Alison Brown's Advice For Bedtime Story Competition Entrants

We were delighted to sit down with the fantastic children's book illustrator, Alison Brown, who will be creating the artwork for the Bedtime Story Competition's winning story! Read on to find out how Alison's favourite books, how she designs characters, and her advice for Bedtime Story Competition entrants...

Watch our fascinating Bedtime Story Competition interview with the brilliant Alison Brown or read the transcript below...

Illustrator Questions

1) How do you create the characters for a picture book?

The most important things are my sketchbooks and they go with me wherever I go. They are the places where I start to make some early ideas about what the characters are going to look like. When I get a text for a picture book I'll work a lot in black and white for things called roughs. We create the characters first and then begin to break the text down into pages and have a look at how things are going to be laid out and once that is finalised we go on to the final artwork.

2) What goes in your sketchbook?

It's a mixture of things; it's definitely things from everyday life. I don't necessarily go out and draw from everyday life, but I'll often go into the park and see something which I think is funny or peculiar and I'll come back home and sketch that out so I don't forget it. Then other things are simply just the product of my imagination.

3) Do you get an idea of what the characters will look like as soon as you read a story?

I think I do, more or less, and sometimes they will evolve a bit from the beginning but it's quite unusual for them to completely change. Unless it's a book where, say it's an animal character, if the species of animal is defined at the beginning and I imagine it as a bear and a chicken and then the writer or the editor comes back and says we actually envisioned a fox and a turkey they might change completely. But quite often what comes at the beginning tends to be what ends up as the final character.

4) What advice would you give to young writers developing their characters?

I think that when you're writing your stories you can absolutely go wild in your imagination with who the character is and where the story's set. But, if you have at the heart of it, something that's real to you, like a feeling that you have or an experience that you've had then you'll be able to bring that into your story and that's going to make it seem really believable and people will be really able to connect with it.

Quick Fire Questions

What's your favourite bedtime book?

John Burningham is absolutely one of my favourite writers and I always love reading his stories at bedtime because they give rise to loads of questions, they're very funny and quirky. Simp is one of my favourite ones and there's another one which I really love which is called John Patrick Norman McHennessy, The Boy Who Was Always Late.

If you could be best friends with anyone from a book, who would it be?

I would love to be best friends with Mr Happy, wouldn't it be great to have somebody who would just always have a smile on their face.

Did you have any imaginary friends?

I didn't have any imaginary friends growing up. I had two very lively sisters so I don't think I had any time to have imaginary friends.

What's your favourite word?

My favourite word is blancmange, that's a good one.

What makes a good goody?

I think a good goody is someone who doesn't necessarily find it easy to be good, someone who has to really try hard to do the right thing.

What makes a bad baddy?

A bad baddy has to be someone who really makes you feel quite chilled when you think about them. I recently read Beetle Boy with my daughter and the villain in Beetle Boy is Lucretia Cutter, who is a terrifying half-woman, half-beetle and she's truly a really chilling villain.

Who's your best friend and what makes them so brilliant?

My earliest best friend is called Elaine and she just makes me laugh. When we were little she had the rare talent of being able to burp the alphabet which impressed me no end, I'm not sure if she can still do that now, but she has never changed and she never fails to make me laugh every time I see her.

Tell us something we don't know about you...

I am really good at using chopsticks and that's because I worked for a while in Japan and I had to eat school dinners everyday, and all the kids used to kill themselves laughing whenever I was attempting to eat my school dinner with the chopsticks so I had to become an expert really quickly.

To see more of Alison's beautiful illustrations for yourself, check out our range of Alison Brown books. Also, do check out last year's winning story The Moon Man by Isabel Harris and, as we're nearing the deadline now, make sure you get you get your entry in to The Bedtime Story Competition.