Questions for Illustrators

Mum Me and the Mulberry Tree

Mum Me and the Mulberry Tree

There is already a really successful Author Interview series (about 50 so far and about 10 lined up, always looking for more 😉) here on the blog and I started thinking about one of the major contributors who often get overlooked when it comes to the book world.

Illustrators, from striking graphic designs for literary covers to full picture books lovingly illustrating the whole story, illustrators are right there at the heart of what pulls us into the a book.

2023 will see the start of an Illustrator Interview, a series of interviews with book/cover illustrators/artists and I’m just finalising a series of questions for this, if you’re interested please email me or use the contact form on the and we’ll get this kicked off.

I was thinking these could be the questions, any thoughts?

  • when did you know you wanted to become an illustrator?
  • how long does it typically take to make a page or cover for a book?
  • what’s your favourite piece of art equipment?
  • do you have a favourite colour scheme, if so what and why?
  • who were your inspirations when starting out?
  • do you have another job beside being an illustrator, if so what?
  • what do you do to overcome a creative block?
  • do you have a favourite piece in your portfolio, if so could you share it and talk about it?
  • what was your first book related project?
  • what type of media do you prefer to work in and why?
  • do you have a playlist you like working to? If so do you want to share it?
  • do you have any rituals when working?
  • do you have a favourite artist outside of the world of books, if so who and why?
  • did the books you read as a child influence your work?
  • has your illustration/art style changed over time?
  • how closely do you work with the author on developing the illustrations for a book?
  • if you could illustrate any classic book which would it be and why?
  • which illustrated books in the last year have you loved?
  • if you can please tell us about your latest project and if not your last project
  • do you have any events on in the near future?
A gallery of some great book covers

If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Indie Bookshops) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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Louise Morrish – Q&A

Louise Morrish

Louise Morrish

Louise Morrish is a Librarian whose debut novel won the 2019 Penguin Random House First Novel Competition. She finds inspiration for her stories in the real-life adventures of women in the past, whom history has forgotten. She lives in Hampshire with her family.

Louise can be found at:
Website: https://louisemorrish.com/
Twitter: @LouiseMorrish1
Instagram: @louisemorrish_books
Facebook: Louise Morrish
Mastodon: @LouiseMorrish@offworld.fedisonic.cloud

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

The genesis for Operation Moonlight came in 2018, when my friend Liz told me about a 110-year-old-woman she knew who was determined to become the oldest person in Britain (this lady now holds this record, btw). Her stalwart attitude reminded me of my late maternal grandmother, who was born in 1908 and survived two world wars, the 1918 flu epidemic, breast cancer and a bigamist first husband. I then discovered the incredible stories of the female secret agents in the Special Operations Executive, who risked their lives during the Second World War, and I began to think…what if a present day centenarian was hiding a very dark secret from the war, when she’d worked as an SOE agent…and from that spark, Operation Moonlight was born.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I spent about ten years trying to get a literary agent, receiving upwards of about 50 rejections. As a last resort, I entered the 2019 Penguin Random House Competition for unpublished authors. To my shock and delight, I won! I’m now represented by Luigi Bonomi of LBA Books, and my debut novel, Operation Moonlight, is published with Century, PRH.

How long did it take to write?

About 2 and a half years.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

Everyone has been so positive about the book, and I’ve had loads of people tell me that they learned so much about the Special Operations Executive. But my favourite reaction has to be from a woman who came to one of my library talks. She was in tears, and I was worried I’d upset her somehow. But in fact she was crying with happiness, as my story had reminded her of her late mother who had also served in the war.

What can you tell us about your next book?

I can’t say much, as nothing is set in stone yet. But what I can tell you is that it’s set in the First World War this time, and is inspired by two real women who achieved incredible things, but who have largely been forgotten.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I do still read them at the moment, but I may stop. Reviews aren’t for the authors to read, really.

Operation Moonlight

Operation Moonlight

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Yes, I’d love to write a contemporary novel, or a psychological thriller perhaps. But historical fiction is my true passion, so I’ll be writing that for the foreseeable.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’m a Librarian, and will always be a Librarian in some capacity, I hope. I currently manage a Secondary School Library part time, and I love my job.

Which author(s) inspire you?

So many! In my genre, I love Sarah Waters, Emma Donoghue, Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Atkinson, Robert Harris. Other writers I adore are Jess Kidd, Lissa Evans, Stephen King…there are many more…

Which genres do you read yourself?

