To celebrate the release of Poppy Pickle, I had the chance to explore the HUGE imagination of author & illustrator, Emma Yarlett.
BWB: Were you a child with a vivid imagination?
EY: I was indeed, and this imaginative streak was always most evident in my creativity. I’ve always been a bit of a ‘maker’, whether it be making up a game to play with friends on the spot, making things with my hands or sketching out made-up worlds… I was always imagining. I also always had a bit of a vivid imagination at less useful times though, namely when imagining scarecrows lurking at the bottom of the stairs at nighttime… Not quite such a fun experience. And these days I still can’t look at a scarecrow without shivering!
BWB: Any imaginary friends?
EY: Disappointingly I never did! I remember deciding multiple times that I would have an imaginary friend, but found I got far too involved in the creative process of imagining them into being, drawing them, thinking of their likes and dislikes etcetera etcetera! So much so that when it came to actually doing whatever you do with imaginary friends, I was already bored of them and ready for the next thing!
BWB: Did you run into any problems whilst creating the book?
EY: A big fat resounding YES! Pinning down the storyline was a bit of a headache as the story is both imaginative and based on imagination, so there were absolutely NO parameters. And that meant that there were so many possibilities to where young Poppy Pickle could go on her adventures. With much patience from my publisher and numerous drafts, we finally made it after having to put in some necessary boundaries for the storyline so as to keep it under some mild illusion of constraint!
BWB: What was the main fuel behind the idea?
EY: Chocolate. And lot’s of it. Aside from that, the fuel was a need to tell Poppy Pickle’s story. Once Poppy and her dilemma/special power (of having such a huge imagination that it begins to overflow) had arrived in my brain that was it. I felt it was a story that was jumping up and down shouting “tell me!” in my head, so much so that I couldn’t resist getting it down on paper.
BWB: This is your third title with Templar, can we expect more great titles in the future?
EY: Indeed! Ideas are already scurrying in my sketchbook and nesting into little pockets of stories.
BWB: If you could imagine yourself anywhere in the world where would that be?
EY: Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Aside from the high risk of falling into chocolate rivers/swelling into a blue berry, I couldn’t think of anywhere more brilliant! But if you’re after a real place (although who says imaginary places aren’t real?) probably New York. I’ve only been once, but it captured my heart and soul.
BWB: Will we see Poppy again?
EY: When she’s calmed down from her over excitement of having a story about her published… I think there is definite potential for her to go on another adventure….
BWB: You mentioned in a recent interview that you tested out an early draft of Poppy Pickle on a class of school children. Would you use this method again?
EY: I did indeed! And how frightening it was. But never before have I seen a group of kids laughing so hard at me, without having done something rather silly. After having such a good experience of doing this the first time around, I think I would definitely try it out again. However, some books really lend themselves to being a bit of a crowd pleaser, Poppy Pickle being one of them. Others of my books go down better when they are read on their own, or one-to-one… so I would have to bear that in mind when deciding whether to take the plunge!
BWB: Poppy Pickle is a very colourful book. Did you use any techniques to capture the vividness of Poppy’s imagination or was it just experimenting to see what worked?
EY: There was lots of thinking and lots of experimenting. However the ‘look’ of her imagination, with all it’s stars and swirls came together far quicker in comparison to the ‘look’ of her imagined friends. Many conversations were had between my art director and I. I think we slightly lost the plot somewhere along the way, but we finally decided on having her imagined creatures having a two dimensional look made from collaging brightly coloured textured papers. This means that they sort of sit brightly and flatly within Poppy Pickle’s three dimensional room- almost as if cartoons have flung themselves of the television screen into real life; slightly akin to when in Disney’s Mary Poppins, Mary and Burt find themselves surrounded by cartoon penguins.
Q10. If you could imagine anything real right now what would it be?
EY: You’ve caught me when I’m feeling rather hungry- hence many of my references to chocolate in this interview! So I would have to say that I would imagine a wonderful steak and sweet potato chips into existence. Perhaps it could sit on a magical Harry Potter-esque refilling plate? Yum.
Thanks to Emma and Stephanie at Templar for this superb interview. Poppy Pickle is available to buy next month.