Meet the Artist

I mentioned Kay de Garay in a post before Christmas. She is the talented artist who came up with the wonderful cover of my new book The Ghosts of Blackbottle Rock and saved me from a fate worse than stock library pictures.

After protracted negotiations between our agents and legal people, I managed to secure an interview with Kay.

It must have come as something of a surprise to be approached by a random stranger in a café to provide the artwork for a book cover!

Yes, it was a bit out of the blue!

Was it a straightforward task, or was there anything challenging about it?

Well, whenever you’re working to someone else’s brief your main concern is making sure you both understand each other’s expectations. Luckily, the photos I’d sourced of Cornish coastal towns for inspiration were exactly what you had envisaged. In fact, one of them was a location you’d actually visited, so I felt confident I was on the right track. We’d also discussed other book cover artists that you liked, which gave me a good direction to head in with my own style. The cover needed to hint at the spooky atmosphere of the story, as well as introducing the three main characters. I wanted it to have a dynamic composition that draws the eye in and hopefully engages and encourages the viewer to pick up the book.


You have written a very striking and original book of your own. What’s the story behind that, and have you any plans to follow it up with another?

The Mischievous Magpie is an illustrated short story about a magpie with the extraordinary power to sniff out precious jewels using her enchanted beak, which unfortunately lands her in some trouble! It’s available on Kindle here. It came about simply as a challenge to myself to have the courage to put something out there into the world. I love writing and illustrating stories that have a magical element to them, so I do have other projects in the making, all with a fantastical twist!

Tell me a bit about your art background and the kind of work you are drawn to.

I studied Fine Art at Uni and have always been most drawn to narrative artworks. This can range anywhere from the high drama of a Caravaggio, to the romanticism of the Pre-Raphaelites. However, being a lover of fairy tales and mythology, one of my biggest soft spots is for illustrators from the Golden Age of Illustration such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac & Kay Nielsen. As a fan of narrative art, I also hugely enjoy modern graphic novel artists, such as Dave McKean for his work on Neil Gaiman’s stories, Sana Takeda on Marjorie Liu’s Monstress and Tyler Crook’s work on Harrow County.


The Mischievous Magpie


Is there a particular medium you prefer working in?

I prefer to work in mixed media with watercolours, pencils, pastels and ink.

What are your artistic dreams and goals?

I want what every creative person wants – to be able to be creative all day, every day and get paid vast sums of money for it! 


The Ghosts of Blackbottle Rock is of course a children’s novel. What books or type of books did you most enjoy reading as a child? Do any particularly stand out in your memory?

My book choices as a child were very much fantasy adventures. I loved the escapism and freedom of journeying through fantastical worlds with magical creatures and characters. My favourite was Children of Magic Moon by Wolfgang Hohlbein. I also loved anything by Roald Dahl, especially Matilda and his poetry collections Dirty Beasts and Revolting Rhymes.

If you could travel back in time to illustrate the cover for any book, children’s or adults’, what would it be?!

It would have to be Alice in Wonderland! It would be so much fun to play on all the surreal story elements, not just for the cover, but for the whole book!

Thanks very much, Kay, and good luck with your future projects!

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Just down the aisle from the vanishing cream…


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I can see the problem here…

It’s clearly an American lift (okay – elevator)



















In England the last line would, of course, be ‘Groundth Floor’.

(Courtesy Analytical Grammar.)

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Merry Christmas

To all in the Land of Blog!

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Sorry for the delay in posting…

But I had to rush off to my local bed shop






It turned out to be a trip full of disappointment and frustration, although I must say there was no need for the saleswoman to be so abrupt. She wasn’t my type anyway.

(Courtesy Analytical Grammar)

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It is for charity after all, and though I’m not in as good shape as I’d like to be I might actually win something for once…








But what if they set more than one on me at once? What if they’re teens – some of them are pretty big these days. I’m up for it, but I need more details before I can commit to it.

(Courtesy Analytical Grammar)



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It’s Here!

My latest international best seller (possibly): The Ghosts of Blackbottle Rock.

On my very first holiday in Polruan, on the south coast of Cornwall, I was watching the boats go by when I spotted a shop owner going into the store room in a secluded area at the back of his shop in what seemed to me to be a furtive manner. It was all in my imagination (see yesterday’s post about thinking like a writer); he was simply going to get more goods for his shelves. I fell in love with the area and went back many times, and he turned out to be a perfectly nice completely unfurtive man.

But at the time it set a chain of thought going: a family heirloom which was a clue to a suspicious shipwreck involving his ancestor, and restless spirits. All that and more eventually resulted in this book.

A young boy, struggling to come to terms with the loss of his mother and his father’s new girlfriend, takes my place as the person spotting the suspicious activity. He eventually teams up with two local children to investigate the both the man and how he is linked to some spooky activity in an empty old house he is seen visiting in the dead of night.

Kay De Garay

I would like to make a special mention here regarding the artist who provided the wonderful, striking cover picture. I do a lot of my writing in my favourite cafe, and I had noticed her beavering away with sketch pads etc so since I wasn’t keen on the publisher’s idea of using a stock photo for the cover, I rather cheekily approached her and explained my predicament. She kindly and readily agreed to come up with something. It was a serendipitous event, because not only is the picture she produced wonderfully atmospheric and eye-catching, but, in keeping with the spooky nature of the book, it is uncannily how I had envisaged the cover should look (only better!).

It’s out today in print and electronic format, published by Our Street Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing, and of course available from Amazon and elsewhere.

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