Interview with Author Debbie Dadey

debbie-dadey-goalWelcome to the stage, author and co-author of 166 traditionally published children’s books, Debbie Dadey, a former teacher and librarian. She lives in a log cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, with nature to inspire her writing.  Her first book, co-authored with Marcia Thornton Jones, Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots turned into the series, The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids.  Ready, Set, Goal! is the newest in Debbie’s Mermaid Tales, a multi-cultural series from Simon and Schuster.   Each Mermaid Tales book has an enchanting story couples with non-fiction components where readers learn about ocean creatures and plants.  To learn more about Debbie as an author, please visit her website www.debbiedadey.com; like her at www.Facebook.com/debbiedadey; and follow her on www.twitter.com/debbiedadey.

1. Debbie, thank you so much for doing this interview! Your publishing journey is fascinating. Let’s start at the start. You’ve mentioned previously on The Writing Bug that your writing journey began with a simple yet witty post card after a year of querying. Did you ever feel hopeless during that year? What encouraged you to keep writing and keep submitting queries?

Oh yes! There were many times (and still are) where I was ready to pull my hair out and give up. Writing is an incredibly difficult, disheartening, and depressing way to make a living and yet it can also be an exhilarating, uplifting, and a joyful experience. I was lucky enough to have a writing partner, Marcia Thornton Jones, when I started out. We encouraged each other through all the rejections. We also formed a critique group that was another great source of support. Although I’ve lived all over the country, I’ve almost always been lucky enough to find or form a critique group of fellow writers who been great sources of not only support, but inspiration. Sometimes the SCBWI helped me find a group.

2. Many aspiring authors and illustrators don’t try to harpoon a big fish like Scholastic in the beginning of their journey. What led to that decision in your mind, that Scholastic would be the best place for your early manuscript Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots rather than a children’s book literary agent?

Dumb luck had a lot to do with it! We didn’t know much about agents at the time, but we did know the kinds of books that Scholastic published. Marcia and I thought our story would be a good fit and lucky for us it was! So knowing the market is very important and that can only come by studying newly published books, publishers website or catalogs, and reading reviews.

3. Let’s talk numbers. Everyone loves numbers, especially when the numbers are BIG. You’ve got over 42 million copies sold and describe yourself as a professional writer who doesn’t have time for writer’s block. At what point did you realize you could write for a living? How did your family react as your writing career took off?

After Marcia and I sold our sixth Bailey Schools Kids book, lots of things were happening in my life. I remember standing in the doorway of my blue house with Marcia. We cried and hugged, knowing our writing career together was over because my husband, son, and I were moving to Texas for my husband’s job. Then Scholastic asked us to write four more books in our series and we knew we’d have to come up with a way to work long distance. When I found out I was pregnant a short while later, it was a scary decision to try writing full time. I’d like to say there were never any conflicts with my family when I needed to take a trip for my writing career, but I’d be lying. I’m not complaining. I know I’m blessed.

4. Do you think the publishing industry is fair? Does it only take a good, unique manuscript to get the foot in the door? From your personal experience and that of aspiring writers and illustrators you know, how important are relationships prior to getting a book deal or agent?

Marcia and I didn’t know anyone! Our unique book title did help us get a read and the fact that we were educators helped as well, since at the time writing about vampires was sketchy.

5. Let’s circle back to your family. You’ve got a smart scientist husband, grown kids out of school, and pets. Many authors struggle in their quest for a quiet place to write. How did you manage a “writing place” when your kids were young? How do you manage every day distractions now?

Distractions are a constant struggle for any writer. Carving out a personal space is very important I think. My first office chair was the spare bed and my first desk was a side table, but I could close the door and work. When I was working full-time, I worked in the evenings after everyone else fell asleep. Then mornings became most productive for me. I won’t say it’s always been easy, I’ve literally written books with a baby on my back! Now, I try to set goals for myself by listing what I want to accomplish. There’s something very empowering about crossing something off a list!

6. Many children visit your website and read your interviews. Let’s speak to them for a minute. What should children learn about writing books when they research you? Is there anything children can be doing now to become professional writers or illustrators later in life?

I love to read and as far back as I can remember I’ve always loved books. I probably didn’t treat them as well as I should have-I read under the covers, in the bathtub, and with the book in my lap at the supper table. But I’m sure all that reading helped me to become a better writer. Reading is the best classroom a writer can have.

7. As such a prolific writer, you’ve come across so many stories from other authors. There are good ones and bad ones. Despite the subjective nature of personal tastes, what makes a captivating story? What makes a horrible story?

The strange thing is that what makes a wonderful story for some could be quite boring for others. It’s quite rare to find a story that everyone loves. But I think the best stories are those where the underdog somehow finds a way to succeed, hopefully with friends helping along the way. A horrible story to me is one that gets so bogged down with the big picture that if forgets to zero in on the action (or moments that are important).

8. Many people reading your interviews are new to the publishing industry. You’ve built incredible connections with publishers, agents, editors, and illustrators. What characteristics would define a successful relationship between an author and any of the above? What warning signs should aspiring authors and illustrators look out for?

My first book came out almost 30 years ago. Be assured that almost all the editors I knew then have retired or moved on. Publishing is constantly evolving. It is a fluid industry, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When our Scholastic editor moved to Hyperion, she asked us to write a series for them. It’s very easy to get upset when the story you’ve poured your heart into is rejected, but getting mad at an editor will not get your story published!

9. In your interview with Jolene Haley, you describe the tight bond you have with your long time friend and frequent co-author, Marcia Thornton Jones. With such an early connection writing stories together, is it more difficult working on separate projects where you can’t or don’t bounce ideas off each other? With humans being naturally rough around the edges and having unique perspectives, how did you and Marcia conquer differences in decision making? What about differences in plot or story directions?

When Marcia and I began writing together, we didn’t know what we were doing! If one of us felt strongly, the other figured she must be right and we tried it. I know that I probably wouldn’t have continued writing without Marcia’s encouragement, so I’m eternally grateful for her hard work ethic.

10. We are increasingly becoming a connected, global society. With one Tweet, Instagram, Facebook post, Snapchat, or blog we can be engaging with people on the other side of the world. What is your view on the importance of having a mentor? Did you have any mentors in your writing career and are there any you would like to name here for recognition? Are you open to people asking you to be a mentor in the writing space?

