Anna Terreros-Martin – Author Q&A

Anna Terreros-Martin

Anna Terreros-Martin

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.

Anna can be found at:
Website: www.annaterrerosmartin.co.uk
Twitter: @anna_terreros
Instagram: @annas_doodles.uk
Facebook: Anna Terreros-Martin Illustration
TikTok- @annas_doodles.uk

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!).


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Amy Jeffs – Q&A

Wild: Tales from Early Medieval Britain

Wild: Tales from Early Medieval Britain

Amy Jeffs is an art historian specialising in the Middle Ages. In 2019, she gained a PhD in Art History from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, having studied for earlier degrees at the Courtauld Institute of Art and the University of Cambridge.

During her PhD Amy co-convened a project researching medieval badges and pilgrim souvenirs at the British Museum. She then worked in the British Library’s department of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern manuscripts.

Her writing is often accompanied by her own linocut and wood-engraved prints, a sample of which may be seen here: www.amyjeffshistoria.com

Amy is a regular contributor to Country Life Magazine.

Amy can be found at:
Website: https://www.amyjeffshistoria.com/
Twitter: @amy_historia
Instagram: @historia_prints

Wild is out now and published by Riverrun, an imprint of Quercus.

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

The delightful, fascinating, often politically urgent manuscripts and stories I was exploring for my PhD in History of Art.

What came first the characters or the world?

The characters existed already, but became real to me through the medium of linocuts and wood engravings, which is how both Storyland and Wild began. In both cases, the medium of monochrome print helped my visualise the world of the texts and define its atmosphere.

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

Once I had an agent (Georgina Capel), it felt quite easy, but I had been interested in writing for a general audience and getting to know other writers for a good five years beforehand. For a long time, it seemed out of reach, but the fact of the matter is that I was lucky enough to receive an excellent undergraduate education, which helped me to gain further qualifications and find work in places like the British Museum and British Library. This all helped me build an inventory of ideas and a network of like-minded colleagues. While I had found my place in a writing community more or less incidentally, it was that community that taught me what to do and who to speak to once an idea had crystallised in my mind.

How long did it take to write??

6 months for a draft, 1 year for a finished and illustrated manuscript, building on material I had gathered for my thesis.

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

Nope. I forget to listen and anyway they are never long enough!

How many publishers turned you down?

My proposal was submitted to various publishers by my agent, Georgina Capel. I remember getting 3 or 4 offers, which she whittled down to two, who then bid for the book. I don’t remember it as clearly as I would like because I was in a state of high nervousness and excitement.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

At festivals I’ve spoken to teachers introducing British myths and legends to their year 7s with myths in their curriculum. I’ve met students, artists and lecturers interested in the relationship between research and creativity. I’ve met children with strange, insightful questions about truth and teenagers full of ambition and wisdom. The only negative encounters I’ve had have been online, which probably says something!

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

I met a 15 year old in Nottingham who told me about how her school had invited its students to dress up as characters or in costumes from their cultural backgrounds. ‘My parents are Indian’, she said, ‘so I wore a sari, but loads of my British-heritage friends were like, “oooh we don’t know what to wear. We feel too guilty about colonialism and imperialism.” She shook her head and said, ‘I told them they weren’t looking back far enough – they have so many stories to choose from that are much older than the British Empire.’ I was so grateful to her for sharing this anecdote with me and so impressed that a 15 year old had taken herself to a book event on her own.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Storyland

Storyland

My first book, STORYLAND, retold myths that were shared and popularised in medieval Britain. Mostly, they post-date the 12th century and have a strong political dimension. WILD looks further back in time, to 650-1000, and tells stories inspired by surviving texts and artefacts from or contingent to Britain in this period. As in STORYLAND, commentaries come after the tales in WILD, to bring readers into a corpus of amazing sources (and some really are like mazes) that sheds light on an old idea of the wilderness. The main body of the text is followed by beautiful new translations by George Younge, which capture the vivid, often stormy, natural setting of the originals, along with their psychological urgency. This is a less overtly political book. To me, it’s about hope, craft and harmony.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I do, though I’m not always sure it’s wise to draw confidence or otherwise from things like online ratings. Some of my most beloved books – books that seem to me works of undeniable genius – have very low ratings online. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, for instance, scores 3.8 on Goodreads and he wrote that from Monkwearmouth Jarrow in 8th-century Northumbria and influenced practically every Western historian who has come since.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Yes.

