Childrens Book Event: Day 3: Inteview with childrens author & illustrator Mary Murphy

Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got into writing?

I Kissed the Baby!I am an illustrator by training, and like many illustrators saw a wealth of imaginative and emotional possibilities in children's picture books. I was freelancing in Dublin for some years before sending some very simple dummy books to a bunch of UK publishers. I always loved writing but really wasn't expecting to be published as an author; I thought it more likely that I might be used as an illustrator for another author. But I had the very lucky and unusual experience of being immediately picked up by Egmont Publishers. What they liked was the relationships between my characters, and that has remained one of the elements publishers hone in on in my work.

You have written many children's books including I kissed the baby, How Kind, The alphabet keeper and many more all aimed at children aged 0-5 years. What is it that you love about writing children's books?

I love the bare bones and clarity there is nowhere to hide in a picture book, everything is exposed. I love the non-linear possibilities, the way a picture book can be an expanded moment or feeling, rather than pinned down to a story structure. And because the texts are so short, you can focus intensely on all the elements rhythm, emotional patterns, story arc if there is one…

As well as an author you are also a children's illustrator. Do you think it is important that the illustrations are as creative and as good as the story itself?

How Kind!The illustrations are at least as important as the text for communicating the story. I find it hard to separate one from the other; they seem to evolve together organically as the book develops. In terms of work, there are many more hours in the illustrations than in the text, and I do think picture books are bought based on their illustrations rather than on their texts.

We know young children love illustrations in books. They rely on visual images asit helps them understand the story. Do you think this is important even with books for older children and teenagers i.e. a great front cover to give them an idea of the book etc?

Were very skilled at reading covers, we can usually tell what age the book is for, the genre, the mood and if we will like it. Picture book illustrations have a different role. Its not so much that illustrations help children to understand the book, as that they draw the child into it, and allow them to enter it and experience it fully.

Images can replace text; you can even have complete stories told without words. In picture books the illustrations have a full job to do in carrying atmosphere, action, character all the story elements a text can carry. This isnt the same as a novel cover, which is more like a key or clue to the books contents.

All your books are great. Which one book has been your favourite to write or illustrate?

Little Owl And The StarThanks! Though to be honest theyre not all great…

I find I love whatever book Im working on now; I cant say I have a favourite. One of the lovely things about writing and illustrating is that you are right in the world of that book for however long you are working on it, and if you are very engaged with it you can hardly remember that you ever worked on another book.

Are you working on any new books at the moment, what is coming up for you next?

I had two little board books published in July: Quick Duck and Slow Snail, and a picture book coming out in February 2013. Those three books are with Walker, who are just fantastic to work with. And Im currently working on two more books, also with Walker, and developing new ideas too. Its a bit of a dream life, to be honest.

Mary is currently putting together her awesome website but when it is ready you can find it here!

Books are available through Walker, Amazon, Tara Book Co. and other booksellers.

If you have missed any of the posts on the childrens book event so far you can check them out by clicking on the Childrens Book Event Banner along the top of the blog!

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