Marcia and I struggled together all those years and in a way we were each other’s mentor. But we’ve always wanted a wise Yoda type mentor! By the time we came up for air, we’d sold so many books people were looking to us for advice and we were still learning. I am doing a free writing clinic at the end of this month, as well as two SCBWI conferences this spring. I’m hopeful that I’ll help someone on their writing journey.

11. Debbie, what can we expect from you over the next 1-2 years? What about 5-10 years down the road?

I’m excited to have three more books coming out in the Mermaid Tales series in the next two years. The Fairy Chase comes out in May of 2018, The Secret Code of the Sea Unicorn and The Winter Princess in 2019.  My writing goal has always been to write books for reluctant readers, no matter what the age. But I must admit I’ve always loved writing chapter books for kids who are in between picture books and novels. I hope to continue writing them for a long, long time!

Debbie, you have such a fascinating journey as an author. Thank you for taking the time away to share your story with us and provide such successful insight.

To the reader, do you have a unique story to share in the publishing space? You could be interviewed next! Contact me here or on social media to find out how you can be an encouragement and guide to aspiring authors and illustrators.

Interview with Illustrator Katy Halford

katy-halford-great-adventureWhat a cool job I’ve got interviewing amazing people like Katy Halford. Katy is a children’s book illustrator and also works in art licensing and commercial markets. Her love of drawing started when she was small and she continued to study ‘the arts’ at school, and then went on to graduate at Loughborough University with a degree in Illustration. She is currently working with various publishers on children’s books. When she isn’t glued to her seat impressing clients, she likes to go for long walks in the countryside. She also enjoys a good cup of tea and a nice slice of cake. Who doesn’t?! The best way to keep up to date with her work is through Instagram, Twitter, or her website.

 

1. It’s easy to tell you’re already a very successful illustrator with a strong portfolio of previous clients. How did you begin transitioning your passion for drawing personally into commercial projects and how difficult was it to gain exposure as an artist in the professional realm?

 

I used to draw pen doodles everyday and started up an account on Instagram and a page on Facebook. I would post photographs of my drawings when I did them and gradually my following got bigger and bigger. It did take time and persistence but I love to draw so it was totally worth it. As an illustrator, it’s so important to draw as much as you can. You are always developing as an artist and now, with social media exposure, you never know who may see your work. It might just be your dream client. Eventually, I attracted a variety of commercial clients, such as Feel Unique and Cafe Nero. I have worked closely with 2 local theme parks over the past few years illustrating their park maps and updating the latest rides etc.

 

2. You website describes you as a freelance illustrator, yet you’re partnered with Plum Pudding Illustration Agency. How does this business relationship work and what does it mean for authors who would like to work with you on their projects?

 

I worked as a freelance illustrator for a few years previously, and I then signed up with my lovely agent Plum Pudding Illustration spring last year. They represent me as an illustrator and work requests regarding children’s books and licensing go directly through them. I tend to work on a variety projects with different agents from Plum Pudding and work closely with the publishers. I’m always happy for people to get in touch with me if it’s just to say hi or have any questions about my work. You can get in touch via my contact form on my website.

 

3. Your professional illustration experience ranges from characters to worlds, maps to magazines and many things in between. If you had to pick one (maybe two) areas illustration products that excite you the most, what would it be? What is one area you hope to grow experience in?

 

My favorite areas in illustration to work are children’s book illustration and art licensing for the gift market. I chose children’s book illustration because it’s so fun to come up with characters, what they will look like, what clothes will they wear and then to illustrate the world they are put in. Every project is new and exciting! There’s nothing like seeing your work printed as the finished product. I get great satisfaction from seeing people enjoying my work too.

 

As a second choice, I’d choose licensing for the gift market, I love creating decorative designs and the use of simple color palettes to design many patterns or motifs for cards or gift wrap. I only started in the children’s book world last year so this is an area I hope to grow much more experience in, I’m always learning and can’t wait to learn more about it as I progress.

 

4. There is often a disconnect between less experienced authors (clients) and more experienced illustrators in terms of how projects develop from concept to final design. How would you describe the illustration process from your perspective?

 

As an illustrator, I work closely with the publisher, not directly with the author. So, when starting a children’s book I will first be given the story to read through. I tend to read through it a few times to really get to know the characters and concept. A series of thumbnails (very small rough drawing) are typically drawn up for the spreads; this may be full page illustrations, vignettes or half page illustrations. This allows the illustrator and publisher to discuss any art direction on which compositions and ideas work best to suit the story. Roughs are then drawn up at a larger scale and the work goes on to coloring. After the rough stage the publisher may show them to the author also.

 

5. How would you describe the perfect illustrator/client relationship? What are some aspects that have worked really well to deliver a great product? What are some negative aspects you hope not to experience (again)?

 

I think it’s always good to make sure you communicate, I find speaking on the phone or better as you can have a real conversation and bounce ideas off each other. The same goes for commercial projects too. I haven’t had any negative experiences yet, so hopefully it will stay that way.

 

6. As a children’s book author, I often have a specific illustration style in mind when I begin placing words on pages. Often times, a publishing house or agent also have illustrators in mind when they examine a manuscript. Does the same exist from the illustrator’s perspective? Is there a style of writing, intended target audience, or specific authors/clients, that you would love to receive an art request for? What is one of your dream projects?

 

I guess not so much for an illustrator as the story is typically presented to the illustrator. There’s lots I would love to be requested for, anything with great character and adventure! I have a love for history, mostly king and queens, so maybe a book about great kings and queens. I just love all their over the top fancy clothing, hairstyles and there’s some great characters! I think they would be great fun to draw and also to inject some humor. My dream project would be to write and illustrate my own stories. I have so many ideas and know it’s only the beginning for author-illustrator projects.

 

7. Illustrating is a very subjective endeavor. It’s easy to find fresh talent crushed by rejection. How do you cope when someone in the industry doesn’t appreciate what you’ve created to the same magnitude you do?

 

Yes ,sometimes this can be crushing, but I always try to think in life it wasn’t meant to be so it didn’t go ahead. I understand that the illustration didn’t turn out right for the job, unfortunately that’s how it works, but you can always learn from it as feedback is given. I also always think of things as another piece for the portfolio and something else will come up!

 

8. If you could speak to all the up and coming artists out there, what would you say to them? What do you wish someone said to you when you first set out on your professional illustration journey?

 

Try to draw as much as you can! Your work is always developing and you are always learning. Don’t worry about thinking that you don’t have a ‘style’. You do, even if you can’t see it yourself, other people will. Be yourself with a vengeance! Don’t try to be anyone else – it won’t make you stand out because that person is already out there! Enjoy it!