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

I was doing a PhD, which involved teaching as well as writing. I also worked in the British Library and British Museum, with manuscripts and medieval badges respectively.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Mainly Laurie Lee, Max Porter and Suzannah Clark.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I love reading medieval monastic chronicles and saints’ lives for the magical realism. I also read quite a lot of poetry and shorter novels with a tendency towards the strange.

What is your biggest motivator?

Can I give three answers? If yes, then: the need to earn a living, the desire to do something I love devotedly and the hope it will bring people joy.

What will always distract you?

I can’t really think of anything. I love writing and carving Lino and find myself disappearing for hours and hours, given the chance. Maybe food?

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

Quite a lot, as I produce the prints that are used for my book covers. However, I’m no graphic designer and feel very grateful to be able to defer to the expertise of the Quercus design team when it comes to broader issues of layout and typography.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes. I am an only child and we travelled a lot. I read and drew and read and painted…

What were your favourite childhood books?

John Seymour’s The Forgotten Arts and Crafts, which I found in the school library when I was about 8 and used to read voraciously. I read a lot of fantasy, including The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Harry Potter and the like. I also loved encyclopaedias of birds and animals. They make such good bedtime reading.

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

Hunting Raven in Frome. It’s my local and always so warm and full of ideas (and maps).

What books can you not resist buying?

Anything containing wood engravings.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Completely clearing my desk, except for a pint of water and a mug of coffee.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

I’m afraid I’m quite a chaotic reader…probably about thirty and, apart from the audiobooks, they are hidden all around the house.

What is your current or latest read?

Henry of Huntingdon’s History of the English People.

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

Max Porter’s SHY. Kate Rundell’s THE GOLDEN MOLE.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

The audiobook for WILD is illustrated with songs, which I wrote with a friend called Robbie Haylett and recorded with a band over the summer. Well be releasing them on Spotify in time for Christmas and are looking forward to playing together at events next year. In the meantime, I’ll be writing and carving Lino for book three (following the form and scale of STORYLAND), which I’m hoping the publishers will give me permission to talk about soon!

Any events in the near future?

Waterstones York, Thurs 3rd Nov
Push the Boat Out Festival, Edinburgh, Sat 5th Nov
Brendon Books Festival, Taunton, Mon 14th Nov
Frome Society for Local Study, Frome, Sat 19th Nov
Waterstones Salisbury, Thurs 24th Nov
Sherborne Literary Soc, Wednesday 30th Nov

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I think it was a love of stories and their genealogies. I want to get lost in a story through fiction and illustration, but I also want to know about its history and its impact. Tracing such things as art and literature into the past can help us acknowledge our debt to our heritage; it is a huge inventory, an ocean of ideas in which to cast our nets.


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Deshan Tennekoon – Q&A

Deshan Tennekoon

Deshan Tennekoon

Deshan Tennekoon is a physically rickety but mentally limber writer from Sri Lanka. His books for Think Equal are taught in schools around the world and lots of 6-year-olds think they’re okay. He wrote for The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Asian Design and is still recov­ering from the shock of once being a Fulbright Visiting Scholar. ‘Podi’, a middle-grade graphic novel he co-wrote is forthcoming from Oni Press (2022). His short comics have been published by Image Comics, ShortBox, Inkbrick and in the Eisner and Ignatz-winning anthology Elements: Fire (Beyond Press). He believes in reckless napping as a fine tool for managing his sanity.

Deshan can be found at:
Website: https://www.onlinedesho.com/
Twitter: @deshan10
Instagram: @onlinedesho

Tell me what inspired you to write Mary Anning’s Grewsome Beasts?

I think it was partly shock and disappointment: as a kid, I devoured palaeontology books but only discovered Anning’s astonishing contribution decades later. People didn’t seem to talk about her much.

Her story is remarkable: nearly killed by lightning as a baby; discovers her first major fossil at age 12; pulls corpses from the sea after a ship sinks at age 16; discovers the first complete plesiosaur fossil as well as the first fossil pterosaur from Britain; wears a reinforced top hat; is meticulous and brilliant in the field and in her conclusions.

And that’s not even half her story. I thought a book for kids was a useful way to honour her life, her mind, and her work.

