Interview with (and Flyaway art by) Anika Kls / Artventurin

Anika Kls (Artventurin) drew this glowing image for Flyaway as part of her work with the Charting the Australian Fantastic program at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf — she showed it to me when we met in Glasgow, and my print of it just arrived.

Hand holding a print of an illustration: a blonde girl in a red cloak holding up a hand to a Tasmanian tiger on a rock, with sunset in the background

You can see more of her work on her website (and commission her) here: and order prints from, and in the meantime, I asked her some questions…

  1. Why draw, and what do you love about it? 

Over the years, I found drawing to be a vital tool of self-expression. When I go through my collection of drawings, I can see  whether I was in a good or bad mood as it will affect my colour palette. However, I also just love the challenge of creating something; of finding inspiration in your surroundings and pursuing your own visions in it. Sometimes I get the weirdest ideas for an art piece when looking at something entirely different, so I try to translate it into my own version. 

2. How do you choose a scene to draw?

I am a very visual person. When I read a scene and the images just effortlessly flood into my head, it’s usually a go for me. There has to be something that speaks to me; it’s quite hard to explain. Whenever I have various options, I construct a mental image and ask myself some questions: what would the colour palette be like? How is the scene arranged? Where do I position everything? What are the expressions like? And most importantly, can I pull it off and do it justice?

3. Can you say a bit about how you ended up working with Charting the Australian Fantastic, and the illustrations you do for them?

I initially attended the Charting the Australian Fantastic course, which is lead by Bettina (Tina) Burger and Lucas Mattila. They offered creative tasks every now and then, which was just perfect. The two tasks I chose allowed me to illustrate one scene from Lion Hearn’s Across the Nightingale Floor and re-draw a Shaun Tan piece in my own style. After handing that in, Tina and Lucas, who were conveniently looking for an assistant, contacted me and asked me if I would like a job (needless to say that I did).

The illustrations I did range from simple character/background sketches, logo designs or fully rendered illustrations for books and short-stories. The wildest ones were probably for Alan Baxter’s The Roo. I am not an expert on kangaroo anatomy and I’m quite sure the FBI is keeping an eye on me now for the endless google searches of gore.

Sketches of people playing guitar, and sketching a lamppost in Glasgow
My sketch of Anika and Tina in Glasgow in July

4. Why did you choose to illustrate this scene for Flyaway?

As with every illustration I did for Charting the Australian Fantastic, it was a shared discussion process with Tina and Lucas. We all read the story and needed a very representative image, so we threw some ideas around. It was a trial and error process, but in the end, this scene was the one that had burnt itself into my brain and that worked out well when I did the sketches. 

5. What do you hope to do with your art in the future?

That’s a very tough question. Right now, I’m trying to do as much freelance work as possible next to my studies here in Glasgow since prices are skyrocketing. Fan art is always fun to do, but I recently got into DnD and specifically DnD character designs, so I would like to pursue that more in the future. 

Depending on what comes after my postgraduate, I might even try to focus solely on illustrations if an opportunity presents itself. The biggest goal is still to design a book cover or do in-book illustrations (Bon Orthwick’s illustrations for Empire of the Vampire blew me away, so there is that goal).

Anika Kls illustration of a pastry shop
“Hive of Glass”, from Anika’s portfolio

6. Any other questions you wish I’d asked?:D

Is it hard? Yes, especially when you’re a perfectionist like me and try to meet expectations. 

Do I know what I’m doing? No, but I’m still doing it (trust the process!).

Do you regularly forget to eat and drink while drawing because you’re so caught up in the process and then almost black out? How dare you call me out like that.

Anika Kls Illustration of burning building and figure reaching to giant crow
Anika Kls illustration for Catching Teller Crow (Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina) for Charting the Australian Fantastic

More about Anika

And Flyaway, by me

Maps in Books: An interview with Kate Prosswimmer, editor

And finally in this series of Wilderlore posts, an interview with KATE PROSSWIMMER, editor at Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster), who published Amanda Foody’s Wilderlore novels.

Inking of stream on map in progress — visible pen nib

Kate Prosswimmer joined the McElderry team in 2019 after spending five years as an editor at Sourcebooks. She has had the distinct honor of working on acclaimed and award-winning titles including Amanda Foody’s The Accidental Apprentice, F.T. Lukens’ In Deeper Waters, Jess Keatings’ Shark Lady, Annette Bay Pimentel’s All the Way to the Top, and Zoraida Cordova’s Brooklyn Brujas series. Kate is enthusiastically acquiring a list picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction. If she had to distill her taste across all age ranges and genres to one word, it would be “escapist.” She loves mysteries, books that make her ugly cry, atmospheric and unusual settings, middle grade stories that are both whimsical and earnest across all genres, picture books that favor story over message or concept, YA that exists outside everyday settings in both contemporary and speculative genres, and stories across all ages that make the ordinary feel extraordinary.