The design process has its ups and downs like lots of other processes. It’s all about learning on the way. New ideas are always exciting but once you get through to other side, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing something beautiful and unexpected. I know every new piece I do for my portfolio or a client I learn something new about myself.

 

9. Most illustrators have a list of artists (or pieces of art) they admire. Who are your artistic role models?

 

There’s so many illustrators I admire. I don’t really have a favorite as I’m always finding new illustrators or inspiration. To name a few, Lauren Child – I just love her characters and the childlike quality to her drawings. Quentin Blake – he’s just awesome! Him and Roald Dahl made my childhood. Janet and Allan Alhberg – perfect duo. I also love collecting postcards and random stuff for my office. Oh, and many people I have connected with through online courses and social media.

 

10. Tell us about some active projects you’re working on. What can we expect to see from you in the next 1-2 years and how can readers stay most informed about your activities?

 

All my current projects are top secret! So sorry, but that’s the industry for you! But you can expect to see some more picture books coming your way in the next 1- 2 years. I do try to draw in my sketchbook as much as I can in my free time, although it’s very little at the moment. My current theme is characters and I’m trying to draw more people. You can keep up to date with my work and informed on my social media feeds and website.

 

Thanks so much, Katy! It’s so great seeing industries through the eyes of people so genuine in their craft. I have no doubt you’ll continue to be a successful illustrator. The moment you free up some time to do author-illustrator projects, the sky will be the limit!

To my readers, if you’re an aspiring illustrator, I know this was insightful for you. Reach out to someone like Katy if you’re unsure of the path you should take. There are so many wonderful people in the industry who would love to help you grow and develop. What are you waiting for?

Interview with Author Lisa Connors

lisa-connors-milkweed-mattersIt’s a pleasure to be interviewing author and science extraordinaire Lisa Connors. She writes children’s books and nature essays in the hopes of instilling the same awe of nature in others.  Lisa loves traipsing around on her 14-acre property collecting ideas and being impressed by her fellow Earthlings.  When she’s not actively writing, she is likely pre-writing (a.k.a. day dreaming) while gardening, cutting wood, mowing, drawing, canning and reading…lots of reading. You can connect with Lisa and see what she’s up to on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter

  1. Lisa, thank you for setting the time aside to share your thoughts and story with us. Your writing interests seem to revolve around your education and career. Most writers seem to want an escape from their vocation. What helps you maintain such a sharp focus?   

Thank you for this interview opportunity.  I guess I am blending one common piece of advice, write what you know, with another, write what you love.  Science and nature have always been passions of mine.  There’s so much to learn and so much being discovered to ever run out of ideas.  I just love figuring out an angle and approach that will appeal to young readers in the hopes of instilling in them some of the awe I feel about the world.  I believe this awe is crucial to helping young people become active adult citizens.

  1. You’ve recently released Milkweed Matters: A Close Look at Life Cycles in a Food Chain. How simple or complex do you feel self-publishing is for aspiring authors and illustrators?

With today’s platforms, I think it is rather simple.  That being said, I was very hesitant to release something that might not be professional looking.  My desire to share content with children overcame my fear of failure.  Milkweed Matters was my first attempt, and it has gotten good feedback, but I still have a lot to learn in the areas of design and format.  

As soon as I released Milkweed Matters as an e-book, I knew I wanted kids to hold a real book in their hands.  I then used CreateSpace’s print-on-demand service to offer it in a paperback format.  It’s the paperback that sells the best.

  1. Now, you’re also working on a traditionally published book, Oliver’s Otter Phase, to be released by Arbordale Publishing. That should be coming out very soon, right? Could you describe your experience with the traditional publishing route?

Oliver’s Otter Phase comes out February 10, 2018!  My experience is, I believe, similar to most writers…there’s a lot of waiting!  This idea was born in October of 2014 and drafted a month later.  I revised, had it vetted by two sea otter experts, revised again and sent to Arbordale.  They took over a year to say yes.  Once the illustrator started working on the manuscript, there was little for me to do and, as is fairly typical with traditional publishing, I could not contact the illustrator until she was finished.  In total, it’s been over 3 years from idea to publication.  

Working with Arbordale has been wonderful and I hope to do so again in the future. For this past month I have been quite busy preparing for the debut party, lining up school and library visits and making sure I know as much as I can about sea otters.

  1. You’ve mentioned previously that you like to write fiction and non-fiction. Are all of your fiction books based largely on non-fiction elements? Can you give us any tid-bits of your fiction projects?

I do write nature essays for a blog, which I started when I quit teaching in order to develop a writing practice.  This blog tends to profile a plant or animal encountered on my property.  Most of my children’s stories actually are fiction with nature facts woven into them.  However, not all my ideas are nature related: I’ve got one about a girl and her relationship with her grandfather who is dying; one about a girl who changes her clothes many times a day.

But I guess I do have a LOT of manuscripts that focus on some aspect of the natural world.  I’m working on one about retelling Goldilock’s day that is related to science; one about black snakes, one about streams; there are many.

  1. Life as an author is challenging. With so many aspiring and as-yet-unpublished authors and illustrators reading this, what advice would you give to them as they learn and endure the various trials and tribulations of becoming successful in the industry?

Well, as they probably know, it is not a place to get rich easily!  Writing is hard work and getting your manuscript published is even harder.  But if it is what you love, what’s calling you, then stick with it.  I’ve heard it takes about 10 years to get your first book published, and I do not know if that means when working part-time or full-time on the writing.  So first of all, one needs patience and perseverance.  There is a lot to learn online and I recommend one take full advantage of craft books, webinar and online groups to learn about the industry.  Really research the publisher (or agent) before you send your work out.  Make sure your theme or voice is what they’re looking for.

  1. How would you describe your experiences working with illustrators? What are some important aspects of a successful author-illustrator relationship?

Well, in the traditional publishing world, you don’t really get to work with your illustrator.  With self-publishing you of course have to find your own illustrator.  My illustrator for Milkweed Matters, Betty Gatewood, is a botanical illustrator and a teaching acquaintance of mine at the time that I asked if she’d be interested in creating some illustrations for me.  Because I do not have an art background, I was intimidated with finding and communicating with a professional children’s illustrator. Betty and I are learning as we go and we’ve become good friends.

But to answer your question, I think a key aspect of a successful author-illustrator relationship is to let the illustrator have freedom to express the story the way he or she wants.  Getting a book published is collaboration.  Another phrase in the industry to remember is “It’s your manuscript; it’s not your book.”