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

Can’t write to music if there’s lyrics involved. That said, each project has days of staring-into-space-and-thinking. On those days, there’s a playlist on heavy-rotation, set to shuffle. This is the playlist for ‘Mary Anning’s Grewsome Beasts’ (some for the energy, some for the lyrics):

  • Fiona Apple: Under the Table
  • Nellie McKay: Beneath the Underdog
  • Cosmo Sheldrake: Come Along
  • Seeming: Stranger (feat. Sammus)
  • The Monkees: Steppin’ Stone
  • Gentle Mystics: Hark
  • The Guild: I’m The One That’s Cool (feat. Felicia Day)
  • Fiona Apple: Daredevil
  • Green Day: Minority
  • Beck: Saw Lightning
  • Dr. John: Right Place Wrong Time
  • Billie Eilish: You Should See Me in a Crown
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar (Once More With Feeling OST): Something to Sing About
  • Fiona Apple: Relay
  • Nah Eeto: Auntie, What Happened To Me?
  • Jahcoozi: Read The Books

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

This wonderful letter by a small, knowledgeable human who loves palaeontology:

Card from Abigail

Card from Abigail

If you know a kid who loves extinct beasts, I think they’ll like Abigail’s account (run by her grownup: @raisingapalaeo1). I certainly find it inspirational – warms my heart to see such joyful dedication.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Mary Anning Cover

Mary Anning Cover

I can tell you place and time. Not because I’m playing coy, but because I’m still wading through the research and figuring it out. I know it will be set in Sri Lanka, between the 1500s and the early-1800s.

I want my second nonfiction book to be stranger and longer, and there’s a lot to choose from here. Some of the historical figures include: a princess who foments rebellion to conceal a daring jailbreak; a young Englishman who spends 20 years as the captive guest of a king; a sunken ship full of Mughal silver coins; reports of blood-sucking hedgehogs; and a doctor who performs a mysterious ‘lizard treatment’ and then vanishes from the records.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Given the length of what I write, I am able to (and enjoy) drifting between disciplines and genres. My preference is for the sciences (mostly biology), science fiction (ditto), prehistory, and history (mostly the last few Sri Lankan kingdoms).

Which author(s) inspire you?

Hard question. Here’s a top-of-head selection from a long list of writers to whom I’m indebted, for their uncanny ability to meld rigour, clarity and beauty:
Nonfiction: Carl Sagan, Hope Jahren, Rendell & Whitehead, Dian Ackerman, and Merlin Sheldrake.
Fiction: Ursula K. Le Guin, Ted Chiang, Richard Powers, Igarashi Daisuke, and Terry Pratchett.

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

I am going to cheat by saying: the string of tiny, idiosyncratic, second-hand bookshops on McCallum Road in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The booksellers are motley crew of gentle, grizzled, old men who are often happy to lend certain books, if you can’t afford the price. If you’re ever in the city with an afternoon to spare, I recommend a visit: every turn between tightly packed shelves reveals new treasure and a giant, leafy tree presides over the small shops.

What is your current or latest read?

I’m hopping between an excellent nonfiction book — ‘The Canon’ by Natalie Angier; and a brilliant, disturbing novel that’s just been shortlisted for the Booker Prize — ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ by dear friend and bloody nuisance, Shehan Karunatilaka. I’m also revisiting Watterson’s ‘Calvin & Hobbes,’ after a decade or so, and still marveling at the man’s craft.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

A trilingual project that’s nearing completion, called ‘Kaputu Kaak Kaak Kaak Kaak’. Written by human rights lawyer and all ‘round good egg, Amal de Chickera, it’s an illustrated book about protest and civic education for children, which talks about about the current crisis in Sri Lanka — how we got here; why people are protesting; and what children can do, c.2022.

We’re producing three editions (English, Sinhala, Tamil) and it’s the first time I’ve illustrated a book (nerve-racking stuff). We’re offering them free at The Internet Archive and the English edition is already out. Here’s a link, in case you’d like to dip in: https://tinyurl.com/2m2scke7 Thank you very much, Stephen, for having me on your site!


If you want to help and support this blog 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.

Fiona Barker – Q&A

Fiona Barker

Fiona Barker

Fiona is positively potty about picturebooks; reading them, writing them and talking about them. When writing, she longs for alliterative loveliness. When reading, she looks for the marriage of words and artwork and she loves anything that is fun to read aloud.

