Showing posts sorted by relevance for query sara mulvanny. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query sara mulvanny. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, 30 April 2018

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Interview with Sara Mulvanny Illustrator (Q&A)

It's fantastic to have the very talented illustrator, Sara Mulvannyon, on Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books today. It's always fascinating to uncover the inside life of an illustrator, their work and background. I love Sara Mulvanny's work, especially her brilliant book covers for children and adult books. This post has been a wonderful opportunity to ask her questions about her career and life. I hope this little interview has piqued your interest in her work. If so, then why not pop over to her website and take a look at her other projects at 

Have a great day and happy reading.

How did you become an illustrator? 
I grew up painting and drawing and I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an artist. Although I was quite academic at school and excelled at maths and physics, my favourite subject was art. It was something I loved doing so it never felt like a chore. At college, I realised that it was the commercial application of art that I found really fascinating rather than fine art. I loved collecting old posters, adverts and beautiful ephemera. I studied Illustration at Kingston University and graduated with a BA (Hons) in 2010 after which I moved back to my Hampshire studio to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator. I was thrilled to receive my first commission a few days after I graduated, it was a book cover for Random House. Since then I’ve created illustrations for books, magazines, packaging, restaurant/museum interiors, and posters. In 2013 I joined Agency Rush and each year gets better and better and therefore busier and busier! 

What is your favourite medium to draw/paint with? 
All my Illustrations start as rough sketches to work out ideas and composition. I use a Staedtler Mars Micro Mechanical Pencil on cartridge paper, my favourite being Daler Rowney Smooth Heavyweight paper which is great for line work. When I am happy with the rough I will effectively pull it apart so that I can re-draw each element separately using pen and ink. My favourite finer liners are Uni PIN Drawing Pens, but I also use a Rotring Artpen and a Pentel brush pen as well. Those separate line drawings are then scanned into my Apple iMac and the final illustration is digitally composed on Adobe Photoshop using colour and texture. My final illustrations exist as digital files and are composed of sometimes hundreds of layers which gives me freedom to adjust colours and layout easily. I absolutely love my Wacom pen tablet which I use for Photoshop work and I don’t know how I ever survived without it. 

Describe your typical working week? 
Every week is different and I love the variation in my working life, you never know what challenges you will face from each day to the next. I’m the most productive and creative in the mornings so I tend to get up early if I’m very busy with commissions. I’m disciplined about taking tea/coffee/yoga breaks otherwise I become sluggish and lose motivation during the afternoon. When I have a lot of deadlines I will draw all day. I find that allocating a certain amount of time for each project prevents me from falling behind. I dislike working late at night because I’m not very productive when I’m tired. When I have a respite from deadlines I catch-up on more menial tasks such as organising paperwork and accounts. I also try to go to the gym every evening to do an exercise class in an attempt to stop myself from becoming a hermit. Trying to keep a good work/life balance can be difficult, they can easily amalgamate into one and the same thing which isn’t particularly healthy. I’m lucky enough to be part of Agency Rush who are a great bunch of people, they are really supportive and they definitely help me feel less isolated when I’m working on my own. Occasionally I get the chance to go to London to visit a client, or Brighton to visit Agency Rush, these days a rare luxury now but it’s always good to get out of my quiet studio and see the hustle and bustle of the city. 

What kind of illustration projects are you most interested in? 
I’m very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects over the years; My illustrations have been featured in a variety of media from books to packaging, restaurant interiors to posters. It’s this variety that makes life as an illustrator so exciting, rather than a particular type of commission. I’m often juggling a few commissions at once, and it’s their differences which make them enjoyable, rather than their similarities. I’m currently working on a large commission for a museum, a book about plants, a map for a magazine cover, a science book, and an editorial piece about wedding cakes! 