  1. If you could say one thing to all the children in the world, what would it be?

Never stop being curious!  Curious people ask questions, read often, have insight and solve problems.  That’s what the world needs.  Well, the world needs more kindness to, but you asked for one thing.  

  1. If you could be any animal for a week…what would you choose and why?

I wanted to be a wolf biologist a long time ago, so that is what animal first pops in my head.  But really, I think a songbird, maybe a Carolina wren.  I would love to experience the flying, flitting about in trees and speaking in song.  Carolina wrens are quite garrulous and active.  I need solo time every day.  It would be a nice change.

  1. Looking ahead, what’s next for you? What can fans expect to see in the next 1-2 years? What about in 5-10 years?

I have written another book with the but that’s not all mantra found in Milkweed Matters.  My same illustrator, Betty Gatewood, is about halfway through with the illustrations.  I hope to have it published by summer of 2018.

My dream, though it may take longer than 10 years, is to illustrate my own picture books.  I am learning to draw and paint with watercolors via online classes and a nature journal club.  One thing I love about writing (started when I was 47!) is that I can do it while traveling with my family.  I hope to be writing long past any normal retirement age, so I hope to actually gain fans (how delightful!) and to give them many books.

Lisa, thank you so much for your thoughts and sharing your story with us. I have no doubt you will continue to be successful as an author and soon-to-be, author-illustrator. For all you readers, be sure to follow Lisa on social media, sharing this interview and Lisa’s books to spread the word about this wonderful nature writer.

It’s never too late to start your journey as an author or illustrator. As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is NOW. There are many resources available to help you and, as always, please contact me if you need a friend in the publishing space.

 

The Power of Positivity

This is NOT one of those name it claim it or Law of Attraction ideas – which are completely false mumbo jumbo (sorry to break it to you!). But there is a great deal to learn regarding positivity and negativity. It’s been said that “Positive thinking won’t let you do anything, but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking.”

There is an epidemic in our world today of depression, low self worth, negative thought life, and suicidal tendencies. From what I’ve experienced, these types of behaviors accompany people who think negatively about themselves, others, and situations. By all means, this does not mean bad things should be viewed through some flower-lined glasses. Instead, it’s important to analyze oneself. It’s important to sit and ponder whether we are in control or being controlled by the experiences, emotions, and thoughts of the day.

Often times, when I’m just feeling rotten, I’ll wonder why. I’ll wonder why I get short tempered and boil inside. I’ll wonder what is making me do that and I almost always come to the conclusion that I am in absolute control of my decision making. I can choose to act or react however I resolve to. The emotional, mental, and even sometimes physical responses we deal with as people happen so quickly we naturally want to accept them as inevitable. But, the opposite is true. The more you consider your decisions, the more you consider your actions, the more power you realize you have over them.

The next time you’re let down, frustrated, irritated, or simply fed up, consider this. Consider that you choose your reaction. You make the decision. You can lash out, withdraw, be silent, be enraged, cry, shout…you can do all sorts of things. Or, you could consider, think over, respond better, be gentler, give mercy or grace, be patient and kind…you can do all sorts of things. Lately, I’ve noticed an increased tendency of stubbing my toe on the kids toys and frankly any object around the house. I don’t know why, maybe I’m getting lazy, but regardless, if you’ve ever stubbed your toe hard, and I mean HARD, you know how easy it is to explode in pain. I’ve taken a different approach. I typically curl over, fall to the floor or nearby furniture, and make some form of animal noise resembling that of a sasquatch or grizzly bear. I let the growl roll gently until the pain subsides.

But you know what, I’ve seen the opposite, and I bet you have too. The husband who curses his wife because maybe she was the one who left the thing out. Or the father who blasts his kids because they were having too much fun and toys weren’t picked up. The soldier who blames his surroundings for learning all those nasty words, or the old man too lazy to change his habits. Listen, and listen well. You have the power to handle adversity. You have the ability to decide your action and reaction.

Being positive won’t make me a world-class surgeon, as the famous speaker Zig Ziglar once said, but it will help me be a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better son and citizen than negative thinking will. I’m quite sure it will do the same for you. So when those negative, low self worth, depressive, or angry thoughts and emotions fill your mind with crazy, and I mean crazy ideas, think positive. You are not those things and you don’t need to be those things. You are in control. So control yourself. The world will be much better if we all practice self-control and eliminate the pervasive negativity of our modern culture.

How To Query Correctly

The inevitable journey for authors and maybe illustrators (although I’m not sure illustrator’s follow an identical pattern) is if they want to become traditionally published, or if they want to secure an agent, they must query. You’ll often notice the Twitter hashtag #amquerying in frequent use by the most hopeful among us. What exactly is querying and how do you do it correctly? Well, read on and find out.

If you Google how to query, or how to write a query letter, the results are super saturated. It can feel overwhelming where to even start, even though you already started! Let me shine some light on the entire issue for you in one clear, concise explanation.

As with any endeavor, a little bit of research before action is the gold standard. Too often, eager beaver writers read a couple articles, find a couple prospective agents, and begin blasting out query letters. Let me just save you a bit of regret by imploring you to stand fast, hang on, and relax. Deep breath. Put your best foot forward by taking a little time on this one to gather your thoughts, and your knowledge, before moving to application.

What Querying Is

A literary query is simply a request from you to a prospective agent for representation. As with any industry, decades have gone by that have shaped the current, modern expectations of a query. Every agent, agency, and publisher has different requirements. Many state exactly what they want to see and how they want to see it.

If you Google literary agency, you’ll find companies like Writer’s House, Albert Whitman & Company, Trident Media Group, Bradford Literary Agency, Curtis Brown Ltd., Transatlantic Agency, Upstart Crow Literary, Dystel, Goderich & Bourett LLC., John Hawkins & Associates, The Knight Agency, Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Flannery Literary, Ripple Grove Press, and the list goes on and on and on. You’ll come across many literary agents, as part of these agencies, who also maintain profiles and query requirements on website like Publishers Marketplace, Query Tracker, or Agent Query. You’ll also stumble across user managed lists of agents and agencies from other blogs which are wonderful resources if they’re kept up to date.

