Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Jodi Toering and Tannya Harricks!

It is with such honour and delight to welcome two astounding creatives to talk about their newest picture book release! Night Watch; a bush ballad for bedtime, casts its comforting, protective eye over its readers like a warm, feathery hug. The lyrical, evocative beauty of this story, both through its language and its imagery, lulls readers into an unruffled peace as the Tawny Frogmouths attentively watch over the slumbering fauna through the night. Journey with this formidable pairing; talented author Jodi Toering and award-winning illustrator Tannya Harricks, to discover their incredible processes into the creation of this beautiful book. Thank you both for being here to share your story! 🙂

About the Author

Jodi Toering was born in the Mallee at Hopetoun and grew up on a wheat farm outside a small town called Beulah. 

As a child, she was fascinated with stories, reading on her own well before school. When she didn’t have her nose in a book, Jodi spent her time drawing or writing.  Jodi had two dreams: becoming an English teacher and writing picture books for children.  

Fast forward several decades, and Jodi is now juggling the roles of full time teacher, mother, performer and author!

​In her spare time, she loves creating artworks and spending time on her bush block with her family and the ever-growing menagerie of chickens, ducks, dogs and cats. 

Her first book with Tannya Harricks as the illustrator was Mallee Sky (Walker Books, 2019).

Visit Jodi Toering at her website: Jodi Toering Author and on Instagram.

About the Illustrator

Tannya Harricks’s award-winning art practice draws on her experience in graphic design, illustration, life drawing and textile design. Her oil paintings, for which she has been awarded the Waverley and Hornsby Art Prizes, have been exhibited in Sydney, New Zealand and Florence. She has also been a finalist in many prominent Australian art awards including the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, Gallipoli Art Prize and the Gold Coast Art Prize.

Tannya illustrated The Heartbeat of The Land by Cathy Freeman & Coral Vass (Larrikin House) in 2022. Previously Tannya has illustrated Dingo by Claire Saxby, Kookaburra by Claire Saxby and Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering for the Walker Books list. Dingo was joint winner of the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature at the NSW Premier’s Literary Award (2019); won the Royal Zoological Society of NSW’s Whitley Award (2018); and was shortlisted in 2019 for the CBCA New Illustrator Award, and Best Picture Book in the Educational Publishing Awards.

Tannya Harricks can be found at her website: tannyaharricks.com | Twitter | Instagram

Night Watch can be purchased via the Walker Books website.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

I (Jodi) wrote it – Tannya Harricks illustrated it, and the beautiful team at Walker Books Australia published it!

WHAT is it about? 

Jodi: Like all of my books, Night Watch is multi-layered. 

On a surface level, this beautiful bedtime book follows the journey of the Tawny Frogmouths as they soar through the skies and through the night, keeping watch over native fauna as they settle in for their safe slumber.

But on a deeper level, Night Watch is really a metaphor, and an ode to parents and caregivers, everywhere, always keeping watch on a nightly vigil, checking on their beautiful babies and children throughout the night.

My children are teenagers, now, and I still check on them throughout the night, one way or another!

What is your favourite part of this book?

Jodi: My favourite part would have to be Tannya’s realisation of my words into the visual form, through her use of colour, bold brush strokes and mood. 

Her interpretation is just pure magic, and everything I could have imagined and hoped for. I also love when the Night Watch is over, and all is well.

Tannya: The poetic language Jodi uses is evocative and allows for imaginations to soar! I also love the spot gloss varnish on the book cover adding a shimmer to the feathers and a glint in the Tawny’’s eye, like a reflection of the moonlight. 

What media did you use to illustrate it?

Tannya: The illustrations were created using mixed media on large paper. Mostly acrylic paint in loose washes as well as thick impasto. I draw into the paint while it’s wet with pencils and charcoal, or sometimes my fingers! I also used oil and chalk pastels on some of the illustrations to add texture. 

WHEN is its release / launch date?

Feb 2024!

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

Jodi: I was inspired to write this book as a parent, always being on the Night Watch! 

However, the main character stemmed from one of my greatest childhood memories…

One day when I was little, a Tawny Frogmouth turned up quite unexpectedly on our gate post on the farm, during the day.

I remember the poor nocturnal creature was quite discombobulated and vulnerable. But Dad protected it from the farm cats and dogs by popping it into a safe cage until he could release it back to the wild, unharmed, at dusk. 

This meant we got to observe the amazing creature in the daylight, from centimetres away! It was truly incredible to see a Tawny up close, and I have never forgotten it.

Now, as an adult, I love stepping out in the bush next door to our property with my husband, Derek. We go on night walks, and get excited when we spot a gorgeous Tawny in the branches overhead. We even had a pair nesting in our tree a few months back!

WHY is this book meaningful to you? 

Jodi: The book is meaningful to me, because, like the Tawnies and Moon in this story, I will always check in on those in my charge, and I will never rest until I know my children are safe and sound, and all is well.

Tannya: Night Watch is meaningful to me because I love the Tawny Frogmouth and all of the quirky expressions and contorted body shapes it uses in an attempt to camouflage itself. I’m not the only fan though, it is Australia’s second favourite bird and it is the world’s most Instagrammable bird according to research in 2021! 

Sketch by Tannya Harricks

Why would its message resonate with readers?

Jodi: I think small children will love to spot all the beautiful native Australian animals in their unique habitats, settling down in their safe slumber, especially as they themselves snuggle down in their own blankets, listening to a beautiful story in the safety and warmth of their parents and caregivers’ arms at bedtime. 

Being read to each night is such a soothing, beautiful experience for our little ones.

Night Watch is a comforting, lulling lullaby – a bush ballad for bedtime – the perfect story for drifting off to dreamland.

HOW long did it take to write?

Jodi: Night Watch is only around 400 words in total, but it took about 9 months to write, then several more months to redraft and polish. 

Picture books are tricky. Every single word needs to earn its place and sing.

How long did it take to illustrate?

Tannya: Illustrations take approximately one year to complete from initial layouts, to the final paintings. I like to pin each one up as I finish it so I can see it as I work on the next to keep a consistency throughout, and I end up running out of wall space!

Sketch by Tannya Harricks

How do you feel about the text / illustrations? Do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

Jodi: When I discovered Tannya Harricks was illustrating my second book, I was completely ecstatic, as Tannya had created the most perfect artworks for my first book, Mallee Sky. 

Seriously, I just couldn’t believe it! 

The illustrations in Night Watch are utterly perfect, conveying not only the Australian landscape, but the mood of dusk, dawn and everything in-between. The illustrations are evocative, atmospheric and beautiful. How fortunate am I to have an award-winning artist illustrate this book?!

OTHER information or experiences you’d like to share?

Please share your some of your favourite promotional ideas for this book.

Jodi: The official Australian launch of Night Watch is happening in Sydney on February 24th, which is so exciting!

I can’t wait to travel all around the country and visit schools, libraries and bookshops to celebrate this beautiful book with readers everywhere.

Tannya:  I am planning a fun after hours bedtime story event at my local library in Gordon, Sydney in the school holidays. 

I also have a Tawny frogmouth selfie filter on my Instagram page that anyone can try out.  

Thanks so much, Jodi and Tannya! We’re so enraptured with your stunning Night Watch! Congratulations! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #nightwatch #nature #australianlandscape #parenthood #picturebook #justkidslit

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