Could you tell us a bit about any of your upcoming projects? 
I’ve been working on a large commission over the last few months for the Museum of Royal Worcester which is having a complete redesign by the very talented Studio Savage. My illustrations are being used on each floor of the museum in a manner of different scenarios which is really exciting. The largest part of the project is the life-size kitchen installation. The kitchen is split down the middle, with a 1920’s design on one side and a 1970’s design on the other. I’ve illustrated everything from the floor patterns and wallpaper to the kitchen cupboards, food, china, life-size oven, microwave, table and the posters adorning the walls. I also created a large 18th century map of England and a smattering of other illustrations throughout the museum. It’s currently being printed and I can’t wait for the launch, it’s the largest commission I’ve worked on and it will be great to see my work in such an immersive setting. 

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received from someone within the industry? 
There’s plenty of great advice out there for new illustrators, fledgling designers should definitely pick up a copy of The Fundamentals of Illustration by Lawrence Zeegen: it’s packed full great tips and advice I found useful when starting out. But often the best lessons are the hard ones you learn yourself. You can’t avoid making mistakes, it’s a natural part of progress. However, when you make mistakes you learn from them and (hopefully!) you don’t make them again. 

A quote that I found helpful over the years is: 

‘Admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own’ 

As an illustrator you will have moments in life when you compare your work to other people’s with the result being that you end up feeling inferior. An important skill is being able to admire other people’s work without doubting your own abilities. There are so many great illustrators out there it can be daunting pursuing a career in such a competitive market. But we all have insecurities as an artist, days when we feel like what we do isn’t good enough, and there are some commissions which just don’t work out as well as others for whatever reason. However, I’ve found that there are far more good days than bad, and there are some really great days as well. Perseverance pays off and the great days make all the hard work worthwhile. 

What is a favourite piece of work that you have produced? 
One of my favourite book cover commissions is still ‘Chasing the Dram’ by Rachel McCormack. The brief itself was quite open: the publisher wanted the cover to feel ‘really fun’ and if I made sure the whisky and travelogue aspects were clear, I had a free reign so to speak. That kind of brief either works out really well or can be a bit of struggle if the client is unsure of what they want. In this case it was the former and it’s one of my favourite commissions as I got to combine my love of hand-drawn typography with some humour and narrative elements, a limited muted colour palette and the creation of a map for the end papers. 

Who are your favourite illustrators and why? 
I love the strong, bold designs of Noma Bar: his clever use of negative space and humour is unapparelled, it’s essentially the definition of great design. Being able to communicate an idea with minimal shapes takes maximum skill. On the other side of the spectrum I’m always in awe of the lavish wallpaper patterns by William Morris, the beauty of the sinuous flora is mesmerising. I love patterns and it’s something I would like to do more of in the future. 

Tell us a secret? 
I’m a massive Harry Potter geek, I queued up for the books at midnight and my sister and I have been on the studio tour 4 times so far… I also listen to the Harry Potter audio books read by Stephen Fry when I’m getting stressed because they keep me calm. In truth, my family and friends would say my Harry Potter obsession is less of a secret and more of a well-known fact.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Sinéad O’Hart - Skyborn - Blog Tour Day One - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Hello Everybody and WELCOME to Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books. We are really delighted to be starting the #SKYBORN blog tour today celebrating the imminent release of Sinéad O’Hart’s third Middle-Grade children’s book. Which is being published by Stripes Publishing. 

The book cover is a cracker - we particularly love the choice of colour and sparkle. It has been illustrated by the very talented Sara Mulvanny and really sets the mood well. 

The other sites to visit, each day, as part of the blog tour are listed on the banner below. Make sure you drop by and say HELLO. There is a fantastic competition on Twitter to go with this post. To have a chance to win a copy of the book and a £10 Book Voucher and a bar of chocolate, all you have to do is head over to our pinned Tweet and find out more @Enchantedbooks 

Anyway, we’re now ready to kick off this amazing blog tour with our spoiler-free book review.

A watchful girl stands before the walls of a silent city. As we look over the walls, we take our first steps into a fantasy wonderland. The story starts with a rather intriguing prologue but as you turn the pages, a vortex of imagination and world-building leads through the narrative on a high wire adventure. Deadly and perilous situations lead to both surprising and captivating outcomes. 

