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.
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!