Most often, you’ll find these basic similarities in query requirements:

  1. Instruction on whether the query should be by mail, electronic form, or email.
  2. What content should be included in the query
    1. Often an introduction of why you’re querying a particular agent or agency, a catchy summary of the manuscript, reasons why the agent, agency, and/or publisher would find your manuscript valuable to their portfolio, and then a brief description of yourself.
    2. For children’s books, the query letter is often followed by the entire manuscript whether in the email or as an attachment depending on the query requirements, or for larger books and other genre’s a section of the manuscript may be included. Some select agents or agencies will ask you not to send in manuscript content until after they’ve read and accepted the query letter. But most often, all or a section of the manuscript content accompanies the query letter.
  3. Who you should send the query letter too and whether they or the agency is even open to queries.

Some Query Particulars

You may think to yourself, as most authors have, with thousands of literary agents available they should be jumping at the chance to represent MY work. Well, that would indeed be nice if it was the case. Instead, the thousands of literary agents are inundated by tens and hundreds of thousands of queries, some solicited and most unsolicited.

Unsolicited queries are unexpected queries. They’re coming without referral by someone they know, which means they are likely the lowest priority to review. You may think that in this modern age of immediate communication, agents wait all day at their computers for that next query letter so they may read and respond promptly. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever received hundreds of emails a day, you would realize a pile of unread information immediately begins growing. This pile, called a slush pile, not only grows one day, it continues to grow and grow and grow. Most new authors find themselves quickly at the bottom of a very daunting slush pile, waiting for an agent’s response who really does have the best of intentions.

Solicited queries are a different animal and thus carry a different level of weight with an agent or agency. If you can move from unsolicited to solicited, you’re already ahead of the game. This might mean you meet an agent at a conference, speak with them about your manuscript, and they like the idea, asking for you to send them a query. If this wonderful phenomena happens, this is the information you include at the very top of a query letter.

Dear So and So,

It was wonderful meeting you at Such and Such Conference and learning about you and Company’s literary interests. As you requested, below is a query for my 200-word children’s book, Goo Goo Ga Ga.

This type of information immediately gets you near the top of the slush pile, focuses the agents attention, and possibly gets you past any agent assistant gatekeeper. Another way to skip over some slush pile people is a referral from a represented author. Let’s say you just happen to be friends with published Author A, who has been working with super Agent B for a number of years. During casual conversation, Author A asks you what you’ve been up to, and you mention your personal interest of writing. Because remember, we NEVER try to sell and convince our friends or family with ulterior motives. Focus on the friendship first, and if they’re interested in knowing more about something, they’ll ask. Well, it just so happens that Author A loves your story concept and, based off what they know about Agent B, they really think the agent would consider representing your work too. Again, this is top of the letter information.

Dear Agent B,

One of your represented authors, Author A, firmly believes you may be interested in representing my 200 word length children’s book, Goo Goo Ga Ga. Based on your profile at Company XYZ, especially your previous experience as an Elementary School teacher and your personal hobby as a bug collector, I couldn’t agree more.

Now, most folks simply aren’t running into their agent of choice nor do they have an inside track to friendship. So, the unsolicited query letter really is the path for you. Don’t be afraid though. This is still a way to turn your publishing dreams into reality.

A great resource in improving your ability to select and query is researching agents and agencies. Many, many agents have done interviews regarding their query wishlist, books they love, what they look for in a new author for representation, a history of their current represented authors, personal hobbies, locations, important conferences, etc. This information is INVALUABLE to the querying author. Do not bother an agent, or yourself, querying content they are clearly uninterested in. Focus your efforts the strong likelihoods instead.

One such incredible resource readily available is Query Shark. Eventually, everyone new to querying comes across The Sharks with their incredible insight and in-depth critiques of real people’s queries. It’s spoken of just about everywhere that no one should send their first query until reading the entire Query Shark archive. It’s a daunting task and everyone skims it their first time, or two, until realizing most answers really are there if you dig for them. If you’ve truly read the archives and have a new question, the Sharks just might read and review your query.

The Importance of Tracking Queries

This is an area many authors and illustrator’s don’t do well. It’s not because they’re incapable of it, it’s just not always second nature. Part of the querying process is growing in your ability to manage a business. Yes, writing and illustrating is your business! Unless you don’t care about succeeding or making any money, it’s time to enhance your skills.

With my engineering background, spreadsheets came second nature, so I suppose here I can really shed some light. From the very beginning of my author journey, I created and managed a spreadsheet. I called it a Publishing Activity Matrix. With so many agents, agencies, and publishers out there, the last thing I wanted to do was accidentally lose track of who received what, when, and how. So, I created a very simple spreadsheet to track the following information. Each numbered point is a different column in the spreadsheet and I encourage you to do the same.

  1. Date (the date at which you submit the query)
  2. Destination (agency or publisher company name)
  3. Sub-Destination 1 (the website or main source of the destination above)
  4. Sub-Destination 2 (the agent, assistant, or coordinator name you submitted to)
  5. Description (a bit of information about your query, such as Email query with pasted manuscript, Online electronic form, or Query letter and manuscript by mail).
  6. Sub-Description 1 (here I typically enter the name of the manuscript I sent)
  7. Sub-Description 2 (perhaps a second manuscript sent at the same time)
  8. Sub-Description 3 (perhaps a third manuscript sent at the same time)
  9. Status (this is the final kicker column – it’ll either be blank [Waiting for response] or filled out [Rejected Month Day, Year] or [Offered Representation Month Day, Year] and so on and so forth

This spreadsheet can become your best friend! You may think, gosh, I’ll only send a few queries, why have a spreadsheet? Well, sorry to break it to you, but if you are average, and most of you are, especially if you’re reading this post, you’ll be sending in a LOT of queries. Many folks, even after having representation, leave an agent and enter the querying world again! So, don’t forgo the spreadsheet!

The spreadsheet can also help you know when it’s OK to request an update. Most agents and agencies post timelines for review on their websites, which range from 2 weeks to 6 months. Some agents and agencies say if you don’t hear from them, it’s a rejection while others say if you don’t hear from them in X amount of time, that it’s OK to request an update. I’ve found some agents respond well to the request for update while others ignore those as well.

What Querying Isn’t

Let’s end on this subject. Querying is not easy, for the vast majority of the population. It’s not quick nor is it an exact science. Agencies are run by people. Agents are people. People are interesting at best and unexplainable at worst. You may think someone will love your work but the reality is it may not even garner a response or a personal rejection letter. Querying is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t handle rejection, don’t bother querying. Maybe self-publishing is more your style (which, unfortunately, is often just delayed rejection).

