Just Imagine: We love your new character, Blip! How long has she been in the planning & can we expect lots more adventures from her in the future?
Steve Antony: Thanks! To be honest, it doesn’t seem all that long ago when I was inspired to write UNPLUGGED. I remember it well. I was walking around town, reading tweets on my phone when I almost bumped into a lamppost. “You need to unplug yourself from your phone!”, I thought to myself. Suddenly, I had a lightbulb moment. I wrote down the word unplugged and a few days later Blip was born. It’s a story not only about the wonders of technology, but also about how great it is to explore the great outdoors. It’s also about friendship and discovery.
JI: You also have another new book due out in collaboration with Tim Minchin, inspired by When I Grow Up, his hit song from Matilda the Musical. Have you enjoyed working in this way & do you have any more collaborations planned?
SA: I haven’t got any more plans to collaborate with other artists; I’m quite happy and content to write and draw my own books. But if something extra special come along, I might consider it. We’ll see. This was a real joy to work on. Tim is such a nice, genuine and super inspiring artist. It was a really special and unique collaboration. In fact, it’s my first illustrator-only book. I’m currently on the WHEN I GROW UP tour as I write this. Last weekend I Tim and performed at the Leicester Square Theatre. I drew while he played. It was magic.
JI: What is your favourite thing to draw & why?
SA: Ooh. A very good question and one I’ve never been asked before. I like to draw really detailed pictures that are filled with interesting incidentals and funny details. There’s a lot of that in my QUEEN’S series and WHEN I GROW UP. I’m not a fan of drawing horses or bicycles, but sometimes these things can’t be avoided. For example, I had to draw over 50 bicycles in THE QUEEN’S HANDBAG and I’ve drawn several horses. In UNPLUGGED there is a sweet little fawn, which took ages to get right. It’s always very satisfying to draw something you didn’t think you could draw.
JI: Was drawing an important part of your life growing up? Did you always want to be an illustrator of children’s books?
SA: Without a doubt, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. It was very important. There was nothing more satisfying than opening a new and empty sketchpad. I was a pretty shy child and drawing was sometimes a form of escapism for me. I loved making up my own stories, my own picture books, my own comic books.
JI: Your books feature in many of Just Imagine’s packs for a variety of genres and are used in the classroom by teachers to illustrate many different themes or subjects. Is this something you plan or are conscious of when writing?
SA: I’m never all that conscious of how the book can be used, to be completely honest. However, I am becoming a little more conscious of how teachers can maybe use them in class. I’ve learned a great deal from teachers and librarians about how picture books can be used to encourage critical thinking. First and foremost though, I write and draw because I’m inspired to do so. For example, it was a very small photo in the newspaper that inspired THE QUEEN’S HAT, which became a funny series about landmarks and spotting details. The MR PANDA series was inspired by a slightly grumpy-looking panda in my sketchbooks, and that became a series, too. GREEN LIZARDS VS RED RECTANGLES was inspired by a painting. And so on.
JI: We know you love comics & graphic novels; do you think you would ever like to tackle this genre yourself?
SA: Absolutely. When? I don’t know. But I do have a feeling it would have to be a collaboration. But we’ll see. I’m not looking for a graphic novel project, but if that right one comes along, who knows?
JI: And finally, what can we look forward to from Steve Antony next?!
SA: Well, more Mr Panda! GOODNIGHT, MR PANDA comes out in 2018, and I do have a new book coming out much later on in 2019, but I’ll have to keep that one a secret for now!
Thank you Steve for taking the time to answer our questions.
Steve also shared a few pictures with us of his recent adventures.
Blip having fun outdoors
Our favourite panda
There is always time for a quick sketch!
When I Grow Up