The plot is very mysterious and enticing as it features magical and slightly dark supernatural theme. The second part of the story features a struggling circus that features larger-than-life characters who you may come to love or hate. The circus element of the story feels realistic without too much detail as it brings the story to life. It sparkles like a performer's sequin leotard!

I love books based on circus themes - the traditions and the history are all fascinating. It is easy to become immersed in this world as you do in the BOOK. You’ll find yourself instantly transported to the big top circus tent! 

Bastjan is the main character who will do anything he can to save his home and the circus. Even if it means participating in a death-defying new act. We are also introduced to a mysterious man by the name of Dr. Bauer. He and the ringmaster together make plans, however this creates a good plot twist. 

There is so much to keep you on your flexible toes. The eclectic mix of ideas make this book so enjoyable. For example, the runaway child called Alice who is a pickpocket and thief. There are also secret shape-shifting creatures, a mysterious island, a strange box, and a ride in an airship! All of which you will not want to miss. It's a pop fizz of static, a roller-coaster ride fuelled on adrenalin. There’s a lion’s roar here, an elephant's trumpet there followed by an acrobatic tumble. Finally, it all ends in a brilliantly climactic finish that you will just LOVE. Finishing this book may require a cup of YORKSHIRE tea, a chocolate biscuit, and a lie-down. This book is one to be read and savoured. 

Monday, 21 January 2019

Sinéad O’Hart - The Star-Spun Web - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs...

The Star-Spun Web is another fantastic page turner from Irish-born author Sinéad O’Hart. This will be her second book, her acclaimed debut was another favourite of mine - The Eye of the North came out early last year. This new book will be published on the 7th February 2019 by Stripes Publishing. The book cover is very appealing and captivating; it certainly catches your attention on the bookshelf. This has been brillantly illustrated by Sara Mulvanny who is a talented and renowned illustrator. If you want to read more about her then check out the Q&A we did HERE

Unlike many other books, the prologue gained my attention very quickly. It sets up the story brilliantly enabling the reader to become enraptured with the story instantly. It certainly encouraged me to read further with ease and interest which is something that I don't always find with other books.

The story is very imaginative as it pulls the fantasty silk threads into a sense of mystery. The reader is left constantly asking questions as to what lies ahead, how situations will be resolved and the characters' intentions etc. These provide the reader with an active role in the book rather than being a passive bystander within the narrative.

This magical adventure is about parallel words and highlighting all of the possibilities that might lie within. The book features a brilliant cast of characters including orphan Tess and her pet tarantula as they embark on an adventure like no other. The relationship between them is very interesting as it adds humour and fun whilst also exploring the feelings that Tess experiences through their dialogue. It was both lighthearted yet touching as she tries to navigate her way through life and the tangled web that she finds herself in.

I easily designated five stars to this book as I thoroughly enjoyed it. The blend of science-fiction and time travel through the expoloration of parallel universes was engaging and thrilling. There was a real contrast between the dark elements within the story (e.g. loneliness and grief) in comparison to the love and warmth portrayed by some of the characters. It has been very well written with some fantastic plot ideas that are perhaps not overly used at the moment, especially for the intended audience age (8-12).

I would love to be able to read more from this author and to join these characters on another adventure. Hopefully, this book stages the possibility of opening other doors and staging a fantastic series ahead.

Author Website:

Friday, 2 February 2018

Sinéad O’Hart - The Eye of the North - Q&A Interview with Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books has taken this fantastic opportunity, in the run-up to the publication of The Eye of the North, to ask Irish author Sinéad O’Hart about her debut book. The book will be published in the UK by Stripes Publishing on the 8th Feb 2018. It's a brilliant middle-grade fantasy - please check out my book review HERE

Thank you Sinéad for taking the time to answer some questions about the book. This interview takes a brilliant LOOK AT the book and gives you a great insight into the author and her writing. I hope this interview peaks your interest and makes you add this title to your reading pleasure. 

