The brilliant Fum saw it's release last week, so we decided to catch up with author Karl Newson to ask him some probing questions about life as an author/illustrator.
What inspired you to get into writing and illustrating?
I’ve written and drawn - in that old clichéd way - for as long as I can remember, but it was when my own two children came along that I first thought of writing children’s books. I wrote a couple of stories, did some research and sent them off in a brown envelope to my favourite publishers. After months of waiting, the rejection letters arrived. So I tried again. Same result. But it got me thinking about illustrations, and so I decided to teach myself to illustrate before I sent off my next story. That was in 2007…
What was your first book published?
Officially, my first book is called Rupert the Dinosaur, of which I am the illustrator. It was written and self-published by Douglas Vallgren in 2013 and was my first step into the world of book signings and school visits. It’s still available now, though only in book shops in Norwich, but it can be purchased online if anyone would like a copy.
Tell us a bit about The MudWaffler, what made you come up with the character for your blog?
I’d spent about 8 years studying picture books and making notes on how they worked (or why they didn’t), so I thought rather than keeping it all to myself I’d set up a blog to share my rambles. I really enjoyed reading other book blogs and thought there was a space in the blog world for what I had in mind. I didn’t want it to be just a generic book blog, and I didn’t want to copy anyone else’s idea - it had to be different, somehow: it needed a logo - something to relate to - and why not make that logo a character? Why not even make that character write the blog…? That’s how it happened really. I had written a story about a book-reading creature who lived in the forest, so I redesigned him and gave him a new name: Mudwaffler. And that’s that, really. It’s more widely known now than I could ever have imagined. There are Mudwaffler badges out there and I’ve even got a felt Mudwaffler plush sitting on my desk here. He’s been rather busy of late taking care of the forest, but I can assure you there are good things on the way soon!
Tell us about your new book Fum with Lucy Fleming
Fum is the tale of a missing giant, who isn’t so giant after all, set in a fairy tale world full of familiar fairy tale characters and locations. Fee, Fi and Fo, are Fum’s sisters, and together with Ma, Pa and Grandpa Crumb they all head off in search of little Fum. Along the way they ask for help and soon there is a whole crowd of fairy tale characters on the search for Fum. An eagle-eyed reader will be able to spot Fum hiding on each page, but the fairy tale characters can’t see him, and their search takes them far and wide, until they get a little help. All’s well that ends well in traditional fairy tale form.
Do you have a process for writing or illustrating a book, and if you had a choice which would you prefer to do?
For writing, I usually just let the words flow and see where they go. Sometimes there is a brief given to me by a publisher, but mostly it begins with no idea at all. Often I find the simplest ideas are the best ones. The less time spent dwelling over words the better. Over-editing is a killer. For illustrating, I produce a series of roughs to get a feel for the book I’m making, then refine these over and over until they fit the story. It’s almost the opposite way round to writing; rushing the illustrations is a killer. I prefer to write. That way I get to see someone else bring the words to life in ways I hadn’t imagined. It’s the best feeling to see the roughs for a book I’ve written for the first time.
If you could invite anyone in the world around for tea, who would it be?
David Attenborough. His passion for and knowledge of the natural world, and the adventures he has had in it, would make for a mighty fine tea-time conversation.
We’ve read on your blog you’re a big fan of dunking biscuits, what’s your favourite biscuit?
To have a favourite would be unfair to all the other biscuits out there! But if I had to choose (*whispers quietly*), I’d probably opt for a chocolate digestive – they’re good dunkers and their melting chocolate top is a touch of class. But, generally speaking, (*back up to normal, mumbling speaking level*) they’re all my favourites – a biscuit, is a biscuit, is a biscuit.
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