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Behind the Book: Monty & Sylvester by Carly Gledhill

Carly Gledhill’s artwork style is immediately recognisable for her quirky characters and playful layouts, full of humour and heart. This spring her debut author-illustrated picture book ‘Monty & Sylvester A Tale of Everyday Super Heroes’ published with Orchard Books.

We spoke to Carly on creating her first picture book, and delve deeper into what inspired this imaginative, witty tale, and the loveable duo behind the story, best friends — and unlikely heroes — Monty and Sylvester.

What first sparked the idea for Monty and Sylvester? As an author-illustrator which element comes first to you, the words or the illustrations?

I drew the characters first, a long time before I came up with the story. I kept seeing them loitering, lost in a folder in my computer. I came back to them after spending way too long trying to write a picture book that really wasn’t working. It was as if they spoke to me, to tell me the tales they’d been up to in that computer folder while I’d just left them to it. The book was finished really quickly, I just wasn’t sure whether it was even slightly publishable!

From book fair to bookshop, Carly Gledhill at Foyles, Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and Daunt Books.

How did you develop your distinctive art style, and what influences and inspires your work?

I have a degree in Textile Design and an MA in Children’s Book Illustration, I’ve always drawn characters and used text and small narratives within my work. I really found my individual style during the Masters course, the time and freedom just to draw and experiment with stories and characters made me want to do it forever! My influences are from all over the place: 90’s Children’s TV, street art, comic books, gardening!

Carly’s influences include Clarissa Explains It All, Batman and Robin, Snoopy comics, and Raggy Dolls.

Monty & Sylvester are a brilliant duo, how do you go about creating original characters?

I draw characters that are usually animals, but definitely have a strong personality lurking beneath the cute exterior. There’s more to them than meets the eye, for example Monty the mouse is a member of the Telephone Box Fan club and a Table Football World champion. Once created there is no end to what situation you can then place them in, using that particular character trait or skill set to then create the story around.

Early Character Development:

Do you have a favourite spread in the book? If so, which one and why?

The first page is my favourite, it hasn’t changed much from the first draft and introduces Monty and Sylvester very nicely. Sylvester is doing press ups wearing a sweatband while Monty swats up reading a super hero manual! I think this nicely portrays the two different characters and sets the domestic scene.

Monty and Sylvester is a fun, laugh-out-loud tale, how do you create humour in your artwork?

I use subtle changes of expression in the characters and little snippets of things going on as my main tools. Keeping the background quite simplistic highlights the humour going on the forefront. The text and the images really need to work together to make the story flow and bring the humour across.

Example spread:

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring author-illustrator?

Make the book for yourself, if you like it and believe in it I think that’s the most important thing.

Sneak peek of an unseen idea where Monty & Sylvester go camping:

Your second book starring Monty and Sylvester is out in spring 2019, what can we expect from the next instalment?

Well I’ve definitely given Monty and Sylvester a huge challenge in the sequel, I could tell you where they are going but that might be one giant leap too far!

See more of Carly Gledhill’s artwork on her portfolio.

Get in touch with Carly’s agent Arabella Stein.



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