How would you sum up The Eye of the North to potential readers? 
The Eye of the North is a story about Emmeline, a girl with no friends, and a boy with no name who calls himself Thing as they are thrown headfirst into a mystery which threatens the entire world. They must learn to trust and rely on one another, and on the people around them (something neither of them has had much experience of) as they race to the frozen North to stop an ancient evil from being unleashed. It’s a story about friendship and loyalty, love and bravery, and doing whatever it takes to save the people closest to you – with added peril, mythical monsters and scary witches made of ice! 

What element are you most proud of in this book? Is there anything that you would change? 
I am proud of many things in The Eye of the North, but I think I’m proudest of Emmeline as a character. She’s anxious, cautious, suspicious and introverted (for reasons which are explained in the book), and it takes a while for the depth of her love for her family and her commitment to Thing to really come to the fore. She’s a bit atypical of what you’d expect from a main character, particularly a girl, and I wrote her like that purposefully. I wouldn’t change a thing about her – and I’m pretty happy with the book overall! There are a couple of typos, but hopefully nobody will spot those but me… 

Do you have any tips about writing convincing characters? 
I love characters who go against type – girls who are rebellious and scientific, inventors and explorers and the hero of their own story, and boys who are emotional, loving, kind and generous. None of that takes away from their strength, but instead deepens their character and makes them more interesting. My tips for writing convincing characters would be: make them unexpected, because that will make them seem more real and fully rounded; give them flaws as well as strengths, because nobody in real life is all one thing or another, and finally: let them speak to you. If a character wants to go in a particular direction, then let them – and see where it takes you! 

Which actor would you like to see play the lead character from your book? 
I don’t get to watch much TV or go to the cinema these days; I have a young child, so leisure time is a bit of a premium! As a result, I’m out of touch with the young actors and actresses of today. I imagine Emmeline as a twelve-year-old girl with dark eyes, light brown skin, long dark curly hair, and – as the book describes it – a ‘know-it-all nose’, and Thing as a boy of around the same age or a little older with blue eyes, pale skin and longish, messy dark hair which sticks up and out in an unruly fashion. If you know any good actors who fit the part, I’m all ears! 

Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process? 
For me, certainly it does – I am a sucker for an eye-catching cover, particularly well-designed lettering and typeface. I love both the covers which have been created for The Eye of the North, and I’m particularly pleased that they’re so different! I love the artist Jeff Nentrup’s 
imagining of Emmeline and Thing on the US cover, published by Knopf in 2017, and I adore Sara Mulvanny’s illustrative cover for the UK edition (Stripes Publishing, 2018), particularly the fact that she included the dogsled team which plays such an important role in the story. I really do think a good cover can do a huge amount to get a book from the shelf into a reader’s hand; cover design is definitely an art, and I have huge admiration for anyone who can get it just right. 

I have read that you love churches, graveyards and, antiques, do these influence your writing in any way? 
Yes! I do. I love visiting old churches, reading inscriptions on gravestones and learning about the past, and poking about in antique shops. I have a love for history and all things to do with ages gone by, which includes a love for mythology and folklore. That love of old stories certainly played a role in the writing of The Eye of the North, as it is filled with details and influences from all the old myths and tales I love. 

This is your debut book, what did you learn from writing it? 
That’s a big question. From writing this book, I learned it’s possible to have a dream come true, and from the process of having it published I learned that making a dream come true takes more work than I could have imagined. I learned to trust my inner voice, to allow my characters the space to do what they want, and that if I reach a point where I simply can’t write, that sometimes it means my brain is trying to stop me going down the wrong path, and not that I’m lazy or unmotivated. I also learned that sometimes, getting exactly what you’ve dreamed of and worked hard for can be scary, unexpected and overwhelming – but that it’s always worth it. 

Where is your favourite place to write? 
These days, I write wherever I can! I write with my laptop perched on my knees on the sofa or balanced on the kitchen worktop, after my little one goes to bed or whenever I can get someone else to distract her for a few minutes. I have a home office, too, but getting to use that is a real pleasure! 

