As part of the Reading Rocks blog tour, I got to ask the wonderful Alison Brown some pressing questions about her new picture book Mighty Mo and her life as an author/illustrator.
Alison grew up in Bangor, Northern Ireland. She learned to draw by copying cartoon strips from her comics and her father's newspapers. She studied Fine Art at Liverpool John Moores University and Goldsmiths College, London, and worked as a designer in an advertising agency before beginning a full-time career in children's books. Mighty Mo is her second picture book for Little Tiger Press.
Q1. In your latest book, Mighty Mo, you have chosen a Raccoon as the main character. Was there a reason for this, or was it all down to the fact that Racoons look like they wear superhero masks?
I really wanted to write a story about a raccoon and a burglar, because I loved their matching "masks". From the beginning, I knew I wanted my main character to be a raccoon, but I didn't see him at first as a superhero. There was a point in the story development where Mo might have inadvertently turned to burglary - luckily he took the right path!
Q2. In Mighty Mo, not finding what you're good at is a big part of the story. Is this something you have personally experienced?
Yes, I very much wanted to be good at acting. At school, I managed to get a part as one of the horde of villagers in "The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew". On opening night, I made my grand entrance by tripping on the steps and falling over! For the next production I joined the stage crew and discovered that they had much more fun.
Q3. If you could be any Superhero, who would you be?
Being a shy, retiring type, I'd love to say Dangermouse, but I'm probably more of a Penfold!
Q4. How long did Mighty Mo take to illustrate?
About nine months altogether. The final illustrations in acrylic and pencil took about about three months, the previous six months were taken up by many, many rewrites and redraws!
Q5. Any plans for a series of Mighty Mo books? (maybe that nasty burglar Big Ron could return for revenge?)
Ooh, Big Ron isn't really nasty - he's just misguided! I'd love to write a sequel to Mighty Mo, but I think Mo should persuade Big Ron to change his ways.
Q6. What inspires you to write your stories?
I like to wander about - aimlessly, some might say, but for me there are strange and funny things going on all around. I make mental notes, and later put real notes and drawings in my sketchbook. They sit there for months and even years, until one day I look back at them and they spark off an idea. I also get lots of inspiration from books, films, music and most definitely my family!
Q7. All your books have animals feature in them, do you have a favourite animal that you like to illustrate?
I seem to find myself drawn to animals with pointy noses...dogs, wolves, raccoons and all kinds of rodents. I think this is because I can give their faces character without making them too cute. I like to express emotion in my illustrations through body language and gestures, so I like characters with fingers and toes. Winged and hoofed things are more challenging, although in "Mighty Mo" I cheated and give Warty the hairdresser hands, so that he could hold his scissors!
Q8. You have created books with other people as well as your own, which do you prefer doing and what's next in the pipeline?
Writing and illustrating is harder work in the earlier stages. I work on the words and pictures at the same time, and this makes the process a bit like one of those sliding square puzzles; changing one element can mean rethinking everything else! However it is fantastic to create a character and develop their story from start to finish.
On the other hand, When I illustrate a text for another author, the first stage is easy. I get a big rush of excitement the first time I see the text, and can't wait to get started. The hard work comes later in getting the final artwork just right.
My next book to be published is called "Snow Bear", a lovely, heartwarming tale by the poet and writer Tony Mitton. I've just handed over the final artwork for it, and now it's time to start developing all the ideas that have been brewing while I've been painting!
Thank you Alison for your time and for your wonderful answers! Mighty Mo is available to buy online from Little Tiger and from your local bookshop.