Fiona is especially enthusiastic about encouraging reading habits. In her 40s she studied for a PhD where she was lucky enough to study the theory behind the onset and maintenance of behaviour. This is so applicable to reading and it is lovely now to be able to combine her academic and professional enthusiasms.

She loves the outdoors and support several organisations that seek to encourage children to engage with the natural world including The Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society. She spend a lot of time in Devon and loves the sea.

Fiona can be contacted at:
Website: https://fionabarker.co.uk/
Twitter: @Fi_BGB
Instagram: @fionawritesbooks

Tell me what inspired you to write these two seasonal books?

The BIG Christmas Bake was inspired by wanting to big up twelfth night. When I was growing up my mum wanted us to save all our presents until then because the Christmas story says that’s when the three kings arrived with their gifts. But we never wanted to wait! Our concession was to save one present to open after all the decorations were put away on 6th January. I still do this now I have my own family and it’s actually the present I look forward to the most even though it’s usually something quite small. I think we are bombarded by Christmas and advent from the first of December (if not before!) and it’s easy to forget about the original twelve days of Christmas. Twelve days seemed to fit perfectly with a twelve spread picture book and the idea was born. Pippa Curnick has added so much more joy and humour through the illustrations too.

I Definitely Don’t Like Winter was inspired by a newspaper article about an academic paper showing that people who dread winter have a worse experience than people who look forward to it. My Dad hates winter and I love it but I don’t want him to be sad. He is Hank to my Hoog in the story which is why the book is dedicated to him. I just love how Christine Pym has brought these two little characters to life.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

My first book was self-published after many many rejections. So many rejections! Then I was lucky enough to get picked up by a small publisher who published my next two books (with more to follow!). By that time I had an agent and she was able to get my work seen by bigger publishers like Scholastic and Quarto. As I absolutely love Christmas and Christmas books, I feel incredibly lucky to have two out at once!

How long did it take to write?

With picture books there is usually a lot of thinking time before I put pen to paper and then even more time afterwards editing. I have a fantastic critique group who are wonderful at giving feedback and helping me refine ideas. Although the first draft can be done pretty quickly, we picture book writers tend to spend ages afterwards obsessing over single words. When you have less than 500 to play with, every word counts!

How many publishers turned you down?

I have definitely been turned down, multiple times, by every major publisher and lots of smaller ones. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

I know everyone says you shouldn’t read them but I’ve had some wonderful early reviews on Goodreads. I really want everyone to love these books.

What can you tell us about your next book?

My next book is a follow up to my previous one, Setsuko and the Song of the Sea (Tiny Tree CHildren’s Books, illustrated by Howard Gray). I think I’m allowed to say it’s called A Swift Return.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I have written a teen romance and while I loved writing it, apparently nobody loved reading it so I’m sticking to picture books!

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

Alongside writing, I work part time as a healthcare scientist. I work with people who are dizzy.

Which author(s) inspire you?

I’m inspired by so many of the fantastic picture book writers and illustrators working today. There is so much variety in this genre. I love lyrical texts but also funny, silly books, rhyming and prose. And the variety of illustration styles is breathtaking.

What will always distract you?

I am hideously distracted by social media, especially twitter. You can see what I’m being distracted by if you follow me @Fi_BGB.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I remember with great fondness the Church Mice books by Graham Oakley, both for the humour in the text and the glorious detail in the illustrations. I still have them all. My other favourites were Whistle For Willy by Jack Ezra Keats and a rather more obscure but lyrical story called Starsound by Yevgenia Margolis. Very 1970s.

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

So many! Particular favourites are Fourbears Books (Caversham), The Alligators Mouth (Richmond) and I really wish I lived closer to Bookbugs and Dragon Tales (Norwich) which is a phenomenal bookshop really embedded in its community.

What books can you not resist buying?

I buy A LOT of picture books.

What is your current or latest read?

I’m currently enjoying Wolves In Helicopters by Sarah Tagholm and Paddy Donnelly and The Blue Footed Booby by Rob Biddulph.

What inspired you to write the genre you do?

I’m incredibly privileged to be writing picture books and sharing them with parents and children. Picture books really are for life, not just for childhood. They plant a seed that lasts a lifetime. They’re an affordable way to own spectacular innovative artwork and they’re also unique in that they are books that are meant to be shared. That’s very special.


If you want to help and support this blog 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.