How important are stories to you? What do you like to read? 
Stories are almost as important to me as breathing. I’ve been reading since I was very young, and it’s my favourite thing to do. I like it even more than writing, I think, though they do tend to go hand in hand! I like to read children’s books, primarily, and that’s been the case for over twenty years. When I read a book not specifically aimed at children, I like fantasy, historical novels, science fiction, and magical realism. Some of my favourite authors are Angela Carter, John Connolly, Jeanette Winterson, Ursula le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Bell, Catherine Fisher, Diana Wynne Jones, Abi Elphinstone, Frances Hardinge, Philip Pullman, J.R. Wallis, Dave Rudden and Jonathan Stroud – but there are so many others, and I’m always discovering more.

Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
I have always found to be useful and informative, and – like everyone – I love the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and its associated website ( I also think it’s great that literary agencies have their own websites with tips, hints, manuscript wishlists, submission instructions and many other gems. My own agency – – has a fab Question and Answer section which is full of useful information. I also love to make use of my own blog ( and to follow other writers’ blogs, as I think sharing the process of writing for publication can be really helpful for others who want to follow in your footsteps. Writers on the road to publication can be very honest about the highs and lows of the journey, and they’re always worth following.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Sinéad O’Hart - The Eye of the North - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Book Review

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Siegfried Bauer, who is bound for the ice fields of Greenland. There he hopes to summon a mystical creature from the depths of the ancient glaciers, a creature said to be so powerful that whoever controls it can control the world. Unfortunately, Bauer isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The North Witch has laid claim to the mythical beast, too, and Emmeline—along with a scrappy stowaway named Thing—may be the only one with the power to save the world as we know it. Can Emmeline face one of the greatest legends of all time—and live to tell the tale?

Sinéad O’Hart’s brilliant debut 'The Eye of the North’ will be published on the 8th February 2018 by Stripes publishing UK. The cracking book cover has been fantastically designed by the talented illustrator Sara MulvannyWhat do you think of the cover art? The US Knopf book cover is also at the bottom of the post. Which one do you like the most?

This is an early review for the UK, but the book has already been published in the US by Knopf Books for Young Readers on the 22nd August 2017.

For as long as she could remember, Emmeline Widget had been sure that her parents were trying to kill her. The opening of the book has a really unhappy Lemony Snicket feel about it. It really depicts a desperately sad and difficult situation. As a result, the main character (Emmeline) is dragged into an adventure with a satchel full of unhappiness, loneliness, and sadness but true fighting spirit. This really drives the narrative into a frenzy of arctic winter action that will have you on tenterhooks all the way through. 

The author has a good grasp of imagination that will keep the middle-grade audience hooked and is perfectly pitched, in my opinion. There is a great balance of action drama and character dialogue. I loved the imperfections of the characters in the book. 'Thing' was my favourite character; his resourcefulness, spiritedness, and impulsive actions brought drama and humour into the story. He really brought emotion and feeling into an adventure-packed story. 

This is a fantastic amalgamation of old fairy tales cleverly intertwined with creative fantasy imagination. The only problem I had with this book was the ending. I think this was due to the author weaving too many character story threads into the main story and then trying to fit them all neatly into the end of the book. In my opinion, sometimes keeping it simple/focused is the best way in this style of book. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the book itself as I loved every page of it. 

This book is a winter explosion, a brilliant storm of mythical beasts and creative characters. It is a boat ride of inventiveness and sleigh ride of craziness should appeal to every reader under the Arctic sun. A great spirited adventure that delivers a glacier full of courage in order to save the day. This is a book that you will want to read and will really enjoy doing so. 

Sinéad O’Hart’ lives in County Meath, near Dublin with her husband and their daughter. She has a degree in Medieval Studies. a PhD in Old and Middle English Language and Literature and can read Middle English with perfect fluency. The Eye of the North is Sinéad’s first book. You can find out more by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter.