An interview with illustrator and author, Ged Adamson

Douglas-You-Need-Glasses-Low-Res

 

Meet Douglas, a dog with a big problem: he needs glasses. But Douglas doesn’t know it, and his bad eyesight tends to land him in some pretty hairy situations… 

Readers will laugh along with Douglas as he chases a leaf that he mistakes for a squirrel, walks through wet cement because he can’t see the warning sign, and annoys the neighbour’s dog by mistakenly eating out of his bowl!

 
After an eye exam confirms that Douglas needs glasses, and Nancy helps him find the perfect pair, readers will rejoice with Douglas as he finally sees all the amazing things he’s been missing!

 

Hi Ged, thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few of my questions! I’ve long admired your work and it’s great to have the opportunity to speak to you.

That’s so nice of you, Rose! And thanks so much for having me on your blog. It’s great to be asked on here to talk about the things I’m doing and the stuff I like.

 

  1. Can you tell us in your own words what Douglas, You Need Glasses! is about?

It’s about a dog called Douglas who has terrible eyesight. His friend Nancy gets more and more exasperated with him because his poor vision causes lots of trouble – mainly for other people. There’s an incident involving a wasps’ nest that is really the final straw for Nancy. She takes him straight to the opticians.

 

  1. Where did the idea for this charming story come from?

The idea came from a doodle. My ideas often come like that. I drew a dog in glasses smoking a pipe. Then I thought this could be a story. The first version featured squirrels in a big way – Douglas gets his glasses and loses interest in chasing the squirrels in the park. The next version had Douglas getting hungry for knowledge. These were all nice but the final version of the story is hopefully the most effective and funny.

 

  1. What do you hope that little readers will take away from this book?

If the reader is a child who needs glasses but is uncomfortable with the idea of wearing them, I’d like this book to help them see spectacles as cool, fun things that open the world up in a big way. If the reader is a child with perfect vision, I just want them to like Douglas and find him and the story funny – and hopefully see their short sighted friends in a new light.

 

  1. My own experience writing picture books is just as the writer (not the illustrator) what is it like to be in control of both the writing and the images?

It’s fun! I see the images and words as almost a single thing. I never start a project with the manuscript in place. I’ll have a rough idea what the story is going to do, and where the humour and action is going to happen. As I go along putting the idea together, the words are suggested by each illustration I’m sketching out. It changes constantly. And I’ll often realise the text needs to do something that the spread I’ve just drawn can’t accommodate – so I’ll scrap that image and do something new that works better. I enjoy this process so much.

 

  1. It’s hard to portray a character in the short form of a picture book, but Douglas seems like such a character! Where did he come from?

It’s so great that you see a lot of character in him. It’s such a nice thing when people say they find him funny and likeable. I suppose his personality sort of comes partly from myself and partly from my observations of dogs. From me, he gets the bad eyesight denial I was in as a child. I didn’t want to wear glasses so I would be very Douglas like. I’d go about things without acknowledging the big drawback of not being able to see properly. I held off until I was a teenager then I had the big moment in the book where you see through Douglas’s glasses.

From dogs, he gets that lovable optimism and enthusiasm that a lot of dogs have. He’s happy all day long if he can play and eat – even if it happens to be the dog next door’s dinner!

 

  1. What are your favourite picture books? What writers and illustrators do you admire?

I love Nadia Shireen’s books. Her illustrations are so full of the most brilliant humour. Yeti And The Bird and The Bumblebear are current favourites. But I love all her stuff.

The same with Kevin Waldron. He’s an artist who you can tell is obsessed with old graphic design and fonts. His style and use of colour are unique in the current picture book world. In our house we absolutely love Pandamonium At Peek Zoo. His new one is great too – Harold’s Hungry Eyes.

Leigh Hodgkinson is another author whose books and art inspire me and make me laugh. Troll Swap by her is so great.

But if I had to single out one picture book author/illustrator, it would be Beatrice Alemagna. Her work is just stunning. It’s beautiful. Her stories have a timeless quality. And she’ll use all kinds of different media to do her art in one book.

I massively recommend The 5 Misfits and The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by her.

Ronald Searle, Charles Schultz and Quentin Blake are other big heroes of mine.

 

  1. What comes first when you have an idea, the image or the text?

It can be either but as far as text goes, it’s never a written out thing. It will just be a vague idea in my head. I’ll always see images in my mind – never just words. My first picture book Elsie Clarke And The Vampire Hairdresser was inspired by a joke. I used to send one frame gags to magazines like Punch and Private Eye. Sometimes I’d get one published. I’d done a joke where a man was getting his hair cut by a vampire and the scissors were just floating in the mirror. So this was the inspiration for my first book. The story I’m working on at the moment came from a conversation with a friend. He mentioned rainbows and it gave me an idea – it’s top secret though!

