We are delighted to be part of the blog tour for Sun. And our stop today features a very special Q&A with the author and illustrator, Sam Usher.
As much as I love this beautiful picture book I also know that the best people to conduct this interview are the target audience. With this in mind I read Sun to a class of 5 and 6 year olds recently before giving them the task of thinking up some questions for Sam.
The children were really interested in how a picture book is made and how hard you have to work to make one. They also loved the illustrations and the adventures the boy has with his grandad. Here are the questions they came up with and I will hand over to Sam for his answers…
1. Why did you decide to write children’s books?
I didn’t. I just spent all my time at school drawing and being silly, and when the time came to get a job making children’s books was the only thing I’d learned how to do. If I don’t write children’s book I will starve to death.
2. Where do you get your ideas from?
Eavesdropping when I’m in a cafe.
Travelling about — I’m in Sicily at the moment, I might try and write a picturebook about the people I’ve met here, and all the ruins.
The places I live — the Grandad books are set in Primrose Hill, where I walked everyday when I lived in London.
History – I’m enjoying reading about the 18th century at the moment. And I like to steal ideas from other peoples’ books.
3. How long does it take to make a book and what time do you start and finish work every day?
It takes me about 3 or 4 months to write a book – I’m very slow – and one month to do the drawings. I start work at 9am, work til lunch, go for a walk in the afternoon, then work til supper time, eat some cheese, then work til midnight. I do that every single day of the year, apart from Christmas, or if I’m visiting friends.
4. What do you use to colour in your pictures and do you get anyone to help you?
I use paint called gouache. It’s made of things such as crushed up rocks, squashed beetles, mud and chalk. You mix it with water and splash it onto the page, which is very messy. The lines are made with ink and a scratchy nib. It takes about 10 goes to get a drawing right, and even then I sometimes don’t, and just hand it in anyway and hope no one notices.
5. When did you learn to colour in without going over the lines?
I still haven’t — but I practise everyday. One thing to be aware of is that you might never be happy with your pictures, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry on – not being happy with them means you’re always going to be improving, then one day, when you’re about 90 years old you might do a picture you’re pleased with and can retire.
6. What is the hardest type of weather to draw?
EVERYTHING! Everything is really difficult to draw. The worst thing to draw would be raining cats and dogs, as I hate drawing cats and dogs.
7. Did you have a grandad that you went on adventures with and what was your favourite adventure?
My grandfather took me up in his aeroplane when I was about 7. He let me steer it and I tried to do a loop-the-loop. Luckily the plane had two steering wheels and he took over, or we would probably have crashed into a tree.
8. Are any of the people in the pictures based on real people that you know?
Yes — the characters are all based on real people, but subconsciously. The Grandad is probably a mixture of David Attenborough, Alan Bennett, Quentin Blake, Peter Cook, a friend of mine, and what I hope I’m like when I’m older. I don’t know who the boy is based on – probably me when I was small. I often sneak friends and family in the background… Oh, and I snuck myself into the picnic scene.
Thank you so much to Sam for these wonderful answers! Some great advice about drawing and making pictures, the children loved to hear about making messy paintings with squashed beetles and mud too!
At the book launch for Sun Sam brought along his original artwork for the book. The paintings are even more impressive in real life and while I didn’t trust myself to touch them I did manage to take a few snaps…
You can read our review of this gorgeous picture book here – Sun by Sam Usher Acorn Books review.
Buy a copy for yourself from Waterstones.
Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour with these brilliant fellow book bloggers for more Sun based treats:
The Book Sniffer
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