Doodles and Drafts – An interview with Em Horsfield – Santa’s Magic Beard

Santa's Magic BeardTis almost the season to be jolly and over-indulge a little. And because it takes more than just Santa and a bit of tinsel to make the season jingle and jive, I’ve invited author, Em Horsfield along to share more about the creation of newly released picture book, Santa’s Magic Beard.

Time settle back with a cuppa and early fruit mince pie…

Em HorsfieldQ Who is Em Horsfield? Tell us about the scribe in you.

I grew up in South Africa with my parents, older brother and Oscar, my favourite hound. I have always written stories. From the silly age of seven I began scribbling ridiculous rhymes about family and friends, often far-fetched tales about my mum, which I’m sure she didn’t appreciate!

I took things a little more seriously when I attended the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg and completed an honours degree – Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, majoring in television, film, writing and psychology.

It was during this time that I wrote a collection of illustrated poems entitled, Poems for Kiddies and Adults Like Me. I am constantly inspired by the ridiculous – Roald Dahl will always be a favourite as will Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Quentin Blake and Tim Burton.

After completing my degree, I freelanced as a writer for OutCulture – an online magazine at the time, and also worked as an editorial assistant for the Analytical Reporter. As soon as I’d saved enough pennies, I packed my bags for London, where I continued to write, in between playing PA to the CEO at United Business Media and running networking events throughout the UK.

I then chose to travel the world some more and explored parts of Asia and Australia – an experience that both challenged and intrigued…and inspired many a tale! I joined the Macadamia House team in 2012 and found myself living alongside my better half on a macadamia farm in Redland Bay. It was here where I immersed myself in the world of Nosh the Nutmobile and scribbled his adventures – all based on true stories inspired by farm life. Publishing three books has been a true highlight.

Writing is how I express myself. Incapable of taking myself too seriously, I prefer to dabble in the imaginary realms or chuckle at the ridiculous truths of life. I live out my days doing what I love best: creating, writing and walking a large basset hound who answers to the name of Duncan…yet never comes when he’s called!

Q We know many of the storylines for the Nosh Nutmobile books stem from real life events but where did the concept of this adventurous series originate from? Was it purely a need for you to write about your farm experiences or did it evolve organically as a collaborative effort?

Well as you may have guessed, the story revolves around the Nutmobile. Many people have fond memories of the Aussie icon from his old home – chugging round the Big Pineapple, amusing crowds.  When the Big Pineapple closed its doors, the Bromet Family – macadamia farmers and owners of Macadamia House – bought the Nutmobile and relocated him to Bauple in July 2011. Bauple, for those of you who don’t know, is the home of the original macadamia – what better place for a Nutmobile really!

It was only till their first grandson was born – Max – that the idea came about to write a book. The Bromet family wanted to give something to Max that he would always remember. I joined the team in 2012 and together with Glen, set to work creating farm inspired tales that would not only amuse but also promote healthy messages for kids growing up.

Em Fraser Coast Chronicle
Image attributed to Fraser Coast Chronicle

Living on a farm was also an entirely new experience for me, so yes, I guess creating the Nutmobile series was a great way for me to express and make sense of my new farm life!

Q Describe your writing passion. What do you enjoy most about writing for kids?

Well, I am quite simply an over-grown kid myself so it’s something that comes quite naturally to me! I seem to relate to the random silliness of kids and their imaginative minds where anything is possible. I enjoy playing in their world. On the flip side, I enjoy the challenge of writing for kids – crafting a colourfully complex tale, layered with meaning and disguising it in a simple 15 verse rhyming structure.

I also love the characters I am allowed to create. From a very young age, I collected soft toys – never dolls – just hundreds of hippos, elephants, cows and other bizarre animal creatures. Many of them have travelled the world with me and continue to do so! They fuelled my imaginative mind growing up and continue to do so at the crusty age of 30! I really struggle with human characters – nearly all my characters have a furry back or a fine fleece, which again steered me away from romantic novels and into the realm of the 32 pg picture book.

em_and_herdWriting the Nutmobile series was a good compromise between the real and the unreal and allowed me to grow as a writer. It challenged me to communicate true stories – often singed with serious issues such as devastating floods or bullying – and craft them into humorous rhymes starring eccentric emus and culinary roos;  into colourful tales which children could digest and draw meaning from.