Querying also isn’t a sure thing. It can frustrate the calmest of people and stupefy the most intellectual because it all boils down to two people, considering each other, for a long term relationship.

So, consider all of this as you query. Be selective of who you really would want to have a long term relationship with, then do your research, track your progress, and improve your craft while you wait. Don’t wait passively, but always improve, grow, and continue working on your projects.

Have questions or comments? Track me down on Twitter – @Rhys_Keller.

 

New Year New You

What a cheesy slogan. “New Year New You” cascades from every motivational speaker this time of the year. You know what the problem is with this phrase? It’s true.

I’ve never come across anyone who wouldn’t do things differently if given an opportunity to step back in time. Why be that person? You don’t need to live like that. Human nature often settles into comfortable habit and those comfortable habits are often the things we most regret when looking back over the course of time.

Allow yourself to be different this time. Allow yourself to pop your own comfort bubble. Stretch yourself into areas of growth, parts of your life that desperately need your focus. For many, it’s their health. All year long, maybe all life long, they’ve let their body and mind slip into a pattern of regret. How’s your health? Would you change anything? Would you exercise more? Maybe eat a little less fat and sugar?

For others, it’s often neglecting opportunities. They come in many forms, whether it be business ideas or untapped skills. Maybe there’s something you’ve been considering pursuing but you simply haven’t put time to growing it. Well, this is your chance. This is your season. It’s time to just do it. It’s time to get it going.

Take a step in the right direction and pursue the opportunities. If you need encouragement or support, maybe help along the way, send me a note. Send someone a note. We all want you to succeed! Here’s to a New Year and a new you!

The Journey of Self-Publishing a Children’s Book

Many of you know of my writing exploits. Recently, I wrapped up the illustration phase of self-publishing a children’s book. It required a surprising amount of effort that was largely based on my naivety. After writing the manuscript, I researched and interviewed freelance illustrators on a freelancer online platform. After finding one I thought would be a perfect fit for my manuscript material, we began working together under contract.

Going into the process, I supposed I would hand off the text, sit back, and wait for the final product. What really happened was a multi-month long process of discussing ideas, trading concepts, and critiquing rough drafts. So much goes into communicating an idea.

Thankfully, I really did select a wonderful illustrator and will elaborate on who they are and the book as a whole in another blog post. If you plan to self-publish and, like me, have zero artistic talent, you’ll go down a similar path.

I encourage you in the upmost to be very selective with your illustrator. Don’t settle for lowest price. You want someone who is passionate about their work, respectful of your time and message, and someone who treats their commitments with professionalism. You’ll likely come across people who “seem” to charge a lot of money for the work. Unlike a self-publishing author, illustrators typically receive little to none of the future commissions on a book. So, without this hope of future reward, they typically expect the money upfront. For someone with a small amount of capital, this can seem daunting. Start off small, take some calculated risk, and enjoy the process.

Publishing anything is a journey, not a sprint. You know what they say…if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Join me on the journey of publishing a story and let’s enrich the world together.

Endings Are Beginnings

The end of a year always catches me by surprise, just like Christmas. Even though we have so much time to look forward to it and prepare, time simply moves too quickly. My wife and I have two boys and at this point one is a bit over 4 and the other a bit over 1. Whether you’ve got children or not, or are married or not, your life is likely filled to the brim. And that issue takes us full-circle to the end of the year.

But while the end of the year is no where near as climactic as the end of a movie, it’s a powerful reminder. It reminds us that just around the corner is a New Year, a fresh start, a new beginning. Have you considered what you would like to focus on most in the New Year?

I recently tweeted my New Year’s goals, so I won’t write about them here. I encourage you to spend time developing your goals. Really developing. Don’t be vague about it! Seriously consider an attainable, measurable goal in the following areas:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Relationship
  3. Personal
  4. Physical
  5. Mental
  6. Financial

You’ve got all year to pursue these goals. Remember, those who have a plan are far more likely to reach a level of success than those without a plan. Don’t let the next 365 days fly by.

Book Review – How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans

martha-saved-parents-green-beansLet me just start off by saying it this way. My son doesn’t typically ask to keep library books. But the other night, after reading How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans by writer David Larochelle and artist Mark Fearing, two times mind you, he quite legitimately asked if we could keep it.

Now, I don’t care who you are, it begs a question. What is there to this children’s book that would cause him to say such an unexpected thing? My wife and I have read thousands of books to him and, while he may not want to return a book to the library right away, he rarely asks to keep them.

Let’s start with the premise. How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans pretty much sums it up. All of a sudden, during the abnormally normal dinner that included a side of green beans (do other parents actually feed their kids vegetables!?), Martha ends up finding herself the unlikely hero of a green bean gang shakeup. The green beans gang are not too happy about all those adults telling people to eat green beans and end up abducting Martha’s parents.

Martha’s parents must have been the only parents in the town who were actually trying to serve their kid green beans (which makes sense because I’m not sure I know more than one set of parents who actually do this), which must be the reason no other adults were taken hostage. Or, and more likely, the green bean gang did away with those other folk in a very uncivilized manner…cause they’re tough like that.

As you can imagine, the story takes a turn when Martha decides it’s time to once and for all…EAT GREEN BEANS! And she does. Quite a few of them. Beards, cowboy hats, and even their pointy boots. Yuck?

And now, why would my son ask to keep this book? For one thing, he hates vegetables. Not sure if he’s ever tried a green bean. So he likely found Martha quite easy to relate to in her disdain for them, as I bet most kids would. The illustrations were fun and expressive (which kind of made me want to puke up my recent side of green beans,) but carried the story very well.

At one point, a whole gang of green beans was shown front and center (thanks artist Mark!) so we took the liberty of naming all the green beans (sorry author David if they already had names). The names were terrible, of course, but it caused my son to cackle his way to a painfully post-poned bedtime.

One of the most subtle parts of the book (the very end) may have been the best. Because my son immediately said, and I quote, “Next time, the leafy green salad attacks!”

Pick up a copy at your local library or wherever books are sold. You’ll enjoy reading it (as long as a kid who hates vegetables is present).

Interview with Illustrator Jo Painter

jo-painter-anxietyJo is a freelance Concept Artist, Illustrator and Animator trying to break her way into the game industry! She currently works for a variety of authors and companies around the world but when she’s not working and painting at her desk, you can usually find her with her head stuck in a book or out for a walk in the countryside. The best way to keep up to date with her work is through Instagram – @po_jainter or her website, www.jopainter.co.uk

1. You’ve mentioned that your love of illustration dates back to using MS Paint. Now, most people I know who have used MS Paint to draw anything serious are immediately filled with frustration at the lack of refined tools available. You, somehow, were affected differently. Why is that? Why were you drawn in, rather than put off, by MS Paint? Has this ability to endure the more arduous processes of illustration stuck with you?