Mainly Historical Fiction, but I also read all other genres, including Young Adult fiction for my job, Mysteries and Thrillers, and I love a good Comedy occasionally.

What will always distract you?

Social Media.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I can suggest design ideas, and I can say if I really don’t like something. But Penguin have the final say.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

The new indie bookshop in my home town – Goldfinch Books. It’s awesome, with a café and licensed bar, and such a cool, relaxing ambience. I’m starting a new book club there this month, and I can’t wait.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

I switch off my phone!

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

About 4000. I’m not kidding.

What is your current or latest read?

I’m reading Privilege by Guinevere Glasfurd. It’s set in the mid-18th Century and is all about books and their turbulent history.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

Loads! But I’m especially excited to read Emma Donoghue’s new novel, Learned by Heart, which is inspired by the life of Anne Lister.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Indie Bookshops) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Short Story a Day

Short Story Books

Short Story Books

I’ve always had a soft spot for a well written short story, the ones that pack a big punch into a small packet.

When I was growing up I used to raid my uncle’s collection of fantasy and horror stories and as I started getting into buying my own books found I was drawn to genre short stories the most.

Genre fiction has always felt like a natural area for the short story format due to the old prejudices of it not being an area for serious writing and the proliferation of magazines like Astounding Tales and such.

Science fiction, fantasy, crime, horror, and western saw reams being written for them and are still going strong even when now people appreciate that writing a well-crafted tale is the same whether fantasy or otherwise.

This has changed in recent years to see the acceptance and growth of the short story format in other areas of writing especially literary, and the discovery of short stories from around the world within the area of translated fiction

So as anyone who knows me must realise by now, I love the short story form, a lot and I thought it would be interesting to see if I could read a short story a day for a whole year…

The posts reviewing a short story would be a bit too big for Twitter and a bit too short for a blog post and was wondering what to do with them when I remembered that I have a Patreon and a Ko-Fi and since I really want to start using both a bit more Patreon is where the post will go when I have finished reading a short story and I’ll link to it from the book it’s in.

First of all there will be the obligatory page with a list of books I’ve already got to read from (in progress) and each book will get it’s own page on the blog, and the way I’m going to choose is to use a random number generator to choose the book and then read the next unread story until they are all read.

Below is the list of collections and anthologies so far, plus many more sci-fi, horror, and fantasy collections I got on the Kindle ages ago, and I’ll be adding more collections/anthologies to this list as I go along.

So the plan is to read a short story a day, write something about it on Patreon, and tweet about that post when I’ve finished, then the book’s blog page will link to all the Patreon posts that I’ve written.

If you have a favourite collection or anthology that I’ve missed why not let me know?

  1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  2. Asimov’s Science Fiction: April 2011
  3. Asimov’s Science Fiction: March 2011
  4. Asimov’s Science Fiction: February 2011
  5. Asimov’s Science Fiction: January 2011
  6. Asimov’s Science Fiction: December 2010
  7. Asimov’s Science Fiction: October 2021
  8. Asimov’s Science Fiction: September 2010
  9. Asimov’s Science Fiction: August 2010
  10. The Book of Newcastle: A City in Short Fiction
  11. Bloody Scotland: 10th Anniversary
  12. Conan Omnibus: The Young Swordsman
  13. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
  14. The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft: 67 Tales of Horror
  15. The Devil and the Giro: The Scottish Short Story
  16. The Devourer Below
  17. Dragon Lords and Warrior Women
  18. Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever
  19. famished
  20. The Fahrenheit Twins and Other Stories
  21. First Contact: Digital Science Fiction Anthology 1
  22. Fritz Leiber Super Pack #1
  23. Ghost Stories of Antiquity
  24. Ghost Stories of Antiquity Part 2: More Ghost Stories
  25. Ghost Tales, Volume 1
  26. Her Body and Other Parties
  27. Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories
  28. Household Tales
  29. Infinite Stars
  30. Infinities
  31. Isolation: The Horror Anthology
  32. The Kimota Anthology
  33. Kzine Issue 1
  34. Kzine Issue 2
  35. Kzine Issue 3
  36. Life Ceremony
  37. Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet
  38. The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories
  39. The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF
  40. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (20th Anniversary Edition)
  41. The Mammoth Book of Nebula Awards SF
  42. The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF
  43. The Mammoth Book of SF Short Stories by Women
  44. The Mammoth Book of SF Wars
  45. The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
  46. Menace of the Monster: Classic Tales of Creatures from Beyond
  47. Moonrise: The Golden Age of Lunar Adventure
  48. My Pen is the Wing of a Bird
  49. The New Abject
  50. New Suns
  51. Palestine +100: stories from a century after the Nakba
  52. Paper Cities
  53. Past the Borders: Collected Science Fiction
  54. The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories
  55. The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories
  56. Present at a Hanging and Other Ghost Stories
  57. The Road to Dune
  58. Robert E. Howard Ultimate Collection
  59. Salt Slow
  60. The Second Conan Omnibus: The Master Swordsman
  61. Some of the Best from Tor.com 2016 Edition
  62. Some of the Best from Tor.com 2019 Edition
  63. Some of the Best from Tor.com 2021 Edition
  64. Tales of Dune: Expanded Edition
  65. Tales of Mystery & the Macabre
  66. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
  67. Things in the Dark: A Fox Pocket Anthology
  68. The Time Traveller’s Almanac
  69. Twenty Tiny Tales by Willie Wat
  70. Twenty Tiny Tales and a few tails
  71. Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite

