Just Imagine

Q&A with Clara Vulliamy

Clara Vulliamy trained at the Ruskin School and the Royal Academy. She is the daughter of author and illustrator Shirley Hughes, and has written numerous stories for children and babies. She has recently published her latest book The Birthday Surprise, which is the fifth title in Clara’s Dotty Detective series.


JUST IMAGINE: Congratulations on your latest Dotty Detective title (number 5 in the series). Do you enjoy both writing & illustrating a story or is there more pressure on you when doing both?

CLARA VULLIAMY: Thank you! And thank you for inviting me onto Just Imagine!
To both write and illustrate the Dotty Detective stories is the dream. I can’t even separate the role of writer and illustrator with this series, it’s such a complete package in my imagination. Because the format is like a diary or notebook, combining text, doodles, collage and polaroids, the words and pictures are very closely interwoven.


JI: Which do you prefer (if you really had to choose!)?

CV: That’s a very good question. I’ve been first and foremost an illustrator for the longest time, although I have written many picture book texts. This series is my first experience of writing a ‘proper length’ book and I have loved every moment. So, although I amaze myself to say so, I think with Dotty Detective the words just take the lead!


JI: What is the best thing about working with your Mum, Shirley Hughes, on the Dixie O’Day stories? Have you got any more tales from Dixie in the pipeline for us?

CV: Collaborations work best when author and illustrator give each other a free hand and stand back to await surprises. Mum wrote the Dixie stories especially for me, and was commendably ‘hands off’ when I embarked on the pictures. The loveliest thing about the whole experience was having a laugh at her kitchen table, dreaming up new ideas, and marvelling at her extraordinary imagination. No more Dixie stories for now, but maybe something new, watch this space…


JI: You obviously grew up in a “literary” household, but did you always know you wanted to be an illustrator?

CV:  Oh yes, there was nothing else I wanted to do, or indeed COULD do. There was no pressure, just plenty of paper and pens lying around and my Mum’s paints to finish up at the end of the day. Wherever we went, both my parents took a sketchbook. Although I’m very glad I studied Fine Art, illustration is a very distinct form of art: storytelling through pictures.


JI: A large majority of your previous character drawings have been animals. Are you particularly drawn to animal adventure stories and will we see your guinea pigs appear in a story one day?!

CV: I do love to draw animal characters. I think I am particularly drawn to adventures involving the friendship between a child and an animal. My guinea pigs – patiently waiting for their moment in the spotlight – what a good idea!


JI: And finally, what’s next for you?

CV: I am working on the 6th book in the Dotty Detective series, The Holiday Mystery, which will be published in May (so I’d better get my skates on).
This morning I am researching airstream caravans and ice cream kiosks, and trying to get to grips with Morse Code – Dot and Beans have found their best way yet to send a secret message!

Best wishes, Clara

See Clara’s own blog here: http://claras.me/