From a young age, Anna spent a lot of her childhood surrounded by nature and wildlife. From looking for frogs and tadpoles in ponds to playing explorer and making dens in the forests, She has always found peace and magic in the natural world. Animals have never failed to make her imagination run wild, feeding through into her love for drawing and illustrated characters.
Anna graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a first class degree in Illustration and later graduated from a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art in 2019. She aims to inspire the younger generations to get outdoors and explore the wildlife around them. By combining her passions for the conservation of wildlife and drawing, Anna aims to help cause awareness of endangered species through children’s books. As children’s books are aimed for future generations, she believes it is vital to create books that not only encourage children to read for pleasure but to also educate and support them with important and sometimes difficult subjects.
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) picturebook?
When I was in secondary school I visited London for the first time on a school visit and one of the museums we went to was The Natural History Museum. It absolutely blew my mind seeing so many beautiful species and learning about creatures that are now extinct or endangered. I also remember feeling sadness at the fact that we will never get to see extinct species in person or experience the world and habitats they lived in. This then was the starting point of developing the story of The Friendly Mammoth.
What came first the characters or the world?
The world and Mammoth developed together as I knew I wanted the main prehistoric animal in the story to be a woolly mammoth and I knew I wanted to have the world set in both the museum and the ice age. The character of Mansi, the girl who visits Mammoth in the museum and ventures on an ice age adventure with him developed later, as well as the cave girl and Benny.
How long did it take to write?
I started writing and sketching out the story (I do both at the same time) in 2017 when I first began studying and exploring picturebooks for a project on the Illustration course at Sheffield Hallam University, where I made a dummy book of it. It was a massive learning experience for me and I absolutely loved the process. Then in 2019 I revisited the project after studying an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art and began to develop it further and made a second dummy book of it. It was picked up by David Fickling Books in 2020 which was very exciting and they helped me develop the text and illustrations even further until we were all happy with the final result in 2021.
What kind of reactions have you had to your book?
They have all been positive so far which is wonderful because it is quite scary having a book you have both written and illustrated out in the world, you just hope people enjoy it.
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
I think it might be from a child that says he enjoyed it so much that he apparently told everyone in his class about it, phoned his cousins specifically to tell them about it and then has started to write the sequel to the book. In my eyes I don’t think it gets better than that!
What can you tell us about your next book?
I am currently in the process of finishing the artwork for it and so I am not allowed to say too much right now apart from sneakily saying it involves puffins and pufflings. I am very excited about this one!
Do you take notice of online reviews?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t, I know it isn’t healthy to over fixate on them but it is nice to read good reviews and know people have enjoyed reading the book and what about the book they loved the most.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I am a freelance illustrator so I worked on illustration commissions, creating things for my online shop and doing art workshops with children. These are things I can still do and have to do alongside my book work to help earn an income. As well as working on author-illustrator books I also work on projects where I illustrate someone else’s text such as the When Mummy/Daddy Goes To Work and When Mummy/Daddy Works From Home board book series written by Paul Schofield and published by Little Tiger. I think writers and illustrators have to juggle different ways of making a livable income.
Which author(s) inspire you?
So many but I will try to just pick a few! A. M. Dassu, Louie Stowell, Ian Eagleton, Dapo Adeola, Laura Ellen Anderson, Phil Earl, Hannah Gold, Alex T Smith, Shaun Tan, Jon Klassen, Emma Reynolds, Abigail Balfe and Harry Woodgate to name a few. I also love reading graphic novels and comics; some of my favourites are by Luke Pearson, Tim Probert, Pam Smy and Jamie Smart… (There are so many authors I admire!)
What will always distract you?
My rescue cat Boris Bean always distracts me. Although, as I work from home and spend so much time alone it is great to have him as company and to force me to take breaks away from my desk. I call him my studio assistant as he tries to ‘help’ me with my work.
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
I normally do get quite a lot of say on my book covers. The process usually starts by creating lots of rough small sketches of what the cover could possibly look like and then I send them to my editor and designer. I work closely with the designer and editor during the whole process. They show it to the rest of the team and then give me the overall feedback and I then work on the final artwork for it before sending it to the designer again to add finishing touches and work their magic.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I loved reading books with a lot of illustrations in them, I found larger books with a lot of text quite intimidating and would struggle to concentrate on them. I loved reading comics, my grandparents would bring me cut out comic strips from newspapers and magazines and also The Adventures of Tintin books when they’d visit from Spain, one time even accidentally giving me a french copy despite me not knowing how to speak or read in french. However I managed to enjoy it anyway and follow the story due to the illustrations and I thought that was amazing, like a super power!
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
My favourite bookshops are The Rabbit Hole bookshop in Brigg, Wonderland Bookshop in Retford, Bookbugs & Dragon Tales in Norwich and Page 45 in Nottingham. They are all such beautiful and welcoming bookshops, run by amazing people!
What is your current or latest read?
I am currently reading/ have finished reading Fight Back by A. M. Dassu, Lightfall (book one) by Tim Probert and The Extincts Quest For The Unicorn Horn by Scott Magoon. I am quite a slow reader but also enjoy reading multiple books at once.
Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?
I am looking forward to Villains Academy by Ryan Hammond out February 2023, The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince by Ian Eagleton and Davide Ortu out October 2022 and Glitter Boy by Ian Eagleton out February 2023, Love, The Earth by Frances Stickley and Tim Hopgood out April 6th 2023 and Jamie by L.D. Lapinski out March 2023 to name a few! There are always so many amazing books coming out (I need more bookshelves!).