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The pandemic highlighted existing inequalities across the globe, impacting the lives of so many, especially those without a home in which to shield within. As we celebrate the release of The Queen on Our Corner, let us reflect upon the important message behind the book, and discover how the Queen’s story ultimately came into fruition. We hope you enjoy this in-depth Q&A with author Lucy Christopher, and debut illustrator, Nia Tudor.
Let’s start with you Lucy. Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what inspired you to write The Queen on Our Corner?
Hi! My name is Lucy, and I write a lot of stories. Sometimes I write really long ones for grown up people, other times I write shorter ones for littler people. The Queen on Our Corner is a story about a woman who doesn’t have a home, who lives on the corner of a street where a little girl lives. One little girl is the only one who notices her there … at first.
I wrote this book for a few reasons. I'd been thinking about how there were lots of people who lived on the corners of my home town. I started to wonder about them and where they had come from, and what they had done before arriving here. One morning, I had a long conversation with a man who used to be a saxophone player but who had sold his instrument in order to buy food. I wondered if there were other homeless people who had been musicians, athletes, librarians, readers and writers. Then, a friend of mine told me a story about a homeless soldier who had once been a hero. I kept thinking about all these potential heroes - the kings and queens - around us. Could I stop to find out more? Maybe, even, help them find a palace?
That sounds like a really inspiring premise. What about you, Nia? Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them why you wanted to illustrate The Queen on Our Corner?
Hi, I’m Nia Tudor. I’m a children’s illustrator living with my family on the Welsh coast. I was drawn to The Queen on Our Corner for a few reasons; the beautiful story and how it focuses on the importance of compassion for everyone, no matter their background, and the chance to work with Lantana, who’s drive for inclusivity was really appealing.
We believe all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read, and your book wonderfully encompasses this ethos. What are your thoughts on representation in children’s books, and how do you think we can all do more to champion greater inclusivity within the publishing industry?
L: I love Lantana’s ethos in regards to this, and I have always wanted to be a Lantana author and support them. I think if more publishing houses followed a Lantana model in regards to providing representation, it would be a good start to greater inclusivity. I also think it’s important to encourage the teaching of creative subjects in school – by encouraging all children from a young age to believe that they have valuable stories to tell, and that they are the ones to tell them, we will grow a whole world of new stories.
N: There are so many creators out there who haven’t always been given the platform to tell their stories and it’s fantastic to see that the publishing industry is pushing to allow these stories to be told. It’s really important to lift each other up - the children’s book community is big, but with space for everyone.
Collaboration is such an important part of the picture book process. How does working with another person impact the thought process behind your creative work?
L: Collaboration, working with an illustrator, is one of the best parts of writing a picture book! I love seeing how another creative person interprets my written world, and what they add to it through pictures. I try not to overly describe anything in my picture books (another difference from writing novels!), so that I can leave room for the illustrator to add the “colour”, the details of the story. I also try to make something happen – or, put ‘something to draw’ – on each of the pages. I’m thinking about the illustrator as much as the story itself when I do that.
N: People might not realise this, but during the making of a picture book there isn’t actually a lot of contact between author and illustrator. Some authors use illustration notes to give guidance, but Lucy leaves her text completely open to interpretation, which gave me amazing scope to create the best illustrations to tell the Queen’s story.
Thank you both for that wonderful insight. Now, for some individual questions. The Queen on Our Corner explores homelessness through the eyes of the child, and teaches the importance of community. What is the most important thing you want young readers to take away from this story, Lucy?
L: I want readers to take away a sense of curiosity and empathy towards all the people we meet – a sense that we never know the whole story of a person, how they got to where they got to or why. I’d like young readers to think about how everyone always has adventure stories to tell, no matter who they are.
Having written and published books in other genres, how would you say writing picture books differs? Do you have a different creative process for each book?