 

  1. Do you have your own four-legged friend 

No I don’t and I absolutely love dogs too. We live in London in a house with a tiny back yard space so we’ve always felt a dog wouldn’t have anywhere to run around in. But we so want to get a dog, I don’t think we can wait until we move. We’ll just have to make sure we go out for lots of walks every day! There are millions of nice dogs round here. Greenwich Park at the weekend is doggy central.

 

  1. What does a writing or working day look like for you?

Generally drawing, painting, scanning and sitting at the computer putting it all together in the process of finishing a book or coming up with a new one. I like to go and sit in a café down the road and sketch and work on ideas. It can be a solitary existence so it’s good to get outside amongst other people. Most days I’ll chat to my agent Isy over emails and texts and I’ll be in touch with the the publishers who I’m working with. I’m also picture book editor for the agency so I’ll often be looking at stuff related to that.

But if I go and have lunch with someone, I have to use all my willpower to come home again and get back to work!

 

  1. And finally, the most important questions of all, what’s your favourite cake?

A Battenberg. Or possibly an M&S Bakewell tart. A single one from the pastry section. I class that as a cake. A ring doughnut doesn’t count though does it? Because if I’m in Greggs, that’s always first choice.

 

Do you like the sound of Douglas, You Need Glasses! (because you really should)? Why not get it for the little reader in your life (or the little reader inside you, if you’re like me and love picture books anyway) – get it here!

Or if you want to find out more about Ged (who is awesome) then have a look at his website.

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Feathers Published!

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Things have been a little crazy for the past month or so, what with my fist YA fantasy novel, ROSES, published in paperback and the small matter of getting married etc. etc. But I didn’t want that to overshadow the very exciting occurrence of my second fantasy novel (the sequel to the first) – FEATHERS – coming out! I’m truly so excited and I think that the book looks fantastic. I love the new cover designs for the trilogy and I can’t wait to hear what you all think.
This is just a little, excited post from me to share the news. If you want to know a little about the series (which is three fairy tale retelling woven together) – have a look at them here.
Now it’s time for me to go and celebrate and eat some good cake.

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May Videos



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Interview with Peggy Frew

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It is the winter of 1985. 

Hope Farm sticks out of the ragged landscape like a decaying tooth, its weatherboard walls sagging into the undergrowth. 

Silver’s mother, Ishtar, has fallen for the charismatic Miller, and the three of them have moved to the rural hippie commune to make a new start. At Hope, Silver finds unexpected friendship and, at last, a place to call home. But it is also here that, at just thirteen, she is thrust into an unrelenting adult world – and the walls begin to come tumbling down, with deadly consequences. 

Hope Farm is a devastatingly beautiful story about the broken bonds of childhood, and the enduring cost of holding back the truth.

 

Recently Scribe UK got in contact with me and asked if I would like to receive a review copy of Hope Farm by Peggy Frew. I was completely drawn in by the cover and the concept of the book so said a big yes please. This is such a dark, beautiful little twisty book and the author of Hope Farm, Peggy Frew, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions:

 

R: Hello, Peggy! It is a pleasure to virtually meet you. I’m very excited to read your new novel, Hope Farm, and I am honoured to be part of your promotional tour. How is it all going?

Hello Rose, nice to virtually meet you too. It’s all going very well thank you. The book has gotten a really – surprisingly – good response here in Australia. I say surprisingly because the writing of it was a long and sometimes difficult process and there were times I doubted it would ever even get published, let alone be well received.

 

R: Hope Farm is your second novel and we often hear writers talking about how difficult it is to write a second book, how did you find it?

It actually wasn’t hard at first – the setting, characters and basic plot came very easily. But there were some difficulties along the way to do with coming up with a structure and finding the best way to tell the story, and when you get stuck on that stuff you can sometimes lose your connection with what the original spark was, what’s at the heart of the story, and you have to find your way back to it somehow. Also I got a vote of no-confidence from a trusted reader early on, which was, frankly, devastating, and that took a while to recover from.

 

R: Hope Farm is set in 1985, what was it like to write a book set in a period that some readers will remember and some readers will consider ‘before their time’? Was there a reason that you set it in this period?

I was nine years old in 1985, so I can remember it, so it wasn’t too hard to get the details right. The time setting just came naturally out of what was happening to the characters – the character of the mother needed to be 17 years old during the early ‘70s for a very specific plot-related reason, and so then because I wanted the main story, which is the story of her daughter, Silver, to happen when Silver was 13 that (if my maths is correct!) takes us to the mid-‘80s. It’s funny for me to think of the ‘80s as being before some people’s time – I guess I’m older than I feel!

