1. What was it like to get your first publishing contract?
It was very exciting to receive a phone call from Sally, telling me we had received a request to write and illustrate Snowy’s Christmas. After the excitement had died down I suddenly realized I had an enormous amount of work to do in a very short amount of time. I had heard other illustrators explain how they had spent 6 months to two years creating their masterpieces. When the contract arrived I realized I had a much shorter period. From the first pencil stroke to the last illustration; I completed Snowy in just under 5 months. It was worth it, though. Particularly, as it was also an opportunity to work with my fabulously talented sister in law Sally Murphy
2. Tell us about the steps involved in illustrating a picture book.
Every publisher, editor and illustrator work differently. In my case, I created an online studio where I posted my illustrations for comment by Kimberley and Linsay, at Random House. This was, initially a very rough layout, which they commented on. I had a rare face to face meeting and ironed out some of the small details in the characterizations and staging of the story. From then on it was pencil – post – comment – revise – repost – inks. Random House had the inked line art scanned and sent me the files. I then digitally coloured them. Then more rounds of illustrate – post – comment – repost. There were many late nights over a hot illustrating table of graphics tablet. On one night it was so hot (being the middle of summer) the ink literally flowed out of the nib. Luckily we were able to fix it up post scan.
3. What role are you playing in promoting the book?
I love talking to people about my work – I always have. Since Snowy’s Christmas hit the shelves, I have had great fun talking to all sorts of people. The ABC radio interview was a highlight. I also have several local events where I will be discussing and reading from the book. I have been approached by people from all walks who want me to talk to their groups. This is not only great fun but it gives me a chance to spread the word about Snowy…and every copy of Snowy’s Christmas I sign also get’s an original Dave Murphy illustration above my signature.
There was one thing I did to give me some confidence when speaking in front of people, and that was to have a large plush version of Snowy made. He’s gorgeous and gives me something to pat when I’m talking. I have to watch him closely, though as a couple of three and four year olds have tried to walk off with him.
The only thing I have regretted about the release of Snowy’s Christmas is not being able to do anything with Sally (we live on opposite sides of the country). She gave me such a fantastic story to illustrate that I think we could have a lot of fun talking about the book. Who knows, maybe the next one…..?
Over to you Dave – is there anything else you want to talk about?
Christmas is special in Australia. It has its own traditions and its own special meaning to Australians. I could not illustrate this story without drawing imagery directly from the Australian bush. The bushland and its inhabitants in my illustrations were inspired by what I see in the grasslands and woodland which I regularly bushwalk through. I populated the background with some bush creatures anyone should be able to see on a bushwalk in Australia. I have also included small Aussie Christmas touches : the Christmas decorations in the gum tree, the Bush Christmas heralds and, of course, the cricket match at the end of Christmas day (back page).
The idea that Santa uses kangaroos when he is in Australia has been part of the Australian psyche for a long time. Sally’s story brings this idea to life brilliantly. I am very proud to be able to illustrate the story and add to the Australian bush Christmas tradition.
Thanks for sharing, David.
Snowy’s Christmas is available across Australia in bookstores and department stores. Online, you can purchase it from Booktopia (at below rrp).
If you’ve missed the start of the tour, you can follow it at:
Week One: 4 October Deescribe Writing Blog
Week Two: 11 October Write and Read With Dale
Week three: 18 October Alphabet Soup Blog
Week Four: 25 October Let’s Have Words
Week Five: 1 November Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog (you’re here)
Week Six: 8 November Aussiereviews Blog
Week Seven: 15 November Samantha Hughes’ Blog
Week Eight: 22 November Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s Books Blog
Week Nine: 29 November Stories are Light
Week Ten: 6 December The Aussie Christmas Blog
Week Eleven: 13 December Tales I Tell