It's the book birthday of Shadow, and we're delighted to be celebrating on the blog with the book's brilliant author and illustrator, Lucy Christopher and Anastasia Suvorova.
When we asked Lucy if she would like to interview Anastasia for our KidLit Art Spotlight, she jumped at the chance! Read on for a fascinating conversation between author and illustrator about the making of their book Shadow, a powerful story about a young girl, her shadow, and finding the light within the darkness.
Lucy: So, I have a million questions I'd love to ask you - of course! - but I've tried to narrow it down to just ten....although it had to be eleven in the end because I HAD to ask you a cheeky one too!
When you first read the text for Shadow, did you want to illustrate it straight away? Did you have an immediate feeling for what you would do, or was it a slower process to discover the book's images?
: I immediately fell in love with Shadow
! Images and pictures flashed through my head, and they helped me to determine how I would like to do this in terms of colour and images. This topic is very close to my heart. Just like many children, I also experienced times when I was afraid and had nightmares. It seems to me that this story is very real. It is not overly sweet or sugarcoated, which can sometimes be the case for children's books. Rather, the book describes the kind of story that happens in real life. I bragged to my friends for a long time about the amazing text that I received to illustrate. Thank you, Lucy, this is a great story! I love it so much!!!
Lucy: I love your use of colour in this book - how the pictures move from being mostly grey in tone to mostly red and orange. What was your thought process behind that, and how did you practically decide when and how to do this transition?
Anastasia: I rely more on intuition when it comes to using colour. And, of course, the text itself guided me very much. From the very beginning of the story, we understand that something is wrong. After all, we know that Shadow isn't really there, but in the eyes of a child, he is very real. I wanted to convey this tension. It was also important for me to indicate the climax, and on this page, I had to completely do away with colour. At this moment, everything is engulfed in shadow. And then comes the moment she reunites with Ma, which changes everything. Also, I really just love red. I like how it works in the book and can be used to emphasize what is important.
Lucy: I found it so interesting that you set the book in your native Russia. For me, I loved this choice. I felt this snowy, forest setting added such a wonderful sense of 'fairy-tale' to this story. Why did you so want to make this a story set in your homeland?
Anastasia: From the very beginning, we talked about how the book should be set during the winter. The pictures simply popped up in my head while I was thinking about the text. I was probably influenced by the fact that I grew up in a small town in Russia, and very often during the winter my family and I visited the woods. We played in the snow, looked at animal tracks, and made snow fortresses. I love the forest in winter. It really does resemble a fairy tale. Now I live in St. Petersburg. It’s a little warmer here, and that feeling is absent. And the forest here is also a little different.
Lucy: Your addition of the small black cat at the end is absolutely genius, and is one of my favourite things about this book. To me, it feels like this is the new embodiment of Shadow and I liked the sense of Shadow still being present in our main character's life and not left in the forest. Was this your reasoning behind including the cat too, or does the cat actually have a different meaning or purpose for you?
Anastasia: Hurray! I'm glad you guessed the reason why. I was a little sad to leave Shadow in the forest. I became very attached to him. Or perhaps the reason is that from the very beginning of the story there was a small lonely kitten in the house who found a family for himself.
Lucy: How did you decide what the character of Shadow would look like?
Anastasia: Initially, what I knew for sure was that Shadow should definitely have horns! Just like monsters in children's stories. And then I got the idea that Shadow should initially look like a person, but as his relationship with the girl grows stronger, he progressively becomes more and more frightening.
Lucy: In my day job as a teacher of writing for young people, we often talk about picture books having extra things in the images that aren't always in the text. What do you feel your pictures added that wasn't expressed in the text itself?
Anastasia: I believe that my main task was to direct emotional accents. Plus, I was really drawn to the story of a mother who is raising her child alone. Work, moving, and life, in general, all exert pressure on her. She wants to be a good mum, but she can no longer cope with the situation. Currently, a lot of parents are in a situation where they are forced to work hard to provide for their children. They want the best for them, but often this leads to a situation where the child feels abandoned and lonely. The text tells us about the story of the child, but I wanted to show Ma's story as well.
Lucy: If you could have asked me to do anything different, or add anything else as the writer to this story, what would it have been?
Anastasia: Nothing more could have been done! This is such an absolutely beautiful story.
Lucy: Is there a particular kind of story, or a particular theme, that you would still like to illustrate one day?
: Surprisingly, book projects most frequently come to me with topics that I love: stories that are subtle, psychological, philosophical, a little magical, deep, and that are very emotionally engaging. Like the book Shadow
. Thanks again for it! I will always be thankful for this story.
Lucy: Who is your favourite picture book illustrator and why?
Anastasia: Probably Shaun Tan. I really love all of his books for their mystery, layering, and their ability to create entire worlds. I like how they engage in philosophy without vulgarity and for the complexity of their technique and compositional solutions.
Lucy: If you could illustrate a book for any author in the world, who would it be and why?
Anastasia: I find it hard to answer this question. The fact of the matter is that I probably do not read the books that I would like to illustrate. Usually there is a lot of text, and the characters only do things that make them suffer, or they reflect on serious topics. Therefore, for the moment I can't name a particular book or author that I would like to illustrate.
Lucy: A cheeky extra question - would you like to do another book together?
Anastasia: I would really like to! I hope that we have an opportunity to work together again!
Thank you, Anastasia and Lucy! Follow the blog tour for more behind-the-scenes and beyond-the-book goodness from Lucy and Anastasia! And check out Lucy's favourite companion reads to Shadow in her blog post Reading Stories to tackle the Mental Health crisis.
Click HERE to see more from this powerful and uplifting story about helping children face their fears and anxieties, and the transformative power of togetherness.
Anastasia Suvorova is an award-winning children’s book illustrator from St Petersburg, Russia. She is the 2018 winner of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Silent Book Contest. Follow Anastasia on Instagram @chaosego. Visit chaosego.com to find more of her work.
Lucy Christopher is the Course Director of the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University and the award-winning author of Stolen, Flyaway, The Killing Woods, and Storm-Wake. Shadow is her first picture book. To learn more about Lucy, follow her on Twitter @LucyCAuthor and on Instagram @christopher.lucy or visit her lucychristopher.com .