice drawings, like clutter and spills. I really enjoyed putting together busy images of Leg’s family home, adding lots of silly details into their space to really show what their lives are like beyond the story. I feel it helps the book to not only be exciting for younger children who love the search-and-find aspects, but also to be interesting for older children and parents who can notice something new in the pages on every read through.

You certainly did a wonderful job. I know I will find something new on each read through! Love that it’s not all neat and tidy like you said, but real life messy.

What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a short series of history books for children called Second in the World, hopefully due to come out some time next year. It’s quite a huge change from the normal projects I work on, but it has been a lot of fun doing extensive research and creating fun and informative illustrations. I’m currently finishing up editing the first book and producing the roughs and text for the second.

Wow! That sounds interesting! You have your hands full!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?
I’ve got a number of other projects on the go that I’ll keep sneaking peaks of on social media. My favourite at the moment being a funny and feminist story about a very naughty monkey and a very irritated little girl who doesn’t take nonsense sitting down. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

That’s sounds fun! What a combination-a naughty monkey and an irritated girl (and very determined it sounds like)! I look forward to reading more! Or getting more sneak peaks…

Thanks again for letting me visit! Farren

Congratulations, Farren, and best wishes on When I’m Not Looking and all of your other projects!

Readers, you can purchase your own copy of When I’m Not Looking by clicking the following links:

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-im-not-looking-farren-phillips/1137974864?ean=9781953458070

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/when-i-m-not-looking/9781953458070

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-Not-Looking-Farren-Phillips/dp/1953458076/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=when+I%27m+not+looking&qid=1621302615&sr=8-3

Farren’s social links: 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/farrenphillipsillustration/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/FarrenPhillips

Website: https://www.farrenphillipsillustration.co.uk/

Here are 3 ways to get your name in the hat to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking (US only). A winner will be randomly chosen in this Friday, May 21.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

3. Visit my Twitter page @AngieQuantrell for more chances to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking.


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Happy Book Birthday Interview with Paddy Donnelly, Author-Illustrator of The Vanishing Lake! Plus a Giveaway!

Happy Book Birthday to The Vanishing Lake!

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a very important blog post featuring a special book birthday for The Vanishing Lake by Paddy Donnelly!

Be sure to read to the bottom to learn how you can get your name in the hat to win a free copy of The Vanishing Lake, compliments of Yeehoo Press (US only). Thank you, Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu, for this opportunity!

Let’s get right to it.

1. Welcome, Paddy! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a picture book illustrator and author, originally from Ireland and now living in Belgium. I’ve had seven picture books published so far, with my debut author illustrated one, The Vanishing Lake, being my 8th. I also illustrate covers for middle grade novels, as well as a bunch of other things. My background is in web design and I did that for a number of years following university, then I transitioned into doing kids’ apps for the iPhone. That introduced me to illustrating for kids and I really enjoyed it. For the last two or three years I’ve been focusing on children’s publishing and I really love it.

You have had a very a fascinating career path!

2. Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for The Vanishing Lake?

Thank you! Well, it’s actually based on a real vanishing lake close to my hometown! It’s called Loughareema and it actually does disappear and reappear every few days. While my book contains a few more magical elements like mermaids, giants and narwhals, Ireland is a place full of mythical stories, so I was always surrounded by that growing up. When I was coming up with a few picture book stories a couple of years ago, the real vanishing lake from back home popped into my head and I thought it’d be an interesting premise for a picture book.

It certainly is interesting! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Vanishing Lake! It’s such a fun, imaginative story!

3. What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you wrote this book? As both author-illustrator, how did that impact your creative process?

I started first with the basic idea – a lake that would mysteriously vanish and reappear and vanish and reappear. Then I needed a main character – a child for the reader to identify with. I wanted the character to be searching for the reason for the mystery and ended up with a Grandad character who would tell fantastic stories. Having the main character, Meara, refuse to believe the stories allowed me to keep pushing them to be bigger and more unbelievable. That was the premise and then I started sketching out the roughs, knowing that I had a certain number of pages to work with and that I wanted a few different beats to happen through the book – the lake gone, then flip the page and it was back, then gone again, and then a double page spread for each story, and conclusion. Once I had all of that lined out, I started to write the actual words. Then it was a real back and forth process, with the words informing the illustration and vice versa. This is certainly different to the usual process when I’m illustrating someone else’s story, and I really loved the creative freedom it gave me to have full control over both aspects.

I’m fascinated by the process you used for The Vanishing Lake. How fun to be able to switch back and forth between writing and illustrating, and to have total control over the whole project.

4. Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how will you celebrate the book birthday of The Vanishing Lake on April 20?

I actually have a few virtual events lined up with bookshops in the book’s birthday week, so that’s going to be lots of fun! I guess one of the silver linings of the pandemic is the emergence of virtual author events, so I’m looking forward to doing a few storytimes, drawalongs and Q&A sessions with bookshops and their customers. I would of course absolutely love to be doing something in-person in a bookshop, so hopefully when the world goes back to normal I’ll get the opportunity to do that for a future book. I have been trying to take the time to celebrate the good moments more and more this past year though, so I may have to raise a glass at home on publication day.

Sounds like the perfect combination of events to make the week very special! We have learned some new tricks and skills in the days of the pandemic, haven’t we?

5. I love the joyful imagination that is such a huge part of The Vanishing Lake. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity?

I definitely had (and still do I think) a vivid imagination as a child and used to draw my own stories so much. Growing up with natural wonders like Loughareema and the Giant’s Causeway on my doorstep maybe made me take them for granted, but I think I’ve now got a renewed appreciation for them now. And definitely the rugged cliffs, mountains and magical greens of the Irish landscape have an influence on my illustration style. As imagination is the centre of this story, it allowed me to keep pushing to come up with more extravagant stories for Grandad to tell.

Ooh, perhaps there will be a future picture book about the Giant’s Causeway! 😉 One of my bucket list items is visiting Ireland.

6. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a lot of picture books at the moment. I’ve got a few more coming out later this year and next year. And I’ve got a few middle grade covers on the go too. Lots of different projects happening at once, but that’s the way I like it. I like to hop between projects as it helps keep my imagination going and I don’t get too bogged down in one set of illustrations for months on end. I think I need that variation for my creativity.

So, you also work as a professional project juggler? LOL. I like to juggle writing projects as well. Like you said, it helps keep my imagination and creativity fresh.

7. Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

Perhaps the most exciting project I’m working on is my second author illustrated picture book, Dodos Aren’t Extinct, which I’m illustrating right now. That’ll be coming out in Spring 2022. Very exciting!

Congratulations! That is exciting! It sounds like another captivating story!

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit, Paddy! Best wishes on The Vanishing Lake and all of your other projects.

Readers, you can purchase your own copy of The Vanishing Lake by clicking the following links.

The Vanishing Lake links:

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-vanishing-lake-paddy-donnelly/1137974866

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-vanishing-lake/9781953458032

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1953458033/

Paddy’s social links: 

Instagram: https://instagram.com/paddy

Twitter: https://twitter.com/paddydonnelly

Website: http://lefft.com

— Paddy

http://lefft.com / https://www.instagram.com/paddy/

Here are 3 ways to get your name in the hat to win a copy of The Vanishing Lake (US only). A winner will be randomly chosen in one week on Tuesday, April 27.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

3. Visit my Twitter page @AngieQuantrell for more chances to win a copy of The Vanishing Lake.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Janet Frenck Sheets! You won a copy of The Vanishing Lake!


7 Comments

Book Report & Giveaway: Baby’s First Nativity by Nomar Perez

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Baby’s First Nativity

Illustrated by Nomar Perez

Little Bee Books, 2019

 

Oh, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas! You are going to love this adorable board book as much as your smallest reader does.

Just in time for the Christmas season, Little Bee Books has released Baby’s First Nativity. This sturdy board book is filled with wonderfully illustrated pictures of all the main characters of the Christmas story. Ending with a simple “Merry Christmas,” Baby’s First Nativity will become a favorite.

Why I Like This Book:

~ The illustrations are detailed, simple, and colorful-perfect for the youngest of readers

~ The simplicity of the one or two-word pages

~ The introduction of the main Christmas story characters

~ The Merry Christmas greeting

~ This Christmas story of Baby Jesus is one of my favorites

~ The board book is very sturdy

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Amazon Blurb:

In this bright and attractive book, children will learn the main figures in the nativity story. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the manger, angels, the wise men, and more are beautifully introduced. Perfect for the holidays, but precious no matter the season, this sturdy board book is a great addition to a child’s library.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Thanks to Little Bee Books for sending a giveaway copy of Baby’s First Nativity.

To enter the giveaway, comment on this blog and tell me the name of your favorite Christmas picture book.

A winner will be chosen on Friday, December 6. This giveaway is open to residents of the United States.

***Come back tomorrow for an interview with NOMAR PEREZ!!!