About Me

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Stockport, United Kingdom
Angela Cater is a writer, illustrator and self-publisher. Her books are published by Tabby Cat Press. She is the writer/illustrator of "The Adventures of Sailor Sam" and "A Perfect Nest for Mrs Mallard."

Monday, 28 December 2009

Interview with Lorna Foot, illustrator for 'Gone Indy'

Lorna Foot is the illustrator behind the 'Gone Indy' brand of children's books, written by Marc Archambault.

How did your working relationship with Marc Archambault first come about?
I met Marc at our Kung Fu school and every once in a while we would work together and talk. One day, he aske me to draw a mural for his youngest daughter's bedroom when he found out that I was an artist. It wasn't until recently that I found out he writes children's stories. He asked me if I wanted to illustrate them and I said sure.
What was the first book you ever illustrated? How did you go about it?
Our first book that I illustrated is called Hal the Unwashed Dragon. I chose to do this book first because my speciality is dragons and I figured it would be a good start. I drew the pictures onto paper. When I was satisfied, I would go over then with ink, scan them onto my computer and then colour them in Photoshop.
Is there a web address where we can view some of your work?
Sure, there are a few actually - http://cartoon-dragon.deviantart.com/gallery/ - this is my cartoon strip, and http://dragonartist101.deviantart.com - this is my miscellaneous works. I also have a new portfolio page at http://dragonartist.carbonmade.com
Have you completed formal art studies, or are you self-taught?
I'm practically self taught. I've been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil, but with some guidance from school I've been able to try new techniques that I would never have done by myself. So say 90% self-taught.
Which past or present day illustrators do you admire most?
Honestly, I don't have a particular illustrator that I admire. In fact, I admire all of them.
How similar are your current drawings to those you did as a child?
Not similar at all. I've kept all my old sketchbooks and my drawins have evolved so much. Since I draw dragons the most, I can draw wings better, scales, body structure etc. I'm more detailed, loose and sketchy now.
What is hardest to draw?
People, machinery, vehicles. People are hard just because I've never bothered to try drawing them, but now I'm working on it. And vehicles, houses and machinery, for some reason they just don't flow.
What part of your work do you do on paper and what part digitally?
I usually do the basic outline and minor detail on paper and then I would finish the detail, colouring and background digitally. But usually, it depends on what I'm doing. Sometimes it's 100% paper and vice versa.
What research do you do for your illustrations?
I find reference pictures on the internet or I will look into some how to draw books to pick up some techniques. I'm using books right now to help me draw people.
Do you have any specific goals as an illustrator?
I plan on sticking with Gone Indy, and when I start getting into the flow of things and getting much better, then I'll start looking for additional authors in need of an illustrator, but I will stick with Marc.
What are you working on now?
I'm already working on our next book. It is called "Mommy is too tired to play"
What advice do you have for someone who likes to draw and would like to make a living from it?
Be yourself, don't try to be the next Vincent Van Gogh. Your art is your own and is unique, be proud of it. Make sure you listen to constructive criticism and practice a lot.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Bookworm Reads: "Teevert" by Marc Archambault, illustrated by Lorna Foot

The Bookworm Reads: "Teevert" by Marc Archambault, illustrated by Lorna Foot

"Teevert" by Marc Archambault, illustrated by Lorna Foot


Teevert follows the life of one individual little leaf, from his first budding to his final fall to the ground. Throughout the book, Teevert and his family are full of enthusiasm for life and love of the changing seasons. However, when, one by one, Teevert's friends start to turn brown and fall from the tree, he is not so fond of winter and is frightened of taking that fall. Eventually, he is left alone and is forced to face his fears and take that final jump.

The story is told in a very simple and straight forward way and is perfect for youngsters who are beginning to read for themselves. Lorna Foot's illustrations are bold and capture the atmosphere of the changing seasons as well as Teevert's emotions.

The book gives parents and teachers a perfect starting point for discussion of a number of subjects: the seasons, growing up and the circle of life and death, all presented in a manner that is non-threatening and esay to understand. Recommended.

