Tuesday, 7 February 2017

A fabulous interview with Sophy Henn, Author and Illustrator of "Edie", a wonderful new picture book published by Picture Puffin

A fabulous book full of joie de vivre, that's how we described Sophy Henn's wonderful "Edie"in our review (which you can find here just in case you missed it earlier!) and we're very lucky to be joined on the blog today by Sophy herself.

We've come up with a few questions for Sophy so let's get straight under way! We each came up with five questions so here are my five...!

Hi Sophy, thanks for talking to us!

My pleasure! Thank you both for having me!

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Heavens! Well, I am an author and Illustrator who lives in slightly sunny Sussex. I have a dog called Buster, and I am mainly a mum. I like reading, jumping around, Peanuts, rock pooling and chocolate raisins, among other things.

We’ve really loved reading Edie together. Was she inspired by anyone in particular? (She really reminds me of how I’d imagine “Amelie” from the movie of the same name being at around the age of six :)

Hooray! I am so pleased you enjoyed reading Edie and I LOVE that she reminds you of Amelie. It is such a wonderful film, I am now inspired to refresh my memory and watch it again almost immediately!

Edie is inspired by lots of little girls (though my little girl might have inspired the dressing up page!), all of whom have that utterly positive 'can-do' attitude. I've noticed that sometimes when children start to learn good behaviour from bad and how you go about doing things for yourself and others (around nursery/recption age) they can adopt this rather teacherly attitude, especially when they have a younger sibling to tell what's what! It's not bossy, and it's not nasty, it just seems to me to be a very excitable, joyful celebration of what they are working out about the world. Edie has buckets of that attitude, and it's that and her love of the people around her that drives her to be ever so 'helpful'.

Tell us a little bit about how you approach a new project. How do you go about creating a new character and story and do the visuals usually arrive before the story or vice versa?

When I started with Where Bear? it was definitely a case of the character leading the process, he popped into my head and onto a page before I had really thought about anything. A painting of a little, white bear in a deep, dark forest looking lost. Then the story followed, the same thing happened for Pom Pom Gets the Grumps. But then things changed a bit with Pass It On as I knew I wanted to make a positive, happy and empowering book for pre schoolers. Creating the character happened quite a way into the project, it's the same with the book I am working on at the moment. But with Edie, she really lead the way. Once she was in my mind all I had to do was put her in various situations and see what she would do!

"Where Bear?" by Sophy Henn

Coffee or Tea?

TEA. Sadly I can't dink coffee anymore, it's too much for me! The last time I tried, I managed half a cup of instant and had to go for a run I was so jittery. But I can safely swig upwards of ten cups of tea day! I LOVE it!

Can you tell us what your favourite books were as a child?

I LOVED Allan and Janet Alhberg's Cops and Robbers. I loved the rhythm of the story and the joyful wickedness of the Robbers wrong doings. And all the wonderful detail in the illustrations which kept me pouring over the pages long after my Mum had finished reading it. I was/am also a huge fan of Milly Molly Mandy and all the cosy goings on of her day to day. And there is a map at the front go every book, who doesn't like a map? 

Sophy at her desk, busy as ever!

"Pass it On" by Sophy Henn

...and five questions from Charlotte!

What’s the best way for someone like me to start writing stories? I’m trying to write something for the Radio 2 “500 words” competition at the moment and it’s really hard!

I agree, it is hard, but when you eventually wrestle those words into a story that works, it feels pretty amazing doesn't it? Stories start in lots of different ways for me (see above!), which I realise isn't ever so helpful. But however a story starts, once I have the idea, I find it really useful to map the plot out before I get down the actual story writing. Once I have jotted down the story's key elements, in the order they happen, when I get to the writing part it's a bit like joining the dots to make the story whole. I find that kind of planning especially useful if I have to tell the story in a specific number of words as it keeps me on track. I always write to much, but remember it's easier to edit it out than add it in! GOOD LUCK!

What’s your favourite animal (apart from Pandas, of course!) and will they find their way into one of your stories one day?

I honestly love all animals, I can't watch any nature programmes for fear of any being eaten (actually true). But I do have a very soft spot for guinea pigs (if you google guinea pigs in hats it will give you an insight as to why), and I would love to do a picture book filled with them. Though, obviously Olga de Polga is a bit of a superstar and Catherine Rayner's illustrations of her are utterly beautiful, so I would have make sure I was feeling confident! One day.....

What’s your favourite Disney movie? (Mine’s currently Zootropolis but I change my mind every few months!)

I do love Disney and have lots of books on the artists that have worked for the studios. Do check out Mary Blair if you can, she was an incredible artist who worked at Disney in the 1940s-50s, her use of colour is incredible. But back to the almost impossible question....I think the only way I can answer is to divide Disney up a bit...so could we have three separate categories for live action, animation and Disney Pixar please? If so I would probably choose Mary Poppins for live action ( I know there is a little cartoon too, but by and large it's actual people). Aristocats for animation as I love the illustration style of the streets, Thomas O'Malley's voice is ever so soothing and it was my daughters favourite film for a very long time. And then choosing a favourite Disney Pixar is agony, but I would probably plump for The Incredibles as, among many other things, I LOVE the mid century styling. And the Mum superhero obvs!

If you could be anything else in the world other than an author / illustrator what would you want to be?

Definitely a tap dancer. Ideally in the style of Gene Kelly (check him out in Singing in Rain, he makes it look so easy - AMAZING!)

What’s your favourite food? (Mine’s pizza and pasta and chocolate but not all mixed together!)
You have some strong choices there, and I like all of them. But if I had to pick one favourite food it would be.....curry, not super hot but definitely on the hot side. I honestly think I could eat curry for almost every meal (even breakfast!).

Thank you so much for having me back on the marvellous Read It Daddy blog!

Very best,

Sophy x

"Edie" by Sophy Henn is out now, published by Picture Puffin.