It all started from my love of Anime and 2D animation. I was fascinated with the idea of being able to color characters on the computer and after stumbling across multiple digital artists online, I was hooked! I am also the sort of person who makes do with whatever they have on hand and so at the time, all I had to work with was MS Paint and my computer mouse. I would spend hours at my desk trying to get a straight line to look slightly less wobbly and my colors to look slightly less muddy. I would then print these out to keep and show to my parents and friends. I always remember this burning desire to be good at painting and it’s something that has never left me all these years later. If it wasn’t for that passion and determination I wouldn’t have put up with MS Paint for so long! I was aware of Photoshop at the time but it was something that would have to wait until I could afford my own tablet and the software.

If it wasn’t for those harder days and hours of painstaking work I don’t think I would have the respect that I have for digital artists now. I respect the process and the work that goes into it and I think that makes me much more humbled as a professional!

2. While many illustrators stop at the 2-Dimensional level, your passion extends into 3-Dimensional animation. Could you explain the process in which you take a project from idea to the fully rendered animation product?

I took 3D animation at University instead of 2D animation because there is much more versatility within the 3D world and I felt that learning something new to add to my skill set would benefit my career more as an artist in the long run. My hunch here turned out to be right as learning skills such as texturing, modeling, lighting and rendering within 3D software has directly influenced and improved my painting skills. I am now much more aware of how light affects different materials, for example, so when I’m painting that subconscious knowledge comes in really handy!

I also adore animation. I remember watching the behind the scenes for the Lord of the Rings for the first time and they were showing how they designed the characters and animated Gollum and I remember being stunned that people actually did that as a career. It was love at first sight and I haven’t looked back since! As an active artist in the industry, it has been really advantageous to have more than one skill – I’ve had CEO’s of companies in interviews tell me how useful it is for me to be able to animate as well as design and draw concepts because it means I am more useful to them across more than one department. I always recommend to young and aspiring artists to create a varied skill set for themselves as it will really help them climb the ladder in a competitive and high achieving industry.

The process from concept to a rendered piece is long and arduous but incredibly rewarding to see it realized and moving on the screen. It depends which industry you are in (film, game, etc.) as some ideas can take years from the first concept to the final product. My experience is within the advertising and book industry the turnaround for these products is much faster! There were times where we only had a month to pitch an idea to the client, get approval and work on the product so that they could get it out and aired on TV in time. It’s demanding of your time and patience, but it has taught me some valuable lessons with time management and client etiquette – remember, the client is always right!

3. Technology evolves at an exponential rate. Tools and techniques available to artists now simply were not available in the days of MS Paint. What software do you find most beneficial to your career as an illustrator? What technology do you look forward to in the future?

It’s pretty alarming to see how fast technology is evolving. I have even seen VR used for drawing 2D within a 3D space which just feels way too advanced for me! I personally use Photoshop for all of my work – it is an amazing piece of software that is regularly updated which makes for a versatile and creative space that benefits my time and skill sets. I am also set in my ways, so I don’t think I will venture too far from Photoshop in the years to come. In terms of tools, I would love to upgrade to a Cintiq from Wacom! They are expensive, but totally worth the money in my opinion.

When I was younger, I thought that getting a tablet would automatically improve my art and was totally disheartened when it didn’t, so I often tell young artists that it isn’t the software or the tablet that will make your artwork improve, but the time and patience you put in as an artist to practice your craft. Your tools should help you work, not create it for you.

4. On your website, which contains a great FAQ section (everyone go read it!), you talk about the need for artists to be versatile. You likely have your own concepts for other people’s work. How do you channel your own ideas when the client has something else in mind?

The client is always right. I pretty much live by this rule! It is so important to remember that even though as the artist you are bringing creativity to the job and bringing an idea to life, you should always be getting approval from the client and if you have any suggestions to add, do whatever they have asked of you first and then add a few extra ideas on the side for them to take a look at and see if it sparks their imagination. Not only have you given them more work than they asked for, it also shows that you are invested and interested in their project.

Often, clients come to me with a very specific idea in mind. For example, when I work with an author on a book cover, they will have a list of things they would like to include and the first thing I do is create three to four initial sketches and concepts to send over to see if there is one that they like and then I will do another three of four variations of that one sketch. This way, I have input on what I am creating but also leaving the decisions up to the client.

Being versatile has also meant that I have worked on a variety of projects rather than narrowing myself down to a very specific style of art. I have worked on children’s books with a very cartoony style of art, I have animated 3D characters with a Disney style personality, and I have painted vast landscapes and detailed characters for book covers. Not only do I get to create something different each month, it also opens me up as a freelancer for more work!

5. How would you describe the perfect client/artist relationship? What are some aspects that have gone well for you in the past? What are some things that hindered project success?

I don’t really think that there is a perfect relationship! Every client is different and likes to work in a different way, so even though I try and stick to a regular routine when it comes to my process, that often changes with each client. It’s important to be OK with this and roll with the punches; sometimes you will send off something that you think is great and all the client will do is come back with a list of changes. It can be disheartening when you are first starting out as things like education and school have taught us to expect praise when we work hard and this isn’t always the case in industry. It can be a shock at first, but once you learn to swallow your pride and take on the criticism, it will vastly improve your work!

Being regularly in contact with my clients is something that has always gone well for me – I will send them regular updates of where I am on their project and the expected deadline if there isn’t one set already. It creates a level of trust between the client and the artist which means they are more likely going to come back to you again in the future. Something else I always find works well is staying professional when emailing. I have a signature at the bottom of my email with where else to find me and I always use the proper sign off (Kind Regards, Yours Faithfully etc.) as well as not using shorthand or emojis like you would in a text message. These things help to create a professional atmosphere, even if it is for a personal commission for someone.

Some things that have hindered a project’s success is not getting a prompt response from the client – I have waited up to two weeks to hear back from a client before and by that time I had already started another project and so then my work load is suddenly doubled, and I am then having to juggle my time. Sometimes this means a project can get rushed and I perhaps don’t feel as comfortable with the work I have produced and so won’t include it on my website. This is of course no one’s fault, usually it is because the client is busy and doesn’t have the time put aside to go through any work I have sent over.