plus many more sci-fi, horror, and fantasy collections I got on the Kindle ages ago, and I’ll be adding more collections/anthologies to this list as I go along.

So the plan is to read a short story a day, write something about it on Patreon, and tweet about that post when I’ve finished, then this page will link to all the Patreon posts that I’ve written.

If you have a favourite collection or anthology that I’ve missed why not let me know?


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Indie Bookshops) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Jerry Simcock – Q&A

Jerry Simcock

Zen practitioner, artist, writer, gardener, willow weaver. Novel – Giselle and Mr Memphis published by Vagabond Voices just out.

Jerry can be found here:
Twitter: @WildseedZen
Mastodon: @jezsim@zirk.us
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jerrysimcock/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jerry.simcock/

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

When I first came to Scotland in 2005 I joined Ray Ross’s Find Your Voice creative writing class run by The University of Edinburgh’s Lifelong Learning programme. One of the first tasks Ray set us was to think up an imaginary friend – mine was Ignatz. He was a kind of timeless German dwarf figure, a bit brothers Grimm but more modern, someone of uncertain origin, Oskar from Gunther Grass’s Tin Drum was probably there somewhere in the background, but also a Turkish guy I had known in Frankfurt in the seventies, who played the guitar and only had a thumb on his right hand. He was really mixture of folk I had met back then, who would sidle up to you in bars ,a little drunk, but wanting to disclose how they had survived the Nazi period. A survivor, not untarnished, traumatized, making the best of the now, a man who knew how to look after himself but was keeping the lid on a traumatic past, canny and a good story teller. I wanted him to emerge as if from a fairy tale.

What came first the characters or the world?

They came together. Once Ignatz was in my head, my memories of Frankfurt in the seventies flowed, the protests, the American presence in the city, some Vietnam casualties. As a young student of history I had been horrified and affected by the uncovering of what had gone on the Nazi period, as well as all that was happening in Vietnam and had happened in the Biafran war – the horrors of slaughter, the inhumanity. I was talking to student protestors and aware of their determination to out and uncover the Nazi pasts of many who were in power. I was in my late teens, fresh out of school and had begun to question the stories of glorious derring-do that I had read in my early teens and was now more of a witness to the horrors of history.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Giselle and Mr. Memphis

Giselle and Mr. Memphis

Hard! I had some early success when the first few pages were published in Gutter Magazine in 2012 and thought I was on a roll…some agents were initially interested but turned me down, some publishers were the same but mostly rejections. I thought Vagabond Voices would be a good fit because they publish a lot of European Literature and translations…they were initially very kind, seemed interested but then decided to do more translated work and my book was put to one side. Finally, in 2020, just as I was going to send out a revised manuscript to a few selected independent publishers for a final go, I had an email from Galina Miteva, at Vagabond Voices, to ask if it was still available. She had read the book as an intern and loved it and, when she went back to work for them, she persuaded them in to publishing it! So choosing Vagabond Voices at the start was a good move. They are a great wee publisher and publish some amazing books in translation. I’m just glad Galina had such faith in the book.

How long did it take to write?