Please return in a few days time for an interview with Lorna Foot, illustrator of 'Teevert'

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Interview with Marc Archambault, children's author

Partnered by illustrator, Lorna Foot, Marc Archambault is the author of a number of children's picture books produced under the publishing name of 'Indy Books'. His most recently published book, "Teevert" will be reviewed in my next blog.
What kind of books did you like to read as a child? What type of reading inspires you to write?
Roald Dahl was my favourite author. I sought out anything and everything written by him, but that was when I was a bit older that when reading picture books. I honestly don't have much memory of the picture books from when I was very young. I mostly got exposed to them more recently when my wife and I would take our daughters to the library and return with - quite literally - a cartful of books too heavy to carry.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
There's a spark. I try not to force my writing. I write when the inspiration hits and it usually just pours out all at once. Sometimes it will be a mater of mere hours between the spark and the finished story. Other times the spark may linger for months or years before it finally comes out int a story. Often the spark will come from my family. In the case of Teevert, it was a walk in Vancouver with the family one autumn and one of the kids said 'what if a leaf is afraid to fall?'
What do you think makes a good children's story?
It depends on the intent of the story. I've seen some very good ones that are quite serious. Mine, however, tend to all have a sense of playfulness. Like any story, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end. There needs to be a point or a punch-line. It needs to engage the reader. Personally, I also have a pet-peeve that I dislike stories that insult the intelligence of children by distorting reality - for example, putting together animals that are normally found on different continents, calling chimps 'monkeys' and other inaccurate things like that. Sure, the animals talk, but if you're representing African animals, do a bit of research first so that you're not sticking South American animals into the story.
How do you get reader feedback?
So far most of our sales have been direct at book signings, craft fairs, through people we know, etc. So often people will read the story there and tell us they love it. Or they will tell us later after they've read it to their children.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc?Regarding writing, none. I write when the inspiration hits me. The promoting of the book requires a lot more work in contacting people, setting up events, etc. I'm still new and learning so I'm mostly taking it as it comes.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help you concentrate?A mess! I write in the same office where I do my day job, and it's pretty messy - and we're still renovating. When I'm inspired I'm immersed and I don't need any help concentrating. I do always, always listen to music while I'm worknig at the computer though.
What has been your experience with publishers? Why did you decide to independently publish your stories?
I submitted a number of my stories to a handful of publishers. I got some positive feedback - handwritten notes from the editors rather than just form letters - but no bites. I found it to be a lot of work researching the publishers, writing cover letters, mailing then waiting weeks and weeks. It's such a matter of luck. You need to get the righ editor at the right time with the right story, and it has to fit their criteria re. number of words, etc. It's such a restrictive process and I didn't enjoy it at all. The impetus to self publish really came from realising that the tools were out there (Lulu.com) and meeting the right illustrator. I didn't really know what I was doing at first, but I learned quicly and so far I have enjoyed the process very much. There's freedom to it. There's reward in proportion to the amount of work you do to promote the book, rather than just sitting and hoping that it might get accepted by a publisher.
How did your partnership with Lorna first come about? How do you work together?
Lorna and I are Kung-fu brother and sister. We've been beating each other up for a couple of years now!
After I decided to try and find an illustrator, I initially asked another guy I knew from Kung-Fu who is a professional cartoonist. He was interested but turned out to be too busy. I kind of knew Lorna was an artist, so I asked her and she agreed enthusiastically. I sent her all the stories I had written to date - I think there were six - and she chose to start with Hal the Unwashed Dragon. She gave me some sketches and I chose which I liked best for the character. Then I gave her a story board of what should be on which page, and she drew it. There's a big of back and forth on some changes, but mostly she just rolls with it and works independently. The process was the same for Teevert, but a bit smoother. My wife also helps with the storyboarding and editing, etc.
How do you go about publicising your work and selling your books?
It became apparent quite quickly that getting people to order from Lulu would be difficult. So I invested some money and bought 125 copies of Hal - you get a good discount when you order 100 copies or more, plus there was also a good coupon at the time. We started with friends and family. Then we decided to focus on the one niche market that every author has: local. We sent a press release and got in the local paper (twice) and another regional paper is picking up the story aw well. We got ourselves into some local retailers and arranged for signing and reading events. We sold copies to libraries. And through it all, we've been actively promoting on Facebook and on our fan page. We've also just recorded the books on audio and Lorna has mixed them with music and a slideshow and put them up on our new YouTube channel.
Do you also have a day job or do you manage to make a living out of your writing?
This one made me laugh! We haven't even managed a profit yet let alone a living. So far, all the money we make we use to buy more books to sell (but then we only started this 3 months ago). I work full time and overtime as a life insurance underwriter from home. One day I'd love to be able to be just a writer instead of an underwriter, but that day is likely some way off.
Do you have a website we can visit?
Yes, several. Most of the information is on our Facebook fan page - slideshows, interviews, updates, newspaper articles, etc. www.artist.to/goneindybooks/
We've also got a YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/goneindy
and a temporary basic website http://www.goneindy-books.piczo.com/?cr=3
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into writing children's books?I'm not exactly a bestselling author yet, so any aspiring author can take this advice with a grain of salt.
Read lots and lots of kid's books. Read your stories to kids. Also, be sure you really are a writer. I've heard lots of people say they;ve written "a" kid's book. In my opinion, if all you have in you is one book, you're not a writer, just someone with one story. It may be good enough, but maybe not. You should be writing lots, have lots of ideas and experiment!
Please return in a few days time for a review of Marc's most recent book, "Teevert"

