Author & Illustrator Interview: Sophy Henn

Sophy HennHugely excited that Sophy Henn (Pom Pom the Champion, Where Bear?) joins My Book Corner today.

Doubly excited that she’s brought with her an exclusive cover reveal of her next book, the cake did the trick! Thanks Sophy.

Tell us about you in 25 words or less.

A tea loving mum who can’t believe her luck at getting to make books for an actual job.

What makes you happy?

Hanging out with my daughter, going to the seaside, animals, kindness, curry, friends, tea and a good murder mystery on the radio. Oh and my silver boots.

Where have you always wanted to visit, but haven’t made it to … yet?

Almost everywhere, I am not ever so well-travelled and have promised myself I will do it in style as soon as I can. I adore Italy and want to see more of it, but I would LOVE to do some of the great train journeys, starting with India.

Where is your favourite place to write and illustrate?

It’s my studio as I can clear my mind in there and I have everything I need to hand. It’s nice and light, but not quite as I would like it. I have ordered some very exciting String shelving, but the rest of the makeover will have to wait! I have plain white desks, but I recently saw Jean Julien’s studio in an article and he has pink desks , so know I really, really want pink desks (flattering glow!). I have overflowing bookshelves (hence new shelving) and an old oak sideboard I found in an auction in Norfolk. I recently made a HUGE pin board for mapping out books, but it’s already covered in various notes, event timetables, school letters and pictures, so I guess I had better make another! But I always make sure I have a notebook and a pencil about my person as ideas can come along anywhere!! It’s often when you let your mind wander on train journeys, waiting in the car on the school run or in the waiting room at the dentist, that it can wander slap bang into your next BIG IDEA!

How did the character of Pom Pom first emerge?

I had drawn a cartoon, based on real life events, of a little person telling everyone to “GO AWAY” and eventually they all did. This little person was then a bit worried and sad, which seemed to me to be very sweet and a bit funny. I re-found this comic strip when I was putting together my MA project, a comic for KS2 girls which was an alternative to the very pink, boy bandy, appearance focused ones out there. Part of the comic’s purpose was to be reassuring and silly, and this little comic strip about rage seemed to fit that brief. At KS2 age a girl’s hormones start to kick in (from age 7 apparently), and these rages can come from nowhere and take everyone (not least the person having the rage) by surprise! This all tied in very nicely, but I didn’t want the main character to be a girl – I wanted it be less specific and gender focused, so I thought about different animals. Pandas are so very laid back, I know as I have watched ‘Pandas on a Slide’ on YouTube MANY times, and the contrast seemed to make it funnier. Angry Panda made it to three comic strips and was later plucked from the archives when I was thinking about a follow up to Where Bear?. My main character became younger and (hopefully) more lovable as all that angst, that’s funny in short bursts, could get a little wearing over 15 spreads, and Pom Pom was born.

What’s the best thing about being a published author and illustrator?

There are so many lovely aspects of this job – the glow of seeing your book somewhere, working with supremely talented people, reading a nice review, visiting amazing festivals, bookshops and schools and getting to highlight causes close to your heart. But for me, the absolute best is when you see or hear of a child really loving your book. I’ve been sent a recording of a little chap, who was still learning to speak let alone read, “reading” Pom Pom with his daddy. You can hear how much he cares for Pom Pom and I must confess, I might have welled up when I heard it. And a Mummy recently told me her daughter loved Pom Pom so much she tried to climb inside the book. Children are honest, brutally so sometimes, so when you hear things like that you feel like you might burst. Super!

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked?

I’ve really tried to think of something super strange that I’ve been asked, but honestly nothing came to mind. I was expertly interviewed by a very bright 4 year-old recently though, and one of the questions was ‘do I have cat?’. The answer was no, but when I was little we had six – Serena, Tabetha, Michelle (?), Alex (?), Thumper and Mr. Imp.

What’s your worst habit?

Procrastination, whilst pretending to work. Darn internet.

Your favourite word?

My favourite to hear is “Mumma” for all the obvious reasons. But the word I use the most, some might say too much, is “super”. It’s just such a positive, cheery, everyday word. Nothing fancy here! Oh and I really like the word “fancy” too. I could go on, but as you can see my favourites aren’t snazzy, long words, but cheery, slightly old fashioned ones! I think it comes from reading too many Nancy Mitford/PG Wodehouse novels. And I love “shaming” as in “I fell flat on my face, it was just too shaming!”

Did we forget anything?

Well, some of my World Book Day Illustrations have been used on a National Book Token which is very exciting, but 1% of the value of each card will be donated by National Book Tokens to Book Aid International, which is even more exciting. All the money raised will go towards the Book Aid International’s book provision work, which shipped more than one million brand new books to libraries in Africa last year. The PERFECT gift, surely!

Book Tokens - Sophy Henn

Just for fun

Tea or coffee? TEA

Paper books or e-books? PAPER BACKS

Cake or chocolate? CHOCOLATE

Write or type? WRITE

Poetry or prose? PROSE

Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin? HUFFLEPUFF

Hot or cold? COLD

LOVE that!

Read more about Sophy Henn’s latest book, Edie, here.

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