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The Stars, The Sun, and a Little Owl: Behind the Book with Karl Newson & Migy Blanco


Illustrator Migy Blanco has teamed up with author Karl Newson in creating a beautifully illustrated story — perfect for bedtime reading.

Migy Blanco’s colour palette is so warm, he transports you to countries with tropical climes, creating pictures it’d be nice to step into for a while — especially if you live in a built up city like London.
Shortlisted for the Waterstones book prize in 2016 with Lorraine Carey for Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf, also published by Nosy Crow, there will be great promise forHere Comes The Sun. 

Migy Blanco - Here Comes the Sun

Publishing March 2nd 2017 with Nosy Crow.

Karl Newson is both an author and illustrator. He loves to collaborate with other artists, and will always look for the right fit for his stories, despite being an artist himself. Karl is also known for his children’s book blog, The Mudwaffler, where he reviews the best in picture books and story telling.

Karl and Migy will be joining us at The Bright Emporium on Sunday 12th March, so I caught up with both illustrator and author to find out more. LM


I have just read Here Comes the Sun. Your illustrations bring the story to life – they are rich and vibrant. How did the collaboration between you and Karl come about?

Initially I created some colours of the owl character for Karl to see.  I know the text had been subject to a bidding process so every one was very keen for it to be just right!


Artwork from Here Comes the Sun, written by Karl Newson, illustrated by Migy Blanco.

Who or what inspired you to become a children’s author/illustrator?

I had worked in lots of areas of illustration before deciding but became tired of how quickly the work disappeared.  I liked the idea of maybe being able to create something that would stick around for a while and that might be loved.  Having my own children also helped, as I suddenly had a glimpse of what kids like again.

Migy covers 1

Your colour palette is very warm and truly stands out – what influenced the colours you use?

Colours are a difficult part of the process. Sometimes it takes me a few spreads to get them right.  I am not sure really where my palette comes from. I feel it’s just something inherent to the way my brain works.

Did you study illustration?

I studied Fine Art painting but slowly moved into illustration over a period of 10 years. My path to illustration started with painting, then 3D modelling and animation, then web design and Flash animation, then editorial illustration – and finally Children’s Book illustration.


What advice can you give to budding illustrators about a career in children’s books?

Determination, thick headedness and being single minded worked for me.

Is it important to have an agent?

I think you can get along with out one, but having a good agent really frees you up to concentrate on the work.


Has there been a particular book you’ve loved working on?

Here Come the Sun is my current favourite.

What was your favourite book as a child?

The Snowman.


What can we look forward to from you next?

Currently working on a book about a time traveling boy who travels back to ancient Rome. It’s going to be a rich and colourful extravaganza.

THE AUTHOR — Karl Newson:

I love the idea of an owl putting out the stars – what an ingenious way to explain the cross over from night to day. It is gentle – plus a great way to settle little ones down for sleeping (which can sometimes be tricky) What made you think of the idea?

I’m a bit obsessed with the stars and the moon and have spent many a time gazing up, wowing at them, so they were bound to creep in somewhere… I often think children must wonder what goes on at night while they’re asleep, and then I added to that ‘Why are owls nocturnal – what do they do at night that they can’t do during the day?’ and the story was seeded. I wanted it to be for children the whole world over, so it made sense for the owl to fly all around the world (and that allowed for a shooting star and a chase), and I knew it would end with the sunrise, so it was just picking out the places and the animals we get to share the night with. It all came out in a few minutes really. The simplest ideas always seem to be my best ones!


Artwork from Here Comes the Sun, written by Karl Newson, illustrated by Migy Blanco.

 As an illustrator and author, you work with artists on your written texts, and illustrate for other authors on theirs. But what makes you decide not to illustrate something you’ve written yourself? Is it very much that you have a strong idea of how you’d like it to look – hence choosing to work with another illustrator? 

I made the decision when I signed up with my agent, Jodie, that my texts should be sent out separately to my illustrations. My illustration style just didn’t fit the look I had in mind for my texts. I could have held them all back and worked on my style a bit longer, but I’m really glad I let them go free. That decision has lead to me being teamed up with lots of amazing illustrators – never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how things would turn out. To be teamed up with Migy for Here Comes the Sun is fantastic. I’m a huge fan! I’m not possessive over my texts. As far as I’m concerned they don’t become a story until they’re brought to life by an illustrator. And the best thing is it leaves me with time to write more stories. Win win!


Artwork from Here Comes the Sun, written by Karl Newson, illustrated by Migy Blanco.

Can we look forward to an author illustrated book by you in the future? 

Yes, I hope so! I’m working on something at the moment which will be my first pitch as author / illustrator, so fingers crossed!

 Do you have a favourite picture book from childhood?

I honestly can’t remember any picture books from my childhood, which is a massive shame, but one book I do remember (and which still sits on the book shelf next to my desk now) is The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark, by Jill Tomlinson. Plop’s night time adventures brought the dark to life – it’s brilliant! And how strange that my first picture book should also feature an owl! Plop’s been flapping around in my mind for years, it seems.


 Who or what inspired you to become an author/illustrator?

My children are to blame! A long time ago (when they were newly hatched) I wrote a little story and read it to them and it seemed to go down well (well, I thought it did – they mostly just giggled and dribbled). So I wrote some more and grew a few beards and taught myself to illustrate and watched the years roll by… When Here Comes the Sun is published in March it’ll be almost ten years exactly since I started out on this adventure. And of course, now my children don’t do picture books, and I don’t think they’re too bothered by it to be honest, but it’s all been for them – and it’s here at last! (Sorry it’s taken so long, boys!)

What is your creative process (for writing and drawing)

Writing is going on all the time – I’m usually working on four or five stories at a time, spread across my pc, notebook and mobile phone, so I can be working on something wherever I am. Ideas for the stories come from anywhere: a song, an overheard conversation, something on TV, anywhere. Mostly, a line or title will appear in my mind and I’ll go from there. I don’t always set out to write about something in particular, I just scribble whatever flows and see where it takes me. I like my stories to be full of fun, exciting, loud and quiet all in one, and not preachy or inferring a lesson of some kind.

And for my drawing – I try to be spontaneous from the get-go and again, see what comes out, then I work with those roughs to build up something that fits the bill. There’s a lot of wiggling about and rehashing involved. (I find the writing bit a lot easier!).

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Karl’s own picture book illustration.

Did you go to art school?

No. I’m a self-taughtie. I took Art A-Level in Sixth Form which mostly involved copying other artists techniques or drawing vases and as much as I loved art as a subject, that side of it just bored me beyond belief – I wanted to make new stuff, not copy old stuff. My art teacher asked if I wanted to go to art school but I stupidly said no. And that was that.

Have you always wanted to make books for children?

Always since ten years ago, yes! Before that I’m not sure what I wanted to do/be. And before that I planned on being an astronaut, a vet and an architect. It’s funny how things work out.

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Karl’s own picture book illustration.

Follow Migy on Twitter and check out his website here!

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Karl’s fantastic blog The Mudwaffler, where you can read great reviews on the top children’s picture books and find out more about your favourite author/illustrators!

And if you’d like to meet Migy and Karl, come along to our Storytime on Sunday 12th March. More info and tickets HERE.


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