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Mystery of Journeys Crowne


As a child, I spent most of my time curled up in a corner with a cat on my knee and a book or drawing pad in my hand. I would have adored The Mystery of Journeys Crowne which gives creative children a full license to draw their own adventure story and follow cryptic clues to unravel the story. A story page at the start of the book sets the scene, but then you are left to your own devices to work your way through a variety of tasks and solve the mystery. In addition to deciphering cryptic clues (some quite difficult and requiring some reasearch) and searching for hidden items, a lot of left to the child's imagination and they are asked to draw their own characters.

In addition to being an absorbing game, the book features K Michael Crawford's breathtakingly colourful illustrations. These alone are worth buying the book for, and add further stimulus to a young and vivid imagination.
This book is available from Amazon and most online book stores.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Interview with K Michael Crawford, writer and illustrator extraordinaire

K Michael Crawford has illustrated many books for other writers during his career. More recently, he has published a couple of "Adventure Game" books for children. Here he talks about his creative process.

How did you first get into writing and illustrating your own books?

When I was a kid in Middle School, an author came to visit our school to talk about her book. After her talk, I stayed to talk to her more about writing children's books. I knew right then that I wanted to create magical stories for children. I also found out that she lived very close to me, so every chance I got, I went to visit her to talk about writing.

While in college, a friend of mine asked me if I would illustrate a story he had written. He wanted to produce it to give to his family and friends for Christmas. I said yes, and we had his father to print the book for us. It wasn't a bestseller or anything, but we sold it at the local bookstore and got an article about the book in the Baltimore Sun. I was hooked and knew I wanted to illustrate and write children's books for the rest of my life.

Have you completed formal art studies, or are you self-taught?

I graduated from the University of Maryland in Advertising Design. But after college is when I really started to take illustration seriously. I took drawing classes at Otis Parson School of Design, American Animation Institute, Art Centre College of Design and Associates in Art, where I learnt to draw really well from professional teachers. But it was up to me to develop the style of how I wanted things to look in my drawing. Deciding upon your style is one of the hardest things an artist has to do. My style seems to fit with the way I l ook at life and how I think. I still explore and develop my art, because this is a lifetime adventure and only I know how far I can take my art or want to take it.

I need to share something with you here, because even though it seems that my life is very magical, I was told by four different English teachers over the years that I would never learn grammar. They threw their arms up in the air at me. I was always told that I had a great imagination but I would never be a writer because I couldn't learn grammar. Well, I have proven that where there is a will, there is a way. I just started writing lots and then hired a great editor to edit my work. The moral of this story is that someone else might not be able to teach you how to do something, but you can always teach yourself. Or you can hire someone to cover your weaknesses.

How did you get your first full assignment? What did it involve?

After I believed that my art as ready, I started sending out postcards to publishers to try to get a book to illustrate. Every month for six months, I sent out a postcard and then I got my first book to illustrate, Chicken Little. I had to create 17 paintings for the book. I started with a pencil drawing of the spreads, and once they were approved, I went to color comps. They are rough colored drawings to show the colors of the piece. I always give color comps because I paint in bright colors and I don't want to shock anyone with the final art. I also sent out postcards to Educational Companies as well, which helped make extra money until I could get more commissions to illustrate books.

You have a very distinctive style? How did this develop?

Every artist has to decide how they want things to look in their art. There are 50 million ways to draw something and both the classes I took and the way I think (not like others) helped to develop my style. I look at the world as a very magical place that's full of bright colors and I wanted to share with the world the way that I see things. I believe there is magic around every corner and you just need to be open to see it. I also believe that the experiences you have in life helps to determine your style. So I have lots of experiences and adventures that I put into my art and writing.

What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?

When I create a character, I believe that they can exist in reality. They come to life. As I create, I think of things the character would like and dislike. What their personality would be if I met them on the street. I am not quite sure if I am ready to meet a bear on the street but it would be an interesting experience. I give the attitude to their poses.

Once, I was at the Post Office and there were 25 other people in line. I gasped, because I realised that I was standing in a room full of my characters. I went out to my car and sat in the parking lot for over 30 minutes so that I could draw all the people I had seen. I always carry a sketchbook wiht me, because I never know when I am going to be inspired. It's always best to take from real life and add your own twist to it.

