Monday, 27 April 2020

Corrina Campbell - The Girl who Stole the Stars - Author/Illustration Interview - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Welcome to Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books. Today, I'm delighted to introduce Corrina Campbell who is a self-taught illustrator/author with a background in primary education. This interview looks to find out more about her writer/author experiences in the lead up to her new picture book. The Girl who Stole the Stars is due to be published this October (2020) by Little Door Books. 

I hope you enjoy reading our interview. Don't forget you can pre-order the book in advance if it sounds like something you and/or your family would enjoy. Thanks for reading - stay HAPPY and SAFE. 

The Girl Who Stole The Stars is your debut picture book (published later this year), can you tell us a little bit about it?

‘The Girl Who Stole the Stars’ is a story about a little girl who decides she wants a star of her very own but ends up taking all the stars from the sky with disastrous consequences, not just for her but for millions of other children around the world.  But what will it take for her to put them back in the sky?  You’ll need to read the book to find out!

Did you focus on the words or illustrations first for this picture book? 

I started with the words but those first few words that I jotted down are not necessarily the words you’ll see in the book today.  Once the illustrations were introduced a lot of the text changed, mainly because the illustrations tell so much of the story.  There is a huge amount of editing, redrafting and redrawing that happens along the way with both the words and the illustrations taking the lead at various points and influencing the direction of the final look and feel of the story.  

What are the processes involved in writing and illustrating your own picture book? 

When I have an idea for a book I first consider whether I can actually turn it into a story.  This usually involves thinking about the setting and characters but more importantly the plot and storyline.  I then consider whether it would fit a standard picture book size;  usually 32 pages and often under 1000 words.  If my idea is still ‘alive’ after this stage then it’s time to get the pencils out!  I usually sketch out small thumbnail images of how each page will look – these are really rough but it gives me an idea of how I think the book could look.  Then I start working on more detailed illustrations – the best part of the whole process and usually the point where I feel I’ve got something with book potential!

Where and what do you generally get your ideas and inspirations from?
I am a primary teacher and a mum so most of my ideas come from either my children or an aspect of life I am looking to teach in a child-friendly manner.  ‘The Girl who Stole the Stars’ was an idea that came from my eldest daughter when she wrote to Santa asking for a ladder to the stars so that she could have one.  I loved the idea of being able to climb up into the sky and take a star so the story grew from there.  I am also currently working on a story that looks at the impact of plastic on the Planet and wildlife which is a focus in many schools at the moment.

Can you tell us a little bit about your first illustration and what you were particularly proud of?

I started illustrating my written work two years ago after deciding to explore the self-publishing route.  I had written lots of stories and I desperately wanted to see one as a book.  I investigated using a freelance illustrator but it was far too costly for me so decided to give it a go myself.  I’ve always been very creative but had never focussed fully on illustration.  I spent hours exploring different art media, styles, techniques but the real turning point, and the part of the journey I am most proud of, was when I discovered how to make my artwork digital.  I spent two weeks sitting in front of my laptop, trying and failing.  I remember feeling it was impossible, that I’d maybe reached the limit of my capabilities – which was really upsetting.  However, eventually, things started to fall in to place and I was finally able to edit and produce images to a high standard that could be used in picture books, as well as on cards and as prints which I now sell on Etsy, via my website and at local craft fairs and events.  I was then able to pursue and successfully sign a traditional publishing contract for ‘The Girl who Stole the Stars’.  This was a massive step in the right direction with regards to me carving a career path in illustration and indeed children’s picture books.
Is there anything that helps you to channel your creativity?

This is a terrible answer but lots of biscuits(!)…and a lot of determination.  I work in the evenings once my kids are in bed so when I sit down the exhaustion kicks in.  However, a couple of biscuits later I am usually re-energised and feeling creative again!  On a serious note, it takes a huge amount of discipline to focus in an evening and be productive after what can often be a long and busy day.  When I knew I wanted to write and illustrate a children’s picture book but I had to make some significant changes to find the time to make this happen.  As my evenings were my only free time I had to use them productively.  You’ll now find me most evenings at the kitchen table drawing, writing, editing, creating and learning.  It’s having that discipline that’s really helped me channel my creativity in a more focussed direction to reach my goal of creating children’s books.  

Do you think an illustrator should have a particular style or be known for trying/using different styles?

Great question.  Interestingly I think your style is always there, even when you try to be a bit different!  When I was in the early stages of learning how to illustrate a book I explored all the different techniques/styles that other well-known picture book illustrators were using and tried to replicate them.  Strangely what I created never looked anything like what they had done.  It was always my interpretation of what they had done, although by doing this I found my ‘comfort zone’ which I guess is my unique style.  I am always learning and experimenting so I have no doubt that my style will develop and change, but I’d like to think it will still be recognisable.

Which medium do you prefer to use when illustrating?

I love using crayons.  They create an amazing grainy texture and always make me feel like I am five again – which is a good mindset to have when you are creating illustrations for children’s picture books.

Could you tell us a bit about any of your upcoming projects?

I am terrible for having lots of projects on the go at the same time.  My main focus at the moment is really just preparing for the launch ‘The Girl who Stole the Stars’ and looking at how to best market this and make the most from the opportunity.  I am in the process of creating teaching resources, building content online, and organising author/illustrator events and school visits all around the book launch.  I am also in the early stages of writing the sequel to ‘The Girl who Stole the Stars’ as well as revisiting a story I wrote last year about a Puffin that I keep coming back to…some stories just don’t leave me alone!

Who are your favourite illustrators and why?

There are so many!  Going back to my childhood and my Scottish roots my favourite illustrator/author would be Mairi Hedderwick who is the creator of the Katie Morag series.  Her work always had so much detail and I would spend hours with my Dad looking for all the hidden gems she planted within her illustrations.  

I also love work by Oliver Jeffers, Lisa Stubbs, and Polly Dunbar which is where I draw a lot of inspiration from.

Which books/authors do you choose to read for pleasure?

With three kids under five reading for pleasure is, unfortunately, a rare occasion!  

‘The Girl who Stole the Stars’ is out October 2020 and is available for pre-order from Waterstones;

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