Q Have you penned any other stories or poems for children, if so what are they? Would you like to continue?

I have indeed. As mentioned, while studying many years back, I created a collection of poems / stories in rhyme, entitled ‘Poems for Kiddies and Adults Like Me’. Having worked on the Nutmobile series for close on two years, I’m keen to take a little break from Nosh and co. and revisit some of my earlier writing.

Q As with all of the Nutmobile books, they are written in rhyming verse. Is this the style you feel most comfortable writing in? Why so?

It must be, because even when I’m sick to death of the rhyming riddles, they always find their way on to my page! Stressing different beats of a story, allows one to communicate subtle meanings in a story, those which without the rhythm may otherwise go undetected. I have written many, many Nutmobile tales to date and only one is written in a different style – different but not completely rhyme-free!

It may have something to do with my musical background. My mum is a music teacher, so growing up, I was subjected to a daily dose of tunes as several little darlings descended on our abode for their weekly lesson. I have been surrounded by music my whole life and share a great love for the art – I guess without knowing it, I have been writing my own melodies, scribbling them down in rhythm and rhyme.

All that being said, I am also keen to step out my comfort zone and challenge myself to explore other styles. I’ll keep you posted!

Santa's Magic Beard SpreadQ Santa’s Magic Beard is the third in the Nosh series. Will there be more? Do you have a favourite?

Having lived alongside Nosh and his furry crew for close on two years, I have been lucky enough to join them on all their adventures – of which there have been many…it would be most selfish of me not to share!  Out of the three adventures that have been published so far, Santa’s Magic Beard is my firm favourite. Being a big fan of Christmas festivities (me too!), I was delighted when Nosh stumbled upon the jolly man in red! ‘Barnabas the Bully Frog’ is another tale that tickles my fancy but let’s not give away too many secrets now!

Just for fun question: If you had an unlimited supply of macadamia nuts, what would you do with them?

It’s really tough but, as them macs are the hardest nut in the world to crack, I guess I’d makes myself some kind of superhero suit – call it my macca d’armour’ if you will, thereby making me invincible!

Excellent Em.

Santa’s Magic Beard is magic for 3- 6 year olds and fanatics of Christmas like me.

Little Steps Publishing – New Frontier Oct 2013

Look for it and more of the Nutmobile Series here.

Click here to get into the spirit of Christmas early. 20% Discount is on NOW!

 

 

 

Doodles and Drafts – A visit from Santa and Glen Singleton

Santa's Magic BeardIs there anybody else out there who, like me, thinks it can’t possibly be only 5 weeks until Christmas? Just 37 days left to sort the cards, deck the halls, knock back a cup or two of good cheer and squeeze in a few book signings, never mind about drafting a list for Santa.

Thankfully the crafty, creative critters at Macadamia House have been working harder than a workshop full of elves and come up with a sensational gift solution sure to lessen your pre-Christmas planning predicaments.

Santa’s Magic Beard hits the shelves this month and is a glorious celebration of the real magic and meaning of Christmas. Author, Em Horsfield and illustrator, Glen Singleton, successfully team up again for a third time in the Nutmobile series, delivering a veritable feast of words in rhyme and visual scintillation.

Santa’s Magic Beard is possibly my favourite book in the series to date. This could in part be due to my colossal obsession with all things Christmassy or simply because this tale is told with sincere warmth and respect for the season with just enough magic stirred in to make it fun and unique.

Santa's Magic Beard.jpg NoshIt’s Christmas Eve and all the characters of Macadamia farm work hard on their Christmas wish-lists before snuggling down to await the big man’s arrival. However, Nosh the Nutmobile’s wish is of a less tangible quality. He wants to know how the reindeer actually fly. Is it really just a case of magical elf dust sprinkled liberally on their pre-flight carrots as we’ve been led to believe?

Thanks to some typical seasonal over-indulgence on behalf of Rudolph and the team, Nosh not only receives his gift but is treated to the night of his life, with Santa. As with all things ‘magical, marvellous, woolly and weird’, the rest is best left for you to discover yourself.

Santa’s Magic Beard is as memorable as sinking your teeth into the first fruit mince pie of the season and will have you yearning for more, therefore making it a delight to read over and over. It is crammed full with the very essence of Christmas in a way many young lovers of Christmas will relate to (awakening on Christmas morning to a mountain of gifts for instance) yet happily reminds us of the old adage that giving is ultimately far better than receiving.