Do you prefer writing or illustrating?

I like doing both. Each can stand on their own, but put together in the right combination, that's when magical things can happen. You can create something amazing that others will enjoy as well. You can sweep up the reader and take them to magical places and give them a great imagination.

How did the idea for your drawing game books come about? Are they proving to be successful?

About three years ago, I decided that I wanted to create a book that had never before been created. So I thought 'what if I put everything I like into one book?' - mysteries; adventure; imagination ...It hit me that if I did that, I would have created a book that was one of a kind. It took me two years from start to finish to create and develop The Mystery of Journeys Crowne. That book challenged every aspect of my writing and art for everything to work well together. There are layers to the book that I think most people haven't seen yet. When I was working on the book, I didn't even know if anyone else would like it. My instincts just kept telling me to do it. It was a chance I had to take and I'm so glad that I did.

Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?

I have submitted my work to SILA (Society of Illustrators - LA) and won twice. I will also be entering my two new books, Batty Malgoony's Mystic Carnivale and The Mystery of Journeys Crowne into competitions so that they can gain exposure. The other awards that I have won, the publishers entered those products and books. Some of the best books in the workd have never won any awards, they are just written to be great books.

How do you promote and sell your books? Do you also have a day job?

Promoting and marketing are part of the job that I don't like. I have never been a person who likes to talk about what I am doing or working on. I am more of a doer than a talker. But if I wanst my work to be successful, I need to do it. Promoting and marketing has become so much easier since the internet. I do a lot of emailing and contacting people around the world who might be able to help promote my books. I send out a lot of books to reviewers and I try to get national press from newspapers and magazines by sending them press releases and flyers in the mail. The wonderful thing about my books after I created them is that it is up to me whether they are successful or not. Each author and illustrator has that power.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc?

Creativity and magic are two things you can never control. You just havge to be open to oth if you want to create magical and creative books. I am not keen on schedules, because I know best of all that it is when I am having fun that I am at my most creative. I pride myself on being unpredictable and pretty much live my life that way. But I love what I do so much that I probably work more than the average person. Art is more than just a career; it's my life style. For me, it is more about the magical journey I will have than in reaching a goal. But, if I did have to pick one goal, then I hope that others will see and enjoy the magic I create in my books. Being on the New York Times bestsellers list wouldn't be bad either.

What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help you concentrate?

My studio is not the prettiest think to look at, but I do surround myself with art and toys. It also has a lot of books for reference and learning. I believe that it's not how the studio looks but what comes out of it that is important. I am very protective of my creative area so very few people ever get to see my studio.

What has been your experience with publishers?

The publishers I have worked with over the years have been really good publishers. They have let me be very creative in the work I have done for their books so that we can produce the best book. I have also been lucky to talk to and become friends with some of the authors whose stories I have illustrated and that's not normal in the publishing business.

What are you working on now?

I am working on the second book in the Bazel Lark series called The Island of Zadu. It's another adventure that Bazel never solved and he asks the reader to find the treasure. There will be five books in that series. I never work on one thing at a time, so I am also creating some art for my website and starting a new drawing book called Professor Horton Hogwash's Museum of Ridiculous. The reader will draw in things they want to see in the museum. All my recent books focus on developing the reader's imagination, because I think it's important for a child to use their imagination.

Is there a web address where we can see some of your work?

Are your illustrations all traditionally drawn and painted, or do you also use digital methods?

I still paint every painting I do, but sometimes the medium changes depending on what effects I wish to create with the finished piece. So when I am working on the pencil drawing for the art, my mind decides how it should look when completed and that tells me whether I should use acrylics, Dr Martin Radiant Watercolours or a combination of all. At the end of the day, the more pencil and paints I am wearing, the better the day I had in creating art and stories.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to make a living from their art?

This is one of the best jobs in the world and I am so lucky that I get to do it. With that in mind, this is what I recommend. Give the world somthing that they do not have already with a story or art. Fill a niche that needs filling. Take chances and risks even when everyone tells you no. If you really want it deep down inside, then persevere until you get it. Always enjoy the journey even if you don't reach a particular goal. Most of all, believe in yourself. The last advice I can give you was given to me by a fellow artist friend. She asked her art teacher how to make her art successful and he told her to paint 250 paintings and then get back to him. What he was telling her was to develop a strong voice in whatever she created and for some reason creating all that work did that. I think I got my strong creative voice after 500 paintings and some friends say that it took them longer than that.
Check back in the next few days for a review of The Mystery of Journeys Crowne