Today is an exciting day here on the blog. Why? Well, today is the day that I am chatting with the very talented Emma Yarlett!
She is a picture book author and illustrator who I recently discovered and adored since the moment I cracked open her latest book Orion and The Dark. But you all knew that already since you read my review, right?!?
Anyway, Emma is here chatting a bit about hereself and of course her books!
BookBandit (BB): Can you tell a little about yourself and about your path as a writer/illustrator?
Emma Yarlett (EY): My name is Emma Yarlett, and I am a 25-year-old illustrator and author living in Falmouth in Cornwall. Falmouth is a really beautiful little quirky town on the coast of England and a truly wonderful place to live. When I moved to Falmouth in 2008 to study illustration at university my journey as an illustrator/writer really began. I’ve always had a deep interest in children picture books, and when I began studying it became apparent very quickly that this was the route for me.
I centered majority of my studies upon storytelling, particularly for children. Eventually this led me to book a plane ticket for Bologna in Italy for the Bologna Book Fair- an international books rights fair with a big focus on children’s books. Here I wandered around approaching publishers and showing my portfolio and ideas for books… this led to my first picture book deal with the wonderful Amanda Wood at Templar (the book was called Sidney and his Shadow– more on that in a moment!) and as they say… the rest is history!
BB: What was the inspiration for your newest picture book, Orion and the Dark?
EY: The first little droplet idea for Orion and the Dark happened way back in 2011. Fresh from graduation, I had a university spawned book called Sidney and his Shadow firmly gripped in one hand, with my portfolio gripped in the other. I soon found my way into the publishing world and quickly realised that this one little book held two ideas which when divided could form the start of two whole separate picture books. Sidney, Stella and the Moon was born quickly followed by Orion and the Dark.
A year or two later (after Sidney, Stella and the Moon was firmly on the book shop shelves), Templar and I officially began work on picture book number two; Orion and the Dark.
Having had Orion and his dear pal the Dark wandering around in my brain for so long, the process of oozing their story from thoughts onto paper came rather quickly. I started with a set of thumbnails, and these early ideas for layout really formed the skeleton of the finished published book of today. There was a bit of toing and froing with die cuts and novelty elements, and a few additions here and there to really get to grips with what Orion was scared of, but all in all these first thumbnails remained core to the printed books winging their way to a book store near you.
My dad and his massive nerdyness about space, the stars and NASA really was a massive inspiration. As a child I spent many an evening looking through telescopes at star formations, the surface of the moon and everything far and inbetween. These magical childhood memories really stuck with me and were massively drawn upon in the creation of my first and second book.
BB: Orion and the Dark isn’t your first picture book, Sidney, Stella, and the Moon is. What was the biggest difference between writing these two books?
EY: I think an author/illustrator’s first book is always a really experimental time. It can be quite uncomfortable as you are trying to achieve so much having never been through the process of being published before. I found I was putting all of my hopes and dreams into the creation of Sidney, Stella and the Moon, which meant I felt a huge amount of (self-inflicted) pressure. Orion and the Dark was a much more organic process. My confidence had grown, I knew what the process was like and I knew what I wanted to achieve. Writing and illustrating Orion and the Dark was a hugely enjoyable experience.
BB: A big part of who Orion is as a character is fear – he’s afraid of everything. I feel like a lot of readers will see themselves within him (I know I saw myself in him). What aspects of Orion do you see yourself in, if any?
EY: Great question! I definitely feel there are similarities between myself and Orion, I think the main one being that nervousness he has to encounter and experience something new and spontaneous! I have a big fear of heights, and so when illustrating the book I tried to encapsulate that feeling of being fully encapsulated and engrossed in that fear.
BB: What comes first the words or pictures? With that what is your writing process like?
EY: The process of creating my picture books is a bit of a complex one. It might look to an onlooker that it’s the words that come first, as I spend days scribbling down words… but in fact the words and the pictures come together. I have a really vivid imagination and so will be drawing in my head whilst quickly trying to get the words down on paper. I have lots of ideas and don’t want to forget them, and I find writing down words quicker!
BB: If you had to describe your book in three words, what three words would you use to describe Orion and the Dark?
EY: Orion and the Dark: Conquering, Adventure, Friendship… and I can’t help myself so here’s a fourth word… MAGIC!
BB: What do you hope readers – young and old – take away from your books?
EY: Ooo I’m not quite sure. I really hope that they enjoy my books firstly! But I suppose secondly that they take away a feeling of magic, that anything and everything is possible, and that every person (however small and insignificant) is truly wonderful and unique, and has the ability inside them to do wonderful things
BB: Can you tell of any upcoming projects/books that you can talk about?
EY: My third picture book Poppy Pickle has just been published in the UK! Hopefully it will be making the jumps across the Atlantic in the next 12 months or so. It’s about a little girl with a big imagination who one day experiences something out of this world. Chaos and hilarity ensues as her imagination really quite literally begins to run wild.
BB: What advice can you offer to aspiring authors/illustrators?
EY: Work hard, Relax hard, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and let your work flow!
A big THANK YOU to Emma for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to answer a few questions for the BookBandit Blog. It is greatly appreciated!