Primary aged children will soak up this cheery picture book either as a lead-up read to Christmas or as a special treat in their Christmas stockings this year.

And because it’s the season to be jolly and admittedly excess a little, this week we’re featuring not one but two interviews with the creators of Santa’s Magic Beard.

Glen SingletonToday, Glen Singleton, quiet achiever and talented artist behind the Nutmobile picture books reveals how he differs from Santa and likes drawing animals in clothes.

Q Who is Glen Singleton? Describe the illustrator in you and what sets your work apart from other Aussie illustrators.

I was born in Brisbane and have lived and worked here all of my life. After leaving High School I studied Illustration and Animation at QLD College of Art graduating with a Diploma Of Art (Visual Communications) in 1979 . Only making up my mind in the last few days of High School to enrol. Obviously I had always had a love for drawing and spent most of my spare time squirrelled away drawing intricate pen and ink line drawings with some old Rapidiograph pens my Dad gave me. I chose a complicated cross-hatched style for some reason to try to master. Very slow and labourious with every drawing like an etching. After leaving college I decided to take the big scary step to go to working freelance. Having no choice really as no one employed illustrators full time. So have been on that rollercoaster ride ever since. Sometimes stuck at the bottom of that big tower the rollercoaster climbs…creeping to the top…before it rushes down the other side again.

In that time back in the early 90’s I met the late (great) illustrator Greg Rogers through illustration work I was commissioned to do for a Government department he worked for. We often talked of the idea of illustrating childrens books. Greg heard of a weekend workshop Scholastic were putting on and we both went off to attend and learn about the joys and love you need to illustrate them. I don’t recall a lot of what they said at the time. But there were a few words that have stuck with me over the years. They said you will probably need to draw them ‘for the love of it’. How right they were . If only we were paid for the time we really put into each book. It certainly takes a lot of love!

But cant think of anything better than sitting at my drawing board working on illustrations for a book (preferably on a bleak rainy day) listening to music in my own little world.

What sets me apart..? I don’t know. I’ve probably made a name for myself drawing mostly typical Australian stuff. A lot of it based on animals. Hopefully not too stereotyped . Suppose you have to follow the text that’s given to you really. One book leads to another sometimes . Most of the animals I draw are wearing clothes too. Don’t they all..? A throw back to growing up having Beatrix Potter’s -The Tales of Peter Rabbit read to me possibly and sticking somewhere in the back of my mind. But funnily I always thought I would love to have a crack at illustrating something like The Wind In The Willows ..love all things British and would love to live and work there. That….may never happen. I might have to be happy with just having been there a few times for holidays. But have written some stories of my own that are aimed at the market in that part of the world. Illustrating them is something else. I’ll let you know if it ever happens!

Q When did the desire to draw and create manifest itself in you?

I can remember drawing way back to when I was little. My parents always encouraged me to draw. At school I recall having more drawings in the back half of my Maths pad…than Maths in the front. I still passed Maths…just. But hopefully the drawings in the back paid off in some way. Being paid to doodle now.

Glen S illo 3Q Santa’s favourite colour is red. What’s yours and how does it influence or restrict what you illustrate?

Yes ..Santa likes his red. I like cyan blue myself. And violet. But don’t tell anyone. I do use both of those colours here and there in all of my illustrations .Squeezing them out of little bottles of acrylic colour and onto my watercolour paper. Get as many of those clashing cartoony colours on the paper as I can.

Q Describe how you develop your illustrations?

Glen S at workThe illustrations for children’s picture books start as you would expect. Reading the manuscript. That’s usually in an email from the publishers . Like most people I see little flashes or pictures of what’s happening in the story as I read it..jotting down little scribbles on the side of the sheet as I go.

Then it’s to a storyboard layout for the whole book from cover to cover so everyone can see at a glance what’s happening through the whole book in a few A4 pages . After approval from the editors it’s on to the final larger pencil roughs where all the details are pencilled in. That’s ALL of the details. Probably a little too tight for some illustrators who like to be a little more spontaneous. But this way…they see all of the expressions and details so they know what they are getting before it all goes to ink and colour where it’s way harder to change if they don’t like something.

Glen at work 3Q What is your favourite medium to work in? Pen, ink and watercolour has always been my preferred medium. Nothing digital at this stage…apart from a little PhotoShop in other commercial illustrations .