The first version was written between 2006-8 from the point of view of Hermann (the young man Ignatz befriends). Then I completely re-wrote it as a journa written by Ignatz. Also by then I had done an MA Screenwritig which helped me make the scenes more visual and much tighter. It was finished by 2012.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I don’t but I do have a Giselle and Mr Memphis playlist (music is what binds Ignatz and Giselle together) – it is on Spotify. A lot of blues, jazz and soul, and accordion music, early seventies pop. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/30InfLmKg9j5ailpipjhwg?si=645c759a6f3b44e1

How many publishers turned you down?

I lost count over those 8 years from 2012-20. At least 40.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

The book was only published in September but I have had some great feedback I am pleased to say. It was nerve racking waiting for the first responses from folk. I was most relieved when a Professor of Literature was kind enough to email me to say how much they enjoyed it. I’m pleased to say most folk think it is a great story that pulls you in and keeps you on the hook and that it has great momentum. Some are a little shocked by some of the more grim scenes.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

That would be from an ex-partner of mine, who encouraged my writing way back in the late seventies. She was one of the first to get back to me after it was first published and loved it. That meant a lot to me as we have only recently got back in touch after many years.

What can you tell us about your next book?

So far I have written about 80 pages on the rough draft of a new novel. It is part memoir, part story and involves the healing of a traumatized child.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Not had any yet but would welcome some.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Yes. I do write poems and short stories. I’d like to get into a more magical realist form of fiction

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I am now retired but volunteer on a local garden and growing project, a charity that offers support in mental health and well being. For many years I taught children excluded from mainstream education and then children in a psychiatric hospital as part of a multi-disciplinary team. I also worked for a while with adults with learning difficulties. I am a zen buddhist practitioner.

Which author(s) inspire you?

There have been many over the years…here are some – Olga Tokarczuk, Günter Grass, Mieko Kawakami, Donna Tart, Gabriel Garcia Marques, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kurt Vonnegut, Arundhati Roy, Penelope Fitzgerald, Banana Yoshimoto, Haruki Murakami, Ian Banks, Ruth Ozeki, Gary Snyder, Chaucer, Seamus Heaney, Jon Foss, Shokoofeh Azar. I really enjoyed reading Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree (translated by Daisy Rockwell) this year and want to read more of her stuff…I could go on.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Mostly literary fiction, speculative fiction, memoir too .I’m keen on big narratives and increasingly taken by magical realist and experimental fiction.

What is your biggest motivator?

Exploring the human condition, looking at and respecting the resilience of the traumatized, finding a better way forward, encouraging compassion towards all beings. Getting positive feedback to drafts is a great motivator. That feeling when you really get in the flow and a character begins leading the way.

What will always distract you?

Sometimes it is anything but the page…the web and social media are a blessing and a curse…a beautiful day will easily lead me off outside and into enjoying the present moment, or I may have had enough of the screen and want to draw or paint. At 67, although I enjoy writing, it is not the be all and end all for me, I like to enjoy life and take moments as they come, writing can be part of that.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

None, though I am absolutely delighted with Mark Mechan’s design for Giselle and Mr Memphis and the vibrant colour. Mark designs all the covers for Vagabond Voices.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes, a bookworm from the start. Alays being told to put that book down and get outside,

What were your favourite childhood books?

Treasure Island, Swallows and Amazons, Stig of the Dump – I was a child of the late fifties and early sixties and was conditioned accordingly. There were not a lot of books in our house but the local library was great. I also loved The Beano…

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

No real favourite but I do enjoy browsing in Toppings, Lighthouse and Portobello Bookshop when I’m in Edinburgh.

What books can you not resist buying?

Books from fellow writers for independent publishers who I have come to know through twitter. I’m enjoying reading so many more writers in translation from around the globe and small presses like Charco and Tilted Axis. I’m enjoying expanding my viewpoint and learning more about other cultures.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Not really – I like to meditate briefly before hand and clear my mind. I’ll usually have a cup of tea on the go. I read through yesterday’s writing and make notes then get into the next session. Recently I’ve lost some of that commitment to write every day so I take myself off to draw or paint or make a basket and then more story and ideas come.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

30 or so at a rough count.

What is your current or latest read?

Zen Therapy by David Brazier – it is so well written, so well explained and has brought me back into zen after a recent lapse. Also reading Stepping Stones – Dennis O’Driscoll’s Interviews with Sheamus Heaney – wonderful.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Indie Bookshops) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.