Monday, 18 August 2014

Emma Dodd interview

In celebration of Emma's latest book, The Entertainer, I had the pleasure of asking her some 'entertaining' questions about her new book and her career as an author & illustrator.

Emma was brought up near London, England. He parents were both designers and from as far back as she can remember she wanted to be an illustrator. Emma studied Graphic Design and Illustration at Central Saint Martin's School of Art, London, and has worked in advertising, editorial and book illustration.

She was nominated for the Booktrust Early Years Award in 2006 for her book "What Pet to Get" and in 2009 for "Miaow said the Cow". Emma lives with her husband and two children and their Jack Russel Terrier, Bart, who keeps her fit and provides inspiration.

BWB: The Entertainer turns out to be a birthday party that hasn't quite gone to plan. Have you experienced any disasterous birthday parties?

ED: I have indeed! I can't go into too much detail as it involved people who I still know, but let's just say, it was a joint 6th Birthday party and it did not go to plan. Whilst a bear did not actually turn up instead of the children's entertainer, by the end of the party it looked as if one had! The experience was one of the main inspirations behind "The Entertainer".

BWB: What would be your ideal party?

ED: I love holding parties. My ideal party would on a small Cornish beach, with all my favourite people, candles, a big fire, lovely food and a fabulous sunset followed by a warm, clear starry night.
In the end though, the most important ingredient for a great party is the people you love.

BWB: Chocolate birthday cake, yay or nay?

ED: Yay! Of course!

BWB: Who's your favourite entertainer?

ED: Well I just saw 'Elbow' in concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall, and their lead singer, Guy Garvey, takes some beating. Last year at the Edinburgh Fringe I saw 'The Boy With Tape on His Face' and he was wonderful too. Two on my top nights out, ever.

BWB: Which fictional bear would you invite into your home?

ED: I think it would have to be Pooh Bear, and I hope he would bring Piglet too.

BWB: Do you have a party trick?

ED: I can eat my own body weight in crisps and peanuts. Does that count?

BWB: How do you juggle (no pun intended) all your projects?

ED: I've got very good at juggling projects, but it has taken practice. Once I've delivered my children safely to school I always start my day by walking my dog, Buzz.

Then it's down to work. To work at home you have to be very self disciplined. I hardly move from my desk until it's time to collect the children and I usually manage another couple of hours in the evening. As for working on different projects simultaneously, I love that!  I find it keeps me interested and hopefully keeps my work fresh and exciting.

BWB: You have illustrated over 40 books. Which one are you most proud of?

ED: Gosh, that's a difficult question. I am very proud of "The Entertainer" because it makes people laugh. I am also proud of my foil book series, including "Me" and "Forever". They are very close to my heart because they are about the love I have for my children and sometimes they make people cry!  My book "I Love Bugs" is also one of my favourites and I must say that the "I Love You" books by Giles Andreae have been such fun to work on that I'm rather proud of them too. Is that too much pride? I hope not.

BWB: Early in your career you also worked in advertising and editorial. Did you find the transition to children's publishing an easy one?

ED: When I first left college I took my portfolio around to as many newspapers, magazines and agencies as I could. The deadlines were always very tight, but it was an excellent way to learn my trade.

I had a lucky break with a publisher which allowed me the even luckier break of finding my children's literary agent, Eunice McMullen, who has been a tremendous help in my career. I always listen carefully to her advice and I owe a huge amount to her. For a long time I divided my time equally between children's books and editorial illustration. Now most of my work is in children's publishing and my deadlines are much more manageable and rather more conducive to family life. When I started illustrating picture books, I knew that I had found the perfect job for me.

BWB: Can you tell us about your creative process?

ED: Well, I suspect that my family and close friends would tell you that I slightly chaotic and that I go through labour pains at the beginning of a project; the ideas stage. Once I'm up and running I really love it, but I do need a deadline to give me the impetus to do my best work. When I reach the end of a book, I worry that I will never have another idea again, and then...pop... something with spring into my head, as if it's been lurking in my subconscious mind, waiting for the right moment. Amazing really!

BWB: Who's been the biggest influence on your work?

ED: My parents are both artists and I grew up surrounded by drawing, painting and inspiration of all kinds. They were very supportive of my early career and a huge influence.. Then there are illustrators whose work I loved in my childhood; Peter Firman, Gerald Rose, Brian Wildsmith, John Burningham to name but a few. Finally, my children and a huge influence and a great source of inspiration.

BWB: Which writer (or illustrator) would you most like to collaborate with?

ED: Well I already have an excellent collaboration with Giles Andreae, who is a bit of a genius, so that is fantastic. I've also worked and am working with author K A Gerrard who is a dear friend of mine and whose words make me laugh. Something I rather fancy doing is writing a picture book for somebody else to illustrate; ideally somebody whose work is very different to mine.  It would be interesting to see what they did with my words. Perhaps that will happen one day, who knows?

Thank you Emma for a bearillant interview! And thank you to Ellen for setting this all up! To see more of Emma's work visit her website and follow her on twitter. Emma's latest book, The Entertainer, is out now in all good bookshops and to buy online

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