Beachy Books publisher, Philip Bell, interviewed his recently signed author/illustrator Lynne Hudson on their newly rebranded traditional imprint, about her longer children’s book called Thingamanose, her writing process and how she got into illustrating.
Bold text (Philip), plain text (Lynne)…
Do you write full time?
I work part time at a hospital to bring in money while I work on my writing and drawing.
How did you get into writing and illustrating?
Well, I was actually applying for a job and I had to write a cover letter, and I just sat down writing these cover letters and I just really enjoyed it. (At this point, Lynne’s cat, Tiger enters the room and she shoos it out! -Ed) So, I thought I would have a go at writing a story, because I never really thought that I could write anything before. I just sat down and started writing things. I think the first things I wrote were pretty rubbish then I started writing things that were ok, so I sent them off to the Literary Consultancy for them to edit for me and they gave me a lot or really positive feedback. Things went from there really. The first book I had published was called Sniff by Hogs Back Books and then they asked me to illustrate one of their other books called Big Dog and Squiz. I’ve just been plodding on from then.
How long have you been writing and illustrating for?
I’ve have been writing for about 10 years, but I have been doing the illustrations for quite a long time. I trained as a Potter at Bath Academy of Art and when I left there, I taught night classes for a few years, but it wasn’t really me. But my pots were very plain pots that were covered in illustrations, and I realised that that was the part I really liked — the design and decoration on the pots. And then I cut out making the pots and concentrated on illustration.
I noticed when you sent your first submission, I really loved your illustrative, cartoon style. Is that something you are particularly into, or was it something that just came out and became your style?
I think it has basically been my style, but I did do a correspondence course with the College of Cartoon Art, that was over about a year, the professional cartoonist Dave Fellows, who was the chap that mentored me, sort of pushed me in the way or children’s illustration as he said that it was the best thing for my style of drawing. Sadly, he passed away in 2003, but I fondly remember he especially liked my caricatures of soap characters like Dot Cotton [see below].
So, what would you say is the difference between an artist that can do one set scene, and an illustrator of a children’s book? What skills do you think are needed for children’s book illustration and even comics?
I think probably, I observe people and go around and have a little sketch book and go into town sometimes or other places and sketch people. I think you get a feel for how people are really, and their character.
I saw Shirley Hughes on the BBC 4 documentary What Do Artists Do All Day? Have you seen that? She sits in playgrounds observing people and drawing in her sketch book – actually, maybe that sounds a bit weird… *laughs*
*laughs* That’s basically what I do!
I see so much movement in your illustrations. It’s crazy really, it’s only a static image but yet there’s so much movement in it. I always like that kind of feeling. I think people are quite fascinated by the process and think it’s magic.
Yeah, *laughs* there is quite a lot of imagination goes in it, but I am also a bit of a people watcher.
So, does what inspires you to write and draw? What is your muse?
I think things just seem to jump into my head really. For this story, I was just walking into town one day and a phrase just popped into my head. Something about a girl called Rose, picking her nose. I just started writing it down and it became ‘Don’t Pick Your Nose Rose!’ (which was the original name of the story when Lynne submitted it to Beachy Books – Ed). I didn’t really know where it was going to go at first, it just kind of evolved as I sat down at the computer and wrote and built up the idea.
Rose is quite a feisty heroine in the Thingamanose story. What’s the inspiration behind her?
I think it’s probably me, actually. *laughs* I have always been a bit of a nose picker! *laughs*
I was afraid to ask if you picked your nose! *laughs*
Yeah, quite a lot of my old school friends have commented about that!
Going back to my inspiration from Rose, I think that she also came from having quite strict parents, who just kind of dismiss things you say, things like that. At work, quite a lot of the doctors are very dismissive and that really gets my back up. They don’t believe what you’re saying half the time.
So, are saying that your writing process is quite cathartic? *laughs*
*laughs* Just a bit, sometimes. I’m quite rebellious as well, like Rose!
So, from Rose picking her nose… how did Thingamanose pop into your head? *laughs*
I think it’s probably just something that just popped into my head literally. I think it was just something that happened when I was sat down writing. I kind of go into my own subconscious; in my head it’s a video and I write down the film in my head. It’s like dreaming or daydreaming really. You are sat there writing but you are daydreaming at the same time and all these weird things just come out!
*laughs* I love it. That’s great! So, obviously when I read your story it was very funny. So, what do you enjoy about humorous writing? Is that your default writing style, you go for something funny?
I suppose so. I sometimes think it’s quite serious really, but I’m quite happy people think it’s funny. I think it’s just the way I am really.
So, do you mean Thingamanose is more of a serious story than a humorous one?
I can’t really put my finger on what it is. I think that a lot of people are laugh when they read it, but I think I’s quite serious *laughs*
*laughs* Erm, that’s quite interesting to hear that.
When I had it [the early draft] edited, the comments said it was quite revolting at some points! *laughs*
So, the early drafts were edited by the literacy consultancy?
Yeah, I sent that off last year for them to do it, but it’s obviously now changed quite a bit since then editing with Beachy Books.
And talking of Beachy Books, why did you decide to send your story to us?
They [The Literary Consultancy] did say it was a longer picture book and they weren’t sure what kind of genre it would fit into, because it sort of sits between a picture book and a chapter book. I used to get this quarterly magazine called Carousel and I noticed they were advertising some books and it mentioned that it filled the gap between the picture book and chapter book market, so I went on the computer and looked if they were taking any submissions and they weren’t, so after some research on the computer I came across your blog post [https://beachybooks.com/bridging-the-gap-longer-picture-books] about longer picture books and I emailed you and sent you off a manuscript, just by chance really.
I remember writing that blog it was quite a long time ago now and it was inspired by my frustration of how my daughter, who used to really like picture books, would end up feeling as if she could not read them, as they were associated with a much younger audience. She is a teenager now but still appreciates picture books, but at school she would be teased by other children for choosing to read a picture book when they were reading longer story books with little or no illustrations, which she wasn’t really inspired by in the same way. I also remember that feeling as a child of how wonderful picture books and comics were compared to books full of text. I love them now of course, all books.
Thingamanose is written in rhyme. Is that a writing style you enjoy?
Yeah, I think it comes a bit more naturally to me than prose, but it takes a lot longer to write. I just feel more comfortable with rhyme.
Do you have a favourite children’s book?
My favourite is Dr Seuss. You can probably see that from what I write. I love the Lorax with its environmental message. From childhood, I used to really love the Miffy books, the style and the simplicity.
Have you got any inspiring advice for budding writers or illustrators?
My advice is just to try it. Don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m not a writer…’. You never know until you try! It was when I enjoyed it, trying and trying and keeping at it. It was how I developed my own style and got better and better. With drawing, it’s the same really. Just pick up the pencil and have a go. My grandma was a painter and I used to sit next to her as a little kid. She used to give me old envelopes and a biro and I used to just sit there doodling all the time.
Is there a message in Thingamanose?
The story is just about parents listening to their children and not dismissing what they say. If they’ve got problems or a niggle then listen to them, don’t brush them off. The frustration of people in power just not listening to the small people.
Thank you Lynne Hudson!
Philip Bell would like to thank Lynne Hudson for her time in the interview. If you like the sound of Lynne’s writing and want to see her ilustrations, you can read more about the book, take a peek inside and buy a copy to support the author and publisher here: Thingamanose.