A publication that is on the verge of its release in collaboration with author Steff F. Kneff and illustrator Luke Spooner. Let’s find out a little more about ‘Emlyn and the Gremlin’.
First things first, what is the title of the book?
The title of the book is ‘Emlyn and the Gremlin.’ There were a few ‘should we use the ampersand’ debates between the author and the editor based on which option would be more friendly when it came to people using search engines but that’s how it ended up so that’s how it is. I’m not complaining though because ‘and the’ is far more visually interesting to me and it’s a very little known fact that I can’t physically write an ‘&’ symbol without having my dexterity regress back to that of a two year old with their eyes closed.
How did the collaboration with Evolved Publishing come about and how have you felt the process has gone?
Wow, big question… Well the collaboration with Evolved came about mainly through luck – I had recently had two of my own children’s books published by a UK publisher which had also allowed me the ability to finally launch my more ‘child-friendly’ portfolio. This new portfolio, I was hoping, would offer a sort of counter balance to my original, very dark, portfolio that I get the majority of my work through and present me as more of a multi-faceted illustrator rather than just ‘the guy that draws dark stuff’. So off I went, trawling the internet for new, exciting children’s book opportunity, shaking the internet as hard as I could and rummaging through anything and everything that fell into my lap and that’s when I found Evolved Publishing, a publisher that was covering a multitude of genres with what looked to be considerable ease but whom I also noticed had a great catalogue of children’s books as long as your arm.
I initially wasn’t going to get in touch with them because I was afraid of having my humble little, practically new born portfolio, being ripped apart by people with far more experience and credibility in this particular field. So I had a stern talk with myself, covered my eyes and clicked send on an email introducing myself to them and waited, but not for long as they replied, I think, within a day. I didn’t really have time to get seriously worried about what they’d say and I went on to let out a huge sigh of relief when they not only proved themselves to be lovely folks – but also confirmed their interest in me as an illustrator. Obviously I was over the moon but then further down the email they also stated they had a project ready to go that they thought I’d be perfect for.
Everything started happening very quickly after that which in hindsight should’ve been expected given their vast back catalogue – no one gets that sort of portfolio by sitting around twiddling their thumbs all day, but the work pace and load was something I relished because I love having a constant stream of things to do and this project certainly had me covered in that respect. I think what else makes it easier is that the author and I get on like a house on fire – Steff is very open to both suggestion and feedback, easy to contact and is an author and college lecturer in her own right with numerous publications to her name exploring similar issues to those in Emlyn and The Gremlin, so it allows your mind to rest a little easier knowing that if she raises an issue then her point is more than justified by her experience and background.
How would you describe the characters within the book and their story?
The characters of this book are surprisingly varied for a children’s book and aren’t what you’d consider ‘cookie cutter’ models or archetypes. Every one of them has a depth that in turn makes them very interesting but the story is one that most people can relate to on a number of levels. Perhaps what is most unique about this book and its’ characters is also the most understated aspect of the entire narrative: Emlyn is a child from an ‘alternative family lifestyle,’ in this case – she has two mothers, but rather than shove it in a reader’s face and make it the point around which the whole story pivots – the story merely mentions it as a fact relating to the titular character and her back story and carries on.
You often find that when a narrative involves something slightly less common like same sex parenting it becomes so exaggerated that it borders on being a gimmick, and although Steff and I have never openly discussed it – I’m sure she’d agree that when a story reaches that point then it will have lost any sense of meaning or credibility in the eyes of an educated reader and in turn becomes a very shallow portrayal of it’s original message.
What can we expect to feel from the book?
Emlyn is a young girl that is essentially convinced that someone or something is sneaking into her room at night and moving her possessions about, playing with her toys and just being a general nuisance. Her parents don’t believe her and seem to chalk it up to kids being kids but despite this she eventually comes to the conclusion that a Gremlin – in this case a small, pixie like being as opposed to the green hellion you see in films and comic books, is the perpetrator and the story goes from there. Just from that simple beginning we have the main character exploring that age old feeling of isolation, the kind that creeps into the hearts and minds of people when they are convinced of a truth that others won’t even entertain, but that is merely a platform from which to jump into the rest of the story.
As the story progresses we explore ‘secrecy,’ ‘friendship,’ ‘forgiveness’ and hopefully by the end – ‘understanding.’ What will hopefully really drive these themes and messages home in a way both children and adults can appreciate is the very ‘Dr. Seuss’ style rhyming pattern, but I guess we’ll have to wait until release to see what people really take away from it.
Where did your inspiration come from when creating and illustrating the publication?
I’ve never actually discussed the inspiration for how I created the characters but it’s a fair question to ask as these characters are clearly different in both style and tone to anything else in my more child friendly portfolio so therefore should have roots in something fairly unique. For this project I watched a lot of Studio Ghibli films, I say ‘watched’ but it was more a case of going back over my personal collection of those films with a huge smile on my face and a sketchbook and pencil in my hands. This studio in particular have a very unique way of showing very grown up problems from a child’s eye view, and aren’t afraid to verge on the fantastical as a way to convey what that child is thinking should the moment call for it. They manage to do all of this whilst at the same time retaining that almost ‘fairytale sheen’ of innocence and imagination which is not only a very tough balance to strike but also hallmark some of the most time honoured stories we tell children today.
Emlyn and the Gremlin will be available for you to purchase on the 20th July (oh so close) so make sure you keep a check of the following link online, Amazon and Barnes & Noble!