#FindingGranny #blogtour #BooksOnTour #Day3

What an absolute delight! Today we are in conversation with both Kate Simpson and illustrator Gwynneth Jones to learn more about their process and the making of the very special book, Finding Granny!  💐 💐

Hello ladies! Lovely to be able to speak with you both!
Firstly, congratulations on the release of your heartwarming and beautiful book, Finding Granny! How would you describe the process and working with one another? How were you paired? Who worked harder? – Be honest! 😉

Kate (KS): My manuscript was picked up by EK Books in 2016. Anouska, the publisher, suggested a couple of illustrators, but when she asked Gwynne to do some character sketches, it was clear we had a match! As for who worked harder, definitely Gwynne! Sometimes I think people expect writing a picture book to be both easier and less time consuming than it actually is, but compared with the illustrations…! I’m not sure how long Gwynne took to create the artworks, but judging by the gorgeous quality I’m assuming it was many long hours.

Gwynneth (GJ): Thank you, and congratulations to Kate for her first book! I have known most of my books authors while drawing them except Kate and one other. They are different experiences and I am glad to have had both. As an illustrator, it can be a little nerve wracking when there are a few eyes on the works at once in your studio.

Pairing happens when Anouska emails me, often with a subject line ‘Possible new book to illustrate.’ I did three different types of roughs while I was figuring out how to draw the book, as it needed to be portrayed the right way. I really like the planning process. The finished illustrations form over months, sometimes they’re done twice, so I think I worked harder 😊

Gwynne, what were your initial thoughts upon receiving the manuscript for the first time? Were you drawn to it considering your background in Art Therapy? Did the images pop into your head immediately or were they developed over time?

GJ: When I read Finding Granny, I was instantly drawn to the rhythm of Kate’s writing and the line ‘loves as fierce as a lion Granny’. I was interested in the subject matter, because I used to care for people who had been stroke affected as well as doing modules of the Art Therapy course. One of my essays was on stroke and the benefits of Art Therapy, so it felt quite relevant.

There are the images that I visualise instantly when I read the manuscript, they are often my favourite ones in the end. Some take time to develop, and occasionally some are hard work!

Kate, what were your initial thoughts upon receiving the first images / sketches from Gwynne? Did she capture your story as you had imagined?

KS: The first thing I saw from Gwynne were some rough character sketches done in pencil. You could see the holes from where she’d ripped the page out of a spiral binder. But although they were roughs, they absolutely captured the spirit of Granny and Edie. They were perfect. From then on, I’ve just loved everything Gwynne has created.

Do you also collaborate when it comes to a marketing plan? How do you go about promoting your book via social media and face-to-face presentations?

KS: Plan? There’s supposed to be a plan?
We’ve collaborated a bit on that front. We planned a launch together and we do let each other know what we have coming up. We also each share the other’s posts on social media and the like, but we haven’t sat down together and drawn up a strategy. If you keep an ear out, you’ll find Gwynne will be appearing on my podcast at the end of July and we will both be guests at the CBCA Illawarra South Coast Sub-Branch literary lunch in August. Getting word out about your book can be difficult when there are so many books being released every month, but I think the most important thing is being actively involved in your local writing community, not just around launch time, but all the time. Gwynne has a great writing and artistic community that she’s part of in Newcastle, and I have a great community in Sydney, which is fantastic when it comes to spreading the word.

GJ: As Kate said! And I also buy my own books a lot, and sell at markets and the occasional school, shop or gallery. I love doing markets because I get to talk to people about the book, which helps sell it. I also do school visits, which are fun, and I do activities related to the books.

What is your favourite part of Finding Granny, and why?

KS: Gosh, so many things! The one that always tugs on my heartstrings is the page where Edie’s mother is helping Granny eat dinner. The text reads: ‘Her Granny is a fiery Granny, an I can do anything you can Granny. Her Granny doesn’t need help eating dinner.’ I think the contrast between the before and after – I really feel Edie’s pain at that moment. And of course, we don’t hear about it in the book, this story is so focused on Edie, but Mama and Granny are going through so much at the same time.

The other thing I love is what Gwynne has done with the Granny-as-a-lion motif. It’s so beautiful and really reflects their relationship. The last page I think so beautifully sums up their love for each other.

GJ: I love sneaking things in for kids to find in my illustrations, so my favourite part is using a lion tail, a shadow, puppets and a real lion at the end to suggest granny is still in there. I think being ‘loved as fierce as a lion’ is just wonderful.

What do you hope readers will gain from their experience with your book? What kinds of audiences do you hope it will reach?

KS: Ideally it would reach a variety of audiences. Stroke is a very common cause of disability in Australia, and of course I would like the book to reach kids who might be going through their own struggle, adjusting to having a grandparent, or even a parent, affected by illness or disability. I would like to think the book could be a source of comfort to kids in that type of circumstance. But I also hope that kids with no personal experience of illness or disability in the family might respond to the book as well. The story is a real celebration of the strength of grandparent-grandchild relationships, and I hope that the emotion in it rings true to people, regardless of their personal experiences.

GJ: I agree with Kate, parents often appreciate help to explain things through picture books. I hope to exhibit the book’s illustrations in the hospital corridors next year, and introduce more people to the book via the medical community.

Do you have any tips for aspiring or new authors about working in a partnership with an author / Illustrator?

KS: The advice given to me was to butt out as much as possible, and I think this is pretty sound. The illustrator isn’t there to just bring to life the author’s vision right down to the smallest possible details. They have their own role to play and their own creativity. That doesn’t mean you can’t comment if something important isn’t working, but it’s about accepting that the illustrator might be able to create something even better than what you could have imagined.

GJ: The editor often instigates the connection. As the illustrator, it is vital to be free to introduce your own narrative to add to the text. I don’t like a lot of illustration notes, but at times I can see they may be helpful for the direction of the story. There is the occasional time I have wanted to change a word or two in a manuscript over the years, or eliminate a sentence because it can be drawn instead, and it all comes down to communication with the editor and author and book designer.

Final Fun Question: If you could be any kind of Granny, what would you be like, and why?

KS: My own Mum is the most wonderful grandmother to my kids. I even get comments from other mums at school saying they wish she was their own Granny! I would love to be a Granny like that one day: fun, energetic, wise and incredibly knowledgeable. And she knits! Also, I would definitely be the sort of Granny who is always getting in trouble from her children for sneaking the grandkids an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner.

GJ: Active as possible and arty, very close to the grandchildren, maybe with a lolly jar handy.

Thanks again for sharing your journey with our audience, Kate and Gwynne! 🙂

#love #hope #arttherapy #picturebookpartnership

For another spectacular interview with Kate, head to Teena’s Website.

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2 thoughts to “Perfectly Paired – In Conversation with Kate Simpson and Gwynneth Jones

  • Debra Tidball

    I love how Gwynn’s experiences with people with stroke and her art therapy have come together on this book!

    • Just Write For Kids

      Like a match made in heaven! 🙂


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