Another thing would be not outlining my terms and conditions properly in my invoices. I always quote a specific amount of time and set a deadline, putting aside a day for changes as well. That way, you won’t have a constant back and forth for months on end making endless changes that you should technically be charging for. If any clients want to make changes out of the time frame we initially set, then I tend to charge a little extra to make up for lost time. You must be careful as a freelancer because it is very easy to end up working for nothing!

I am also very strict with my time management. I have a diary that I use daily to keep track of deadlines, when projects are starting, and what I need to get done that day. It sounds slightly over obsessive but since I started as a freelancer a year ago I haven’t once missed a deadline or got off track with work! Sometimes, I am juggling three or more projects at once due to overlapping deadlines, so it comes in really handy to have something to jot everything down in.

6. Many software packages like Photoshop have gone to the cloud, literally. Stand alone tools are more and more becoming monthly subscriptions. What do you think about that? Are these modern requirements helping or hurting our capabilities?

If 15 years ago, there was the option to have a monthly subscription to Photoshop instead of using MS Paint, I would have probably been able to afford it – eleven year old me would have loved it! Unfortunately, a lot of large softwares, including the 3D ones that I use for animation, are extremely expensive and involve forking out a large sum of money in one go to purchase it. With a monthly subscription, you are paying a fraction of the price on a monthly basis (I pay £7.99 a month for Photoshop) and therefore am able to produce high quality work on a budget. I think that this opens up a lot more opportunities for young and aspiring artists to not be put off trying out digital art and design and instead have a go and see what they enjoy. I was put off for years because Photoshop was so expensive and it felt almost out of my reach, but to now be able to pay for it minimally without it impacting my income, I feel at ease knowing that I will always be able to have access to it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are painting software’s out there that are free and work just as well! I am just used to what I use and Photoshop is what is predominantly used in industry, so I always recommend it.

7. What’s your favorite part of a project? What’s your least favorite?

Hmm. Good question. I would have to say my favorite part is seeing a character come to life on the page. It sounds rather fantastical, but when you read a book and the characters are so ingrained into your head, being able to put pen to paper (or pen to tablet!) and bring them to life is incredibly satisfying. I also love the painting stage of an illustration. I find it incredibly relaxing and rewarding once finished.

My least favorite would probably be the stages in between sketching the character out and starting painting. I spend some time establishing the colors I’m going to use and lighting setup I want to achieve, and this can sometimes put me off finishing the painting if I can’t get it right. It also makes the painting seem intimidating! But you just have to dive in head first and go for it which is usually how I get past this wall.

In terms of animating, I would have to say that I love the final stages of animating a character where you start smoothing out the sharpness of their movements and start adding all the smaller details such as secondary motion; this is where things like hair, hands and clothing move after the body has finished moving. For example, if a ballerina spins, her dress will be the last thing to settle. This really brings the character to life and makes it feel more real which makes all of the hard work beforehand worthwhile!

My least favorite part of animating would have to be the planning stages of it. If I am animating a character, I will always film reference for it. So, if the character is jumping around, I will film myself jumping around and get that into Photoshop to draw all over and make notes of where my weight is falling and which way my hips are rotating – the COG (center of gravity), which is the hips, is the most important thing when animating a character, so I always make sure I’m aware of what’s happening here before I start. Unfortunately, this takes time and usually I am just itching to get started, but if I don’t put this effort in first, I struggle down the line when I get to the smoothing stages of the animation and something doesn’t look quite right.

8. Artists often have role models or art styles they admire from other people. Who are some of your role models or what are some examples of completed projects you are impressed by?

Oh wow, I don’t even know where to start!

I think let’s go from the beginning. Growing up, I was a huge fan of anime and manga ( and still am!) When I was young, I watched the likes of Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, etc. and was reading Naruto and Fairy Tail and then spent my days trying to copy these characters and draw them as best I could. It’s these initial days that inspired me and are still my inspiration today – I still stand by the opinion that Naruto has some of the best character development out of any show/book/film.

As I grew up, I started to delve more into fantasy books and films and in particular, the Lord of the Rings and the rest of Tolkien’s works. I still draw inspiration from this now and I find his work to be some of the most interesting and detailed. His ability to create a fantasy world that feels like genuine British mythology is astounding!

Nowadays, its shows like Avatar, Avatar: The Legend of Korra and Game of Thrones and books from authors such as Sarah J Maas, Leigh Bardugo, Cassandra Clare and pretty much any young adult fantasy book I can get my hands on! I also still go back and watch Naruto or dive into new manga’s such as Death Note. I also love ‘The Art of…’ books from Disney films and games where the creators release all of the original concepts and artwork into book form. I collect these and there are still so many out there to add to my list! I usually grab them from a bookstore or off Amazon.

In terms of artists that have inspired me, that changes as I grow as an artist. At the moment, the ones I can list off would be Anna Steinbaeur, LD Austin, Ryan Lang, Rudy Siswanto, Charlie Bowater and pretty much anyone who works for Riot Games and paints the characters for League of Legends!

I think when it comes to projects that I am impressed by, I would have to say that the work that comes out of Studio Ghibli is the most innovative and unique from the past few years. With each film they release I find myself inspired in a different way. I have huge amounts of respect for the artists and animators that work on these films and the time and detail that goes into them – 2D, hand drawn animation is some of the hardest work you can do and requires endless amounts of patience!

9. No doubt you’ve been tracking the development of virtual reality systems. Do you think this will be a large industry for illustrators and 3D animators? Do you have any plans to carve out a niche for yourself in that space?

VR intimidates me, I won’t lie! I think that I see it being used more in the game industry like it is now as I don’t think the market is there for it to be used by animators or artists. I don’t think that it will benefit us much, but I have seen it being used for the making of film which is amazing. Especially with the combination of motion capture it makes for incredibly detailed pre-production – as far as I’m aware, Peter Jackson used this process for the filming of The Hobbit and was able to use VR to layout the CG elements of the film and track the camera through it.

10. What’s next for you? What can our readers expect to see you develop or accomplish in the next 1-2 years besides more great illustrations?

My plan is the work on my portfolio and carry on world building. At the moment, I have a few characters that need fleshing out and I want to add some more designs to my portfolio and then I plan on trying to step into the game industry as a concept artist! It’s a long process and I’ve had some success the past year with interviews and art tests so I’m getting close but there’s still a lot of hard work to go! For now, I’m happy freelancing and taking my time with everything – industry is tough and competitive, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.