Charlotte is from Melbourne. She freelanced as an illustrator and graphic designer after she graduated from Melbourne's NMIT in 2004. She has been working as an illustrator for the last five years. This has been mainly in book publishing, but she also has an illustrated children's T-shirt label 'BOY GIRL'. She sells selected work as prints, and occasionally exhibits her work.
'A Really Super Hero' is her first author/illustrated work and is a wonderful first book in that sense. This is a book that connects with the experiences of virtually every child and of course their parents. In the words of Charlotte in my interview with her below, this story is "purely and simply about the way children can make the everyday and the ordinary feel extraordinary." With the inevitable response of their parents being "...to stare, one eyebrow up, with their ‘get-real’ eyes". It might just be that I love this book because as a grandparent I get to put the capes on as well! No eyebrow raising in my house when super heroes appear.
The language of Charlotte's text has a narrative verse form that catches your attention from the first stanza:
'I want to be a heroThe illustrations are detailed line drawings with wash used sparingly so that as 'reader' you are drawn to the characters, and in particular, their actions, manner and personality. The characters are so believable and so appealing. Children who read this book will be able to see themselves and the adults who love them. This is a wonderful book from a talented illustrator and writer.
and a REALLY SUPER one,
so my mum sewed my undies
with an S upon the bum'
On the strength of this wonderful first book I was quick to seek an opportunity to do a blog interview with Charlotte. The quality of this her first authored (as well as illustrated) book, and the answers to my questions, suggest that we can expect many more fine books from this author/illustrator that children will love.
1. TC: "What contributed most to your love of story in your childhood years?"
It’s probably a boring answer but stories and more specifically storytelling can take you to places that are not your here and now. As little ones we dream of all sorts of things that can’t come to life in our real worlds, from very simple things to big crazy dreams. For me it was simple things and the details. The colour of the walls in my imaginary house, the blankets on my imaginary bed. It’s a way of making what is in your head come true. And so now I still write stories for myself.
2. TC: "Could you tell me a little about the inspiration for ‘A Really Super Hero’?"
A Really Super Hero is purely and simply about the way children can make the everyday and the ordinary feel extraordinary. And then, the dreary old parents have to stare, one eyebrow up, with their ‘get-real’ eyes. Luckily this means absolutely nothing to the beautiful mind! ‘A Really Super Hero’ is just a bit of fun and silliness.
3. TC: "As a relatively new illustrator of children’s books and an even more recent author, could I ask do you see yourself primarily as an illustrator or do you want to do more writing?"
I see myself continuing to do both. Illustration, which is what I trained to do, has always been about storytelling. It makes sense to me that I do both. Whether or not that is just my view we’ll have to see!
4. TC: "Your ‘super hero’ in your new book ‘A Really Super Hero’ is a quirky and feisty young woman. Is there an inspiration for this wonderful character?"
Well yes, I’d like to say that it’s me, ‘quirky and feisty’, but in fact it’s me, clumsy and slightly ridiculous. As well as lots of our little ones who blindly storm through the obvious (to others) chaos created by their robust imaginations. To be the person who just continues on regardless of suspected hopelessness is something to be proud of yes?
5. TC: " Poetry seems to have become more popular of late to offer a narrative account in picture books. Is there a particular reason why you have used it?"
There’s no particular reason. I did grow up loving the rhythm of Roald Dahl’s books. Actually whether they were in rhyme or not they were almost musical. Maybe that has something to do with it. ‘A Really Super Hero’ just seemed to come out that way. My next book is not in rhyme though.
6. TC: "What is the best response you've ever had to your illustrative and creative work?"
It was just recently, somebody said that one of my illustrations made her feel as though she had seen it in her childhood, that it felt familiar. Unless I unknowingly ripped somebody off, this is about as good a compliment as I could receive because it’s how I feel when I draw them.
7. TC: "Do you have other book projects on the drawing board?"
I am working on my next book with Allen and Unwin, ‘An Inconvenient Dog.' I also have a few projects that I want to do just for fun, I’m animating my own stories and illustrations. Why not?
8. TC: "Do you enjoy reading and poetry? On a long haul flight to London, which two books would you take?"
I love it, but haven’t done enough of it lately. I have two little kids so my long haul to London may well be a rotation of Batman and Spiderman…. and once they were asleep I think I’d go for Jane Austen. Beautiful, so easy to read and a little bit magical.
9. TC: "Who or what has been the most significant influence on your creative work?"
That’s a hard one, I definitely have my favourite illustrators, Quentin Blake, Janet Ahlberg, John Birmingham (these have not changed from childhood) and Roald Dahl I think for the magic of storytelling. And my mum for having a sort of creativeness that comes from heaven. She’s a genius. If she makes ‘that face’ when she looks at my work, then it must be crap. Truly, not joking, it goes in the bin. I try to avoid showing her anything, ever. Ever.
Charlotte's responses above should be enough to make you hunt for her book but when you see the book you'll be glad that you did. Watch out for this young illustrator and author her next work, 'An Inconvenient Dog' to be published by Allen & Unwin.
Other relevant posts
Have a look at my other 'Author and Illustrator Focus' posts HERE