 

R: Where did the idea for Hope Farm originate?

The setting, which is rural Victoria, one of Australia’s southern states – cold in winter, windblown, but sometimes sunny, so I think of it as a glittering landscape – and the characters of Silver and her mother Ishtar all came to me pretty much as one package. I knew I had this mother-daughter relationship that was fraught, and on the verge of some kind of big transformation, and I knew they were arriving at this very run-down commune that’s on its last legs, full of lost souls, left-behind hippies, and I knew Ishtar, the mother, had just gotten together with a new bloke, Miller, and he was going to be the catalyst for what was coming … Then I had to start writing and see what would happen.

 

R: What was Silver like as a character to write about?

I love Silver. She is so tough and sad. There’s a line somewhere that describes her as ‘thirteen, scrawny and suddenly tall, angry and sad and full of shame and reluctance — but changing, coming into something, waking up to a power of [her] own. I related very strongly to her, but at times I also felt a kind of tender, parental love for her too. I can remember so well what it was like to be that age, with one foot in childhood and one just on the edge of the world of adults.

 

R: And then what was it like to writer from Ishtar’s point of view too?

Ishtar took longer for me to figure out. For most of the first draft I only wrote from Silver’s perspective, so I only saw Ishtar through Silver’s eyes – and Ishtar’s fairly inscrutable from the outside. Then eventually I realised that Ishtar’s story needed to be told with her own voice, and once I started writing in that voice it just took off, and I learned so much more about her, and developed real compassion for her. Which I hope is what happens for the reader too.

 

R: What does a typical ‘writing day’ look like to you?

Once my kids have gone to school and I have tidied up at home, put on some laundry and so on, I walk to my writing ‘space’, which is in an old factory. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk, and I usually take our family dog with me. I sometimes stop and get take-away coffee on the way. The place where I write inside the factory is a small ‘office’, with a door I can close. It is dingy and ugly and full of boxes of records and CDs (my partner’s stuff – he’s a musician and painter). It’s not what you’d call inspiring, but it works for me. I couldn’t work from home because I’d end up doing housework. I leave my phone in the other room and the computer I work on doesn’t have an internet connection, so I really don’t have any distractions. I often have lunch with my partner, who is also there in the factory, doing his stuff. We are pretty good at leaving each other alone, but it’s nice to eat together and chat about what we’re working on (or other things). The dog lies on the couch all day. I finish up around 2 pm and walk home again, via the supermarket where I get dinner supplies, and then I go to collect the kids from school. The walking to and from the factory is quite important to me – I find ideas tend to float up into my brain while I’m walking.
So my writing day is only from 10 am-ish until 2, but I actually am not good for much more than that. I’ve done writers’ retreats where I’m free to write all day and all night if I want to, and I’ve found that I’m really only productive for a couple of hours at a time. (Not that I would ever turn down a retreat! Non-writing time can be very productive too in other ways, like reading, going for walks, talking with other writers etc, this is when the ideas can drift around and compost).

 

R: Any great books that you could recommend to us?

A few books I think influenced me at various stages and in various ways while I was writing Hope Farm are Breath by Tim Winton, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Gilgamesh by Joan London, and The Little Friend by Donna Tartt.

 

R: And, the most important question of all, what’s your favourite cake?

The ‘special occasion’ cake in our family is Persian love cake. Here’s a recipe, although the measurements are Australian, sorry. It’s delicious, and best of all it’s very, very easy to make, in fact pretty much foolproof, and that’s coming from a lover of food who is sadly profoundly lacking in the cooking-skill department.

 

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Roses Out in Paperback

I was incredibly excited when my YA fantasy novel, Roses came out in hardback in 2014. At the time, I didn’t really think about the paperback – I mean, I had this vague idea that it would happen, but then suddenly, it was here! Roses came out in paperback in the US, Canada and the UK this week and I was over the moon. Subscribers on YouTube and followers on Twitter were so very kind and very supportive, which was amazing – I was very humbled by everyone’s response. I’m not sure where this paperback will go or what will happen to it, but it’s out there in bookshops in America and on Amazon online. It’s here, if you’d like to know more.

Below is a rambly, excited video that I made on my YouTube channel. Next month the sequel, Feathers is out in hardback and I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do. Probably go crazy with excitement.

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What I Read in April

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25 Bookish Facts About Me

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March Reading Wrap-Up

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April Book Haul

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My First Edition Collection (books)

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