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Guest Author - Harriet Muncaster

Out of the four books in the Isadora Moon collection, which did you enjoy writing the most and why?

I loved writing Isadora Moon goes camping because I envisaged her going to the campsite that I used to go to as a child so the whole book has a nice atmosphere for me. Also I think I found it the funniest to write because of Dad’s exploits. My second favourite to write was the Ballet one.
 

What do you aspire to have achieved in 10 years?

I hope to still be working as an illustrator and author and I hope to have written a longer book for teenagers. I have had an idea for a teenage book I want to write for years, I just need to find some time to actually write it!


Do any books that you read when you were a child inspire your work now?

I loved the Dorrie books by Patricia Coombs. They are still my favourite books to date. I love the atmosphere in them and the limited colour palette in the illustrations.


What advice would you give to a young, budding illustrator?

Work hard and persevere. Also, I found my MA in Children’s book illustration at Cambridge School of Art invaluable. I would recommend it to anyone wanting a career in illustration.


What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt in your years of being a children’s book illustrator?

I find I always create much better work if I give myself space and time to create something I am really passionate about, without worrying about who will look at it. I like to get the whole thing pretty much formed. Either write the whole book, or draw out the whole dummy book. THEN I take it to a publisher/show my agent. I find I am always so much more satisfied with my work when I do it this way rather than just taking what I feel is a ‘good idea’ to a publisher and working with them to create something.
 

Where did the inspiration for Isadora Moon come from?

There is actually quite a bit of history behind Isadora Moon. About ten years ago, on my art foundation course, I created a character called Victoria Stitch and wrote and illustrated a picture book about her. She was a grown up, naughty, slightly gothic, fairy type character and she had a Pink Rabbit who she always dragged around with her. Victoria Stitch became like my alter ego and I always kept her close to me and worked on her in my spare time. Over the years she evolved. She started with pink hair and then she turned even more gothic looking with black, messy hair and with batwings instead of fairy wings. As my style of illustration changed, she changed too. She is extremely special to me. However, whenever I showed Victoria Stitch to publishers I was always told that she was ‘too mean,’ ‘too naughty,’ ‘too spiky,’ ‘not child friendly.’ Looking back I can see what they mean. Victoria Stitch would not have suited a picture book, she was more suited to a teenage book. The only thing about writing a teenage book though was that I would lose the illustration. At this point I was drawing Victoria Stitch in all black and pink and I thought it looked really good. I decided to create a new, separate character who would be more suitable for children but with the black/pink/gothic aesthetics of Victoria Stitch - a younger, friendlier, sweeter version. So Isadora Moon was born! I thought long and hard about whether to give Isadora Moon Victoria Stitch’s Pink Rabbit and in the end I did. And I am glad I did! I also gave Isadora Moon fangs (unlike Victoria Stitch) as when I started to think about the backstory for her (why she has batwings, what species is she etc…) it made sense that her mum was a fairy and her dad was a vampire. This is why Isadora Moon is so special to me – because she was born out of a real passion project of mine. I absolutely adore her.
 

Out of all of the characters you’ve created do you have a favourite?

Out of my published characters: Isadora Moon! I absolutely love her and her world so much!

 

Recently you visited the school you attended as a young girl how did that feel and did it bring back any particular memories?

Well if I’m honest it reminded me that I am glad not to be at school anymore! I hated having to do subjects like maths and science because all I wanted to do was art and write stories. I loved leaving school to do my art foundation course because suddenly I was able to do art all day every day. It felt amazing. I didn’t particularly enjoy being a child/going to school etc full stop (even though it was a very nice school!) I found it restrictive. I much prefer being an adult and being able to do whatever I want.
 

Who was your favourite author growing up?

I didn’t have a specific favourite author (apart from loving the Dorrie books by Patricia Coombs) but I loved anything that had fairies in it or witches or magic. I loved Diana Wynne Jones. I loved The Mennym books by Sylvia Waugh. I loved all the Moomin books by Tove Jansson. Peter Pan by J. M Barrie. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. There are many more who could be added to that list. I read loads of books growing up.


Who is your favourite author now?

Again, there’s too many to choose from! I read a book last year, which I completely fell in love with called Anita by Keith Roberts. It’s become one of my favourite books. It’s about a teenage witch.

 

Find out more about Harriet at...

victoriastitch.blogspot.co.uk/

@H_Muncaster