Just Imagine: Congratulations on your latest book “Goodnight Everyone”. Can you tell us a little bit about the story & where you got the idea from?
Chris Haughton: I was trying to figure out a way of showing scale. It seemed like a nice non-verbal way to communicate with the youngest children. They can understand the turning of pages and getting bigger. There is a drama in that. It’s quite different from the other books in that it is much simpler. This one is for the very very young. I decided on this idea when I tested it on my eight month old twin nieces who were a little too young at the time to really grasp the other books. They got this one though, they were catching on with the yawning on the first reading!
The book has cut-away pages which they really enjoyed turning. And on each turn there’s an action which they could understand.
JS: Is there any particular place or thing that you get your inspiration from?
CH: I love physical theatre and clowning. I’ve been up to Edinburgh a few times and got lots of inspiration from that. One of my books, SHH! We Have a Plan, was based on a show I saw there! A show by a very entertaining performer from Canada called Mr Bunk.
JS: Can you tell us a little bit about how you plan your schedule when working?
CH: It depends on the deadlines! Usually it takes me around a year to come up with the idea and then another year to illustrate a book.
JS: You’ve travelled & worked abroad fairly extensively, do you have any plans to do more of this?
CH: Yes! I’m currently in Madrid and I don’t really want to go back to London any time soon! 🙂
JS: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
CH: I have been amazed at the reception the books have had. I wasn’t expecting it at all. It’s so wonderful to hear from parents and guardians and teachers around the world and how their child loves a particular book.
JS: Do you receive much feedback from your readers? What kind of things do they say?
CH: One of the nicest emails I got was from the parents of an autistic child who was difficulty expressing himself. He wanted to read my books obsessively and learnt to speak by using some of the catchphrases he learnt from the books. I have been told quite a few times that their child’s first word was UH-oh from A Bit Lost.
JS: And finally, any top tips for budding illustrators & writers out there?
I think is good to always put a little pressure on yourself to keep improving. It’s nice to remember that no matter who you are or how good the illustration is it can always be improved in some way. If you do not keep pushing yourself in a new direction each time it won’t become a voyage of discovery and you could quite easily get a little bored. Going the extra mile pays off in so many ways.
LISTEN TO ADVICE AND THEN IGNORE IT
I would say also to listen to criticisms and advice others have of your work. I try to listen to everyone involved, people I work with, children, art directors, sales people, librarians, bookstores, everyone involved has a different perspective on what makes good illustration and why. They all have an angle in which they can see something you cannot. You can’t and shouldn’t follow them all but you can take on board their reasoning. My art director and editor and I don’t always agree but we are all trying to make a good book together and they have a different perspective from me, they know plenty of things about picture books way better than I do. I would like to think that I know a few things they don’t know too but I need to be able to convince them and myself of the best way each time. It is good to be challenged because it raises the bar. And quite a lot of the time they are the ones who are right!
DO WHAT YOU LOVE
I think though the most important advice, like anything, is just to follow your heart and do what you love, that way you can never put a foot wrong, you are always going in the right direction and who knows where it will take you.
Thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer our questions & to his publicist for their assistance.