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It’s no coincidence that author, artist and graphic designer, Anna McGregor, envisioned a tale about colours and how they all come together in perfect, visual symphony. We’re thrilled to welcome Anna to the Just Write For Kids blog for a special interview, in which she explains her thought and work processes into how Colouroos developed from the very beginning. Thanks, Anna!
Congratulations on the release of your debut picture book, Colouroos! How does it feel to have your first book out in the world? What has the journey leading up to it been like for you?
Thank you! Yes, it’s a wonderful feeling seeing my book on-shelf. I think the first book for an illustrator is always the hardest, add that to also being the author and it was a big learning curve for me. I’m proud I did it.
The acquisition of your Colouroos concept was the result of being in the right place at the right time, right? Please tell us how this manuscript contract came about. How did you pitch yourself as an author/illustrator?
I first met Suzanne O’Sullivan (Hachette) at a manuscript assessment at the 2017 CYA conference, I brought along a very rough book dummy of Colouroos and my illustration portfolio. Suzanne asked for a few changes and I emailed her with the updated dummy the following week. A few months later it went through acquisitions and I had my first contract!
Going back to the initial conception of Colouroos, as an author/illustrator, was it easy or challenging laying the foundation for the story? How did the idea form in your mind?
The concept came easily, but turning it into a story was a big challenge. I wanted to celebrate the uniqueness of Australia and what makes us so special. I had a lot of visual elements that I wanted in the story including the red centre and blue mountains, the colour wheel lake page and the joeys popping out of the pouches. So, I drew thumbnail sketches of these spreads and started to join the story together.
As well as being stunningly eye-catching, Colouroos contains beautiful shades of both light-heartedness and more deeply meaningful facets to its story. What do you most hope for readers to gain from reading this book?
Colouroos is a fun way to talk about primary and secondary colours and colour mixing in an Australian context. As for the deeper message of diversity – I believe all kids know we are all born equal – I believe it’s a message that needs to be celebrated because it enriches us all. The book reinforces this message and hopefully strengthens the resolve of children if they are exposed to any negative alternative messages in their life.
You wrote, illustrated AND designed Colouroos, singlehandedly! Amazing! It sounds like the team at Hachette were super supportive. Did the process run smoothly for you? Were there any bumps (or bounces!) along the way?
I rewrote Colouroos many times post contract because I kept getting better ideas as I began illustrating – thankfully I was the illustrator and designer, so it was possible to make changes late in the game. My editors at Hachette were very supportive and understanding with my changes along the way.
Another one of your storyboard concepts was awarded WINNER through Jen Storer’s Scribbles Creative Writing Competition in 2018. Again, amazing! Is storyboarding your manuscripts always part of your process in developing a story idea? What advice would you give to writers / illustrators in terms of getting a manuscript / portfolio ready to pitch?
Thank you, Yes, storyboarding helps me so much. I recommend everyone try it (illustrator or not). I start by writing it to a point and then I lay in out on 32 pages with a few squiggly sketches. I then refine the words and sketches over and over until it resembles a book.
Let’s say you couldn’t do the author / illo combo for your next couple of books. If you could work with any author to do the illustrations for, and any illustrator to bring your words to life, who would they be and why?
Good question – These answers came to me surprisingly easy! I already have an idea for a story that I would love to do with Júlia Sarda – a Spanish illustrator with a really cool/quirky/gothic quality to her work, I also love Allison Colpoys’ illustrations. If I were to pair with an author, I would love to illustrate any book by Davina Bell, Zanni Louise or Mac Barnett because I really appreciate their work and original ideas. Davina, Zanni, Mac – give me a call! haha
Finally, we’d love to know what else you’re currently working on! Where else can we see your work?
I have a few things at different stages – I’m currently writing a funny new picture book, or maybe it’s junior fiction – I’m not sure yet, I’m very slowly sending out Scrambled Eggs to publishers and I have a board book that’s at dummy stage.
I have a portfolio online at my website www.annamcgregor.com.au
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Anna! 😊
Be sure to connect with Anna and follow her incredible work at the following links:
Colouroos: Hachette | Booktopia | Boomerang Books | Readings
Colour My World! It’s the Colouroos #BookGiveaway!
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2 thoughts on “A Vision of Colour – Interview with Anna McGregor”
What an exciting path to publication for a lovely author and beautiful book. Thanks for asking your insightful questions, Romi; and thanks for your interesting answers, Anna.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Norah! Much appreciated x