A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Hello! Today is publication day for Ged Adamson’s debut picture book, ELSIE CLARKE AND THE VAMPIRE HAIRDRESSER! To celebrate the release, I interviewed Ged about ELSIE, future projects and what inspires him to write and illustrate children’s picture books.
KO: Hi Ged. Congratulations on the publication of ELSIE CLARKE AND THE VAMPIRE HAIRDRESSER! How does it feel knowing it’s out in the world now?
GA: It’s really weird in a good way. It was so great to actually hold the physical book and think it’s all hermetically sealed in there and that’s it, you can’t change it. It’s a very nice feeling. And it’s printed so beautifully with a hard cover and everything! The colours look fantastic. I’m happy. Now I need people to buy it!
KO: Can you tell us a little about the book?
GA: It’s about a girl called Elsie who hates getting her hair cut. She meets a boy called Boris who’s a vampire and a hairdresser. Boris’s furious dad turns up unexpectedly. Elsie saves the day and conquers her fear at the same time.
It’s about being afraid of things without actually thinking why you’re afraid of them. I remember when I was little, I used to get nosebleeds. Whenever it happened I used to panic but one day my gran was there and she said ‘It’s fine, just relax. There’s nothing to be scared of.’ I thought ‘of course you’re right’, then I was ok after that.
KO: Why picture books? What do you love about them?
GA: I love them because of their immediacy. The combination of words and text creating something that has an impact within a small space. It’s kind of like the principles of advertising but used for good instead of evil! They’re a shared experience too. That’s why someone like Lauren Child is so great- she entertains the child and the adult equally. You end up saying ‘can we read that one?’ because you have your favourites too. I love picture books’ ability to move you emotionally. Even when that emotion is humour and nothing else. For me they have to be funny. My favourite picture books make me laugh out loud.
KO: What inspires you?
GA: Where I live definitely. I live in Greenwich which is a beautiful place. London generally is a big inspiration because you just walk the streets and see interesting stuff all the time.
I love films and going to the cinema. Richard Williams did animated title sequences in the sixties for films like What’s New Pussycat, Casino Royale and Every Home Should Have One. You should check them out, they’re amazing- I’ve loved them since I was a kid. He’s another massive inspiration.
I look at loads of illustrative/graphic art. Also weird fashion image blogs! There are lots of brilliant illustrators out there- I’m forever finding new ones on Twitter! You often think ‘damn they’re miles better than me’ but it’s really inspiring and it spurs you on.
My son Rex is very inventive and funny. We’re always making silly things up to make each other laugh and that gets ideas going in my head.
KO: Can you tell us what your journey to publication was like?
GA: I worked on the book, on and off, over a couple of years. I started with just the idea. A girl stumbles across a vampire hairdresser and he tells her how he left his dad’s castle. It evolved over time. It went from this initial idea, then to a very over complicated story and then, finally, to something simpler but more effective and hopefully more entertaining.
During the whole process, I got advice from a couple of people already involved in the children’s book world on how I could edit and improve the story. Sometimes that advice would be really blunt but that’s what I needed.
When I finally thought it was presentable, I decided to send it off to a few agents. I got a copy of The Children’s Writers & Artists Yearbook and picked out a few names. Almost immediately, Isy Atherton of Creative Authors got back to me saying she loved the book! That was so exciting. She was in New York at the time meeting various publishers so it was great timing. Julie Matysik at Sky Pony Press loved Elsie Clarke too and within weeks we signed a deal.
Over the next few months I worked with Julie on getting the text and art to where we were both happy with it.
KO: What do you enjoy most, writing or illustrating? And why.
GA: I prefer illustrating definitely. It just comes easier to me than writing. All I used to do when I was a kid was draw.
It’s more fun to doodle ideas than to write them- though it’s not often that I’m totally happy with a piece of artwork. But I’m really pleased with how Elsie Clarke has turned out.
I’m getting more and more into the writing side of it- I’m learning all the time.
It’s like music- the best part is coming up with the tune, the lyrics are harder work.
I feel I’m still developing my style in both.
KO: What materials do you use for your art?
GA: For Elsie Clarke I used a black ink pen for the drawings themselves and I would scan the images into my computer. Then I’d colour them and add texture and shadows. I used a lot of photos. For instance, I took a picture of the rug in my living room and that’s the one in Boris’s shop in the book. I searched for patterns and materials to use for textures and backgrounds. I collected leaves from Greenwich Park and they’re in the book too.
KO: Do you have any advice to share with aspiring writers and illustrators?
GA: Well this is my first book so I haven’t got loads of experience! But if you can talk to people involved professionally in your genre of writing, that is so valuable. Your friends and family will usually say your stuff is great so you need someone on neutral ground who knows what they’re talking about- they might occasionally be horribly frank but definitely take on board their advice.
Absorb yourself in the genre you want to get published in. Know what other writers and illustrators are doing and what’s been done in the past. You’ll get a sense of how original your ideas and illustrations are and what the competition out there is like. It will help you to be more objective about your own work and you’ll also get inspired.
KO: What other projects do you have in the works?
GA: I’ve got a second book coming out on Sky Pony Press in 2014 called Meet The McKaws. It’s about a pirate’s parrot’s mum and dad who come to stay and cause murder at sea!
I’m also working on another idea about a dog which I’m quite excited about.
KO: And can we end with a quote from your book?
GA: “It’s time for us to be brave!”
KO: Thank you, Ged. Happy book birthday!
Ged Adamson is a children’s writer and illustrator. His cartoons have been published in magazines, in books and appeared on film and TV. He’s been a storyboard artist and a caricaturist. Big influences on his work are Quentin Blake, Ronald Searle and James Gillray. He also works as a music composer.
He’s a London history enthusiast. He lives in Greenwich with his partner Helen and their son Rex. His first picture book, Elsie Clarke And The Vampire Hairdresser is published by Sky Pony Press. His second, Meet The McKaws, is out in 2014.
Kate Ormand is a YA writer represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. DARK DAYS, her YA dystopian debut, will be published with Sky Pony Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, in Spring 2014. Kate also writes children’s picture books as Kate Louise. PIERRE THE FRENCH BULLDOG RECYCLES, illustrated by Bethany Straker, will be published with Sky Pony Press in 2015.