Q You are an artist of prolific variation Glen. Where has your work appeared?

Since the early 1990’s I’ve put out illustrations for books ranging from black line illustrations for joke books to full colour picture books and commercial illustrations as well.

The Golden Kangaroo– Illustrated books- FATHER KOALA’S NUSRERY RHYMES- Kel Richards—- FATHER KOALA’S FAIRY TALES- Kel Richards—FATHER KOALA’S FABLES- Kel Richards—THE GOLDEN KANGAROO- Garrison Valentine/ John Williamson—JOHN WILLIAMSON’S CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRALIA- John Williamson AND KANGAROO PLAYED HIS DIDGERIDOO- Nigel Gray CINDY ELLA- Tom Champion THE LAMINGTON MAN- Kel Richards SANTA KOALA- Colin Buchanan THE TWELVE DAYS OF AUSSIE CHRISTMAS- Colin Buchanan ALL ABOARD THE NUTMOBILE- Em HorsfieldMacadamia House THE HARVEST RACE- Em Horsfield –Macadamia House SANTA’S MAGIC BEARD- Em Horsfield– Macadamia House

– Art shows / exhibitions—Not as yet. Might get around to it someday….perhaps! If someone wants to pay for all the framing!

– Other media—I’ve produced illustrations over the years for advertising agencies and art studios and direct with clients . But styles and fashions change as things do , so mainly childrens books now these days.

Q You seem to have an affinity for Christmas themed picture books. What other children’s books have you illustrated? Do you have a favourite?

It’s probably not that I have an affinity with Christmas books. I just seem to have been asked to do a lot of them. Hopefully it’s because they’ve sold enough to lead on to another…and another. Infact I’m working on one right now ..for Christmas next year… 2014. Nothing like getting in early for Christmas. And have SANTA’S MAGIC BEARD –Macadamia House out this Christmas.

Lamington ManBut my favourite book is probably THE LAMINGTON MAN-Kel Richards and/or CINDY ELLA- Tom Champion.

Q Some might say, competency improves output? How long, on average does it take you to complete illustrations for a picture book?

Most of the colour picture books take anywhere from 8 weeks (at a real push) to about 3 months from first reading the text to couriering off the artwork. There is a LOT of work in every one.

Q What was the hardest thing about illustrating the Nosh Nutmobile Series? What was the most enjoyable?

The Nutmobile series for Macadamia House . Three books illustrated in total to date. There was nothing exceptionally hard about drawing the books for the team. It’s been pretty enjoyable really. When they came to sit at the drawing board to talk over the possibility of drawing the books for them, there were plenty of visual images that popped out of the text at first glance. So always a good sign or indicator of how illustrating a book may go.

Q Name one ‘I’ll never forget that’ moment in your illustrating career thus far.

Twelve Days of Aussie ChristmasProbably the day the editor I was working with at Scholastic in Sydney phoned me to say the artwork for my ‘Twelve Days of Aussie Christmas’ children’s picture book had been delivered by the courier to their office……(then there was a long pause)…then there was a …BUT … The artwork was damaged she said. It was bent and had holes in it . It was either driven over by a forklift or jammed in the hydraulic cargo door of the plane (that’s my theory anyway)..on its way down to Sydney and had creases across all of the illustrations and a hole punched through about a half of the illustrations. Three months work with creases and holes!

Thankfully as bad as it was, the artwork was salvageable…I had seen myself having to re-draw things…But I didn’t have re-draw anything. With some skilful handy work from the graphic designer (and PhotoShop) the book went to print without anyone knowing of any of the drama.

Q What is on the storyboard for Glen?

Another Christmas book for next Christmas 2014 that I’m working on…. A Dinosaur book already illustrated and another Nutmobile book ready to start.

Just for fun question: If you had an unlimited supply of macadamia nuts, what would you do with them?

I’d have no use for them other than a handful now and then. So I’d send them by the truckload to Macadamia House for them to sell to fund the next dozen books in their series they have planned for me to illustrate. You can only eat so many nuts……..(unlike reindeers apparently!)

Thankyou Glen!

Keep your reindeer antenna tuned in for the next visitor to the Draft table – Em Horsfield.

Find out more about any of the books mentioned in this post or purchase a copy here.

Little Steps Publishing November 2013