Secrets from an author and illustrator about their middle-grade horror series, Part One

Secrets from an author and illustrator

Secrets from an author and illustrator about their middle-grade horror series, Part One

Posted on April 10 by Philippa Dowding in Interview, Kids
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In a two-part series, we have a conversation between the author and illustrator of Alex and The Other. First, let’s hear from illustrator Shawna Daigle, as interviewed by author Philippa Dowding.


Philippa Dowding: As an “evil twin” story for middle-grade readers, our new book Alex and The Other is possibly the darkest of the four books we’ve done together so far in the Weird Stories Gone Wrong series. Were there any particular challenges you faced as the illustrator, doing a “darker” more psychological book for children?

Shawna Daigle: I have definitely been told in the past to tone down my illustrations and not make them too scary. I think having a bit more freedom this time around, to explore the creepier elements in the book, was actually right up my alley. 


Philippa Dowding: Which book of the four books so far in the series has been the most fun for you to illustrate, and why?

Shawna Daigle: I’d have to say Myles and the Monster Outside was still one of my favourite books to work on. I really enjoyed getting to create the fog monster who could look like anything I wanted. I tried to make him look a bit different every time I drew him, because fog is always changing and moving. It was a really fun challenge! 


Philippa Dowding: By my count over the first four books, including covers and chapter heads, you have done 30 illustrations for the series so far. Which is your favourite illustration, and why (and you have to pick just one!)? Which is your least favourite, and why? (ha-ha, tough one!)


Shawna Daigle:Well, I can say that my favourite illustration has to be the one of the fog monster coming out on the path in front of Myles (Myles and the Monster Outside, page 115).
That being said it isn't really the illustration itself I love, but when I look at it I can't help but smile and think back to my very first book award, the OLA Silver Birch Express award in 2017. We had a packed auditorium of over 200 people and an enormous screen we were using to do a presentation and as soon as this illustration hit the screen the entire auditorium collectively gasped. It was one of the greatest moments I've had so far in this journey, getting to see the people who love the books, and their reaction to my illustrations. It was priceless.

As for the least favourite one, I’m not sure I have one, but I do know I’ve improved as an illustrator since book one. I love mistakes and imperfect lines, and I never try to have an exact image in my head when I start a drawing, so the end result is always a fun surprise even for me!


Philippa Dowding: Our process together is very collaborative, and a lot of fun from my perspective. But I’m wondering what you like most about your process as illustrator? And what do you like the least? (ha-ha!)

Shawna Daigle: I love getting to work together on deciding which parts of the story are going to be brought to life with visuals, and realizing how a single scene from a book can manifest in people’s minds. You never expect how differently you have all envisioned a scene until you start to discuss and draw it out. Alternatively that can also be one of the most frustrating parts of the process, when you see something so clearly one way and someone else has seen it very differently.


Philippa Dowding: I know this has been one of your dreams from childhood, to create children’s books (mine too!). Now that you have four books under your belt (and a few awards) with two more books coming out in the next year, what would you say surprised you the MOST about the reality of being a children’s illustrator versus the dream vision of it?

Shawna Daigle: I never realized that being an illustrator meant being so social! You see the images of those authors or illustrators who just stay at home in their mess with their cats, but in reality there are meet-and-greets and award shows and author gatherings constantly! It's very fun, you get to meet tons of people along the way, including very prolific authors from your childhood who are  — surprise, surprise — REAL people! 

Philippa Dowding

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
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Philippa Dowding

Philippa Dowding is an award-winning children’s author, a poet, musician and a copywriter. Her many literary nominations include the Silver Birch Express, Red Cedar, and Red Maple awards. She lives in Toronto.