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Monday, March 2, 2015

Interview With Zenobia Southcombe

It's been a while since I've interviewed anyone, so when Zenobia Southcombe asked for one, I jumped on it. Not just because it's been a while, but because Zenobia & I have something very special in common. We are Jills Of All Trades.
While most people are just writers, or just artists, or just musicians, we do it all. People like us were told when we were young that we could do anything we put our minds to, & somewhere deep inside we took that to mean we could do EVERYTHING we put our minds to. So, we do. Or at least we try to.
In Zenobia's case, it seems to be working. 

What IS her secret? & what is it that puts the fire in her veins? 

Find out now in my interview with her:

Kylie: Your book "What Stars Are Made Of" (which looks amazing) proves that a picture really IS worth 1,000 words. No words in the book? None at all? I'm impressed! How did you go about telling a story using only illustrations, & what gave you this brilliant idea?
Zenobia: I'd liked the idea of a wordless book since I “read” Shaun Tan's The Arrival so I guess the idea came from there. At that point in time, The Caretaker of Imagination was with my illustrator and its final beta readers and I needed a project to sink my teeth into.
Part of it was down to a stubborn streak, too - my writerly confidence could do with a boost and I really wanted to have something published by the end of the year.
In terms of telling the story, I did have to change the illustrations around a few times (I checked with some teacher-friends to see if the narrative was clear) and I added an extra couple in. I storyboarded the whole thing first and tried to use images and symbols that were simple and universal.

K: For me, music is an essential part of writing & illustrating. Do you use music to get the creative juices flowing? & if so, what bands or songs tend to be your go-to for inspiration?
Z: Yes, definitely! I noticed while drafting that I tend to listen to nineties music. Don't ask me why! Disney music does it for me while I'm brainstorming, and Robert Mile's track Children gets me focused no matter what. I swear it's magic. My all time favourites are the Beatles though (talk about creativity and imagination) and at the moment I'm going through a Paul Simon phase.

K: Being a fellow Jill Of All Trades, I know it can be extremely hard to stay focused & to not go crazy. What are some methods you use to stay on track when you've got so many different things going on at once? Do you schedule different projects for different times of the day? Do you make a list of everything you're working on? Do tell, because I MUST know your secret :)
Z: Ha! I don't have a secret - sorry! I do have a few strategies though, and it's probably easier to list them:
  • People! I find that surrounding myself with other creatives - people who get excited about the same things that I do - keep my energy up so I don't burnout before the end of a project.
  • Accountability - social media and blogging is great for this. If I'm sharing progress on a project, people become involved in the project as well, so if you don't pull through then you're letting them down as well.
  • I do have a yearly planner. I've actually just changed my schedule a bit, but it means I'm not trying to keep timelines in my head.
  • I also have a daily planner, where I write my to-do lists. I usually cross off 50-75% of the tasks, and the rest carry over to the next day.
  • …but I give myself days off as well. Every now and again I'll scratch a page out and that's my 'day off'. I usually end up doing some sort of work, but it's whatever I feel like doing at the time - not what I think I should be doing.
  • In terms of daily routine, I'm trying to build a morning walk in first, then I do my day-job prep work for up to an hour, and I'm left with four hours of writing work. I don't break this down further - it just depends on what project I'm working on at the time.

K: Most writers tend to worship coffee as the bringer of life (insert choir of angels here) but you prefer tea. What's your absolute favorite kind of tea?
Z: Aw no fair, I have to choose ONE? I'm going to be a rebel and choose two - one is Twining's New Zealand Earl Grey which uses mandarin instead of bergamot, and has a very subtle sweetness. The other is chai masala (literally 'spiced tea') which I make with Irish Breakfast or Assam tea and add black pepper, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and honey… yum!

K: I love chai too! Good stuff :) Speaking of favorites, out of all the visual art you've done, what is your favorite piece? & can you share it with us? Pretty please?
Z: What's up with the hard questions, Kylie!? My favourite is actually one I ended up throwing away! It was an antique-style map, and was a project I did during the school holidays when I was a teacher. The reason I loved it is that it got me back into painting after a LONG hiatus, and the reason I threw it away is the same - it became a big reminder of a person that I didn't want to become again.

K: Your next book "The Caretaker Of Imagination" looks like a fun read. & this one DOES have words, right? Other than that, how is this book different from your last one, & how did it come about?
Z: Yes, thousands of words in fact! It's definitely more commercial, as it sits in the MG Fantasy & Adventure genre well, whereas What Stars Are Made Of sits outside of customary genres. Having said that, The Caretaker is still a bit 'offbeat' - I mean, it's a kid's story with a grown-up protagonist, and it's got a cake-loving pirate. Not your stock standard fantasy.
There is similarity in the themes of both books though: the essence of What Stars Are Made Of  is about the beauty and creative light that is within all of us, and in many ways that is what the protagonist's journey is about in The Caretaker of Imagination as well.

K: I know you have another project up your sleeve (people like us always do). Can you divulge any information about what we can expect from you next?
Z: Well, there are two more (stand alone) books the The Caretaker series, which will hopefully be released in July & October this year. The second book, Lucy's Story: The End of the World is in its 4th round of revisions, and currently with my illustrator, Jane Thorne. The third book is being drafted as we speak!
There's also another project that I'm working as an illustrator on, and I haven't said a lot about this one yet. I do drawing sessions with my friend Anne, and she's an amazing story teller. My illustrator is working on a kid's book that she wrote years ago and we're going to publish that this year, and she has a wordless book (yay!) project for me to illustrate. It's called Animal Heaven and you'll hear more about this after The Caretaker is released!
AND I'm working on merchandise at the moment! Ain't no rest for the creative :)

Ain't that the truth! 

Thanks to Zenobia for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my (sometimes hard) questions! For more on this wonderful Jill Of All Trades, you can check out her website, & you can follow her on Twitter & Google+

Thanks for reading! 

Be The Lightning,


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