L: I love writing picture books, and the process is very different to writing a long novel. With a picture book every single word, or bit of punctuation, carries a lot of weight and importance. There’s a sense that everything you put on the page has to mean something, or add to the story. There is no room for faffing around, or waste. With a long novel, you can get away with more. Stories can be more relaxed, sometimes less lyrical. Writing a picture book is a bit like writing a poem – often, they also focus on intense moments in time, together with a lot of emotion and meaning for the reader.
Your book, Shadow, was published by us in 2019. What was the most challenging part of writing The Queen on Our Corner, and how did it differ from Shadow?
L: Shadow was a very personal story, started as a kind of tale to my younger child self. I was a lonely little child who moved a lot – I was telling myself the kind of story I might like to have heard. The Queen on Our Corner immediately felt more like a traditional kind of story – one more universal, and with a clear plot, climax, and resolution; one less focussed around feelings or emotion (like Shadow is). The most challenging part of writing The Queen on Our Corner was thinking about how to portray The Queen. I wanted her to be proud and capable, while also feeling realistic. I wanted readers to be left wondering about her.
It’s no secret to fellow creatives that there’s always a project to keep us busy. Are there any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
L: Yes, I always have a story or two about cooking! My first book for adults, Release, will be published in 2022, so that’s very exciting. I have also just submitted two new picture book ideas to Lantana for consideration … so, watch this space.
And finally, as an award-winning author, what advice would you give budding writers? We all know publishing a book can be a long, and difficult process, so how did you overcome challenges to get to where you are today?
L: Find people, or places, that will inspire, encourage, and support you on your creative journey, but most importantly, learn how to inspire, encourage and support yourself. Remember, also, that it is the journey that is important in writing, even more important than the published outcome at the end. It is through the journey of writing that writers learn about creativity, themselves, and their world. I like to think of creative writing as a vocation rather than as a standard job. It’s something you really need to want to do for yourself, and for others; it’s not a standard 9-5 way to make a living.
Now, for your questions, Nia. The illustrations really do bring the story to life wonderfully. How did you go about creating the initial sketches, and what were the core materials you used?
N: The initial sketches came together collaboratively with my editor, Holly. We discussed the direction we saw the illustrations going and settled on ideas for each spread. It was really interesting, because before working on this book I’d usually go straight into full colour and detail, but I pared back my initial sketches a lot, and then started work on colour. I actually work completely digitally, and to make the art for this book I used an iPad Pro and Apple pencil and crested them in Procreate. I then tweaked the colour slightly using photoshop.
We love seeing new illustrations on your socials! Are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
N: While I can’t go into details just yet, I’m currently working on a new picture book with Little Tiger Press that I’m very excited about! I’m also working on a set of puzzles with Lelomin who are a new and lovely small business.
We’re so pleased to be publishing your debut picture book, Nia! Do you have any advice to give to budding illustrators out there?
N: Draw a lot and never give up! It’s a question I get asked a lot and really the only answer is to practice, and never stop drawing. The more you do it the more you’ll find what works for you, what you like, and what you don’t like. I’m always looking to improve my skill and the only way that ever happens is when I make sure that I keep drawing!
Thank you, Lucy and Nia! We hope you enjoyed this wonderful insight into the creative process behind The Queen on Our Corner. Find out more about Lucy and Nia’s work, and keep up to date with their latest projects, by following them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook
See more from this heartwarming book when you watch the book trailer below!
Every print book purchase goes towards our A Book for a Book programme where we donate books to children who need them most via our amazing charity partners.
Lucy is the award-winning author of Stolen, Flyaway, The Killing Woods, and Storm-Wake. She is Course Director in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, UK, where she holds a PhD in Creative Writing. Learn more about her fantastic books from her website www.lucychristopher.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Nia is a self-taught illustrator based in Swansea, South Wales. She loves to create illustrations that play with colour, light and texture and has a thing for the little details. See more of her stunning illustrations on www.niatudor.co.uk or keep up to date with her on Twitter or Instagram.