For related posts (and much more art)

Photo of inked maps side-by-side on drawing board
The original inks: see more in the illustration process post

1. KJ: What do maps do for you as a reader? Do you have a favourite map (literary or otherwise)?

Kate: I’m a very visual person, the kind of person who remembers faces and not names and uses landmarks to navigate rather than street signs. And when it comes to complicated fantasy worlds that feature unusual names, the struggle can be really compounded! Because of this, I oftentimes feel lost in a story when I can’t visualize the physical journey a character is taking. Maps help an otherwise fantastical world feel more accessible and grounded in a way that allows me to get closer to the characters and the story. I don’t know if I have a particular “favorite” map, but I will tell you that when I was growing up, I pretty much refused to read a book if it didn’t have a map in it! That was the easiest way I knew to identify books with the kind of epic scope and adventure that I was looking for.

2. KJ: How do you decide when to put a map into a book? Why did you want maps in these books?

Kate: Typically, I consider adding maps to any of my books that depend heavily on a complicated or far-ranging setting. That happens most often with fantasy titles, but maps can certainly be helpful in contemporary titles too. If having a map would enrich the reading experience by providing a useful reference point for readers, then I like to try to include one! Amanda Foody created such a rich and exciting world in the Wilderlands, and providing maps for readers felt like a great way to honor that and amplify the reading experience! There’s something about physically seeing a special, magical world that makes it feel more tangible.

3. KJ: Do all maps in books need to do the same thing? Or what are some of the purposes a map might serve?

Kate: Not at all! Some maps are meant to help communicate the enormous scope of a world that sprawls over multiple continents, while others provide a look at how intensely detailed a smaller city full of discoverable nooks and crannies might be.

4. KJ: What’s the process you follow when you’re commissioning a map? Are there any surprises in that process? Has anything ever gone hilariously wrong (that you can talk about)?

Kate: I’m pretty lucky – as the Editor, I get to go to our in-house designer and say “let’s make a map!” From there, I get to sit back and enjoy as they present me with a selection of artists who might be good for the style that we’re looking to employ. We discuss the options before coming to an agreement on who we’d love to reach out to, and then we cross our fingers and hope they’re available! So far, I haven’t had anything go hilariously wrong…*knocks on wood*

5. KJ: What would be your favourite thing to find in a map?

Kate: I love nothing more than to find an extra little world-building detail on the map that isn’t explicitly written in the book. It feels like a special little discovery that’s been placed for the delight of the reader (which is pretty much accurate)!

6. KJ: What would be the worst/funniest book to have a map in, if you could only get away with it?

Kate: Probably a picture book, like THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES – there would be nothing to map out!!

7. KJ: Any questions you’d like me to answer?

Kate: I’d love to know where you start when you begin creating a map? And what’s your favorite part about illustrating maps?

KJ: I start by reading the books and trying to imagine the shape of the world and the lookof the landscape — sometimes it’s clearly described, but often I have to build it out of hints and probabilities. At the same time, I collect little details that might be interesting to fill out the world — creatures and oddities to draw into the corners of the map. My favourite part is finding those twists and ornaments that will help create the feeling of the book, the right way to draw a creek for that forest, or just the right type of fish, or a way to fit in those phrases that suggest the map is unfinished, or hint at what’s over the borders.



Here are the books:

Cover Image of The Accidental Apprentice
Cover art: Petur Antonsson, design by Karyn S Lee

A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods in this “wholesome, delightful” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and cheeky middle grade fantasy debut—perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

Cover image of The Weeping Tide
Cover art: Petur Antonsson, design by Karyn S Lee

Barclay and his friends must save an island city from the Legendary Beast of the Sea in this exciting second book in the Wilderlore series, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

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Maps in Books: An interview with Karyn Lee, designer

Herewith, an interview about maps in books with KARYN LEE — designer at Simon and Schuster, who art-directed the maps for Amanda Foody’s Wilderlore books.

For related posts (and much more art)

Karyn Lee is a designer at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, freelance illustrator, and a native New Yorker.

She earned her BFA from Pratt Institute in Communications Design and has since worked for clients such as The Washington Post, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster as a freelance illustrator. Much of her time is spent daydreaming about fancy historical clothing and yet-to-be-drawn botanicals, and nothing gets her by like a carefully curated playlist.

Her design work has been featured in the Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club, The New York Times, and Buzzfeed.

She is represented by Chad W. Beckerman at the CAT Agency (

Check out Karyn’s design work at

1. KJ: What do maps do for you as a reader? Do you have a favourite map (literary or otherwise)?

Karyn: I’m a visual person so maps really help me add that little bit of depth to the world that I build in my head. I love it when books have maps because it really shows how important the geography is to the story and sometimes, in the case of something like… let’s say The Lord of the Rings, it really emphasizes the length of the journey that lies ahead. And it’s always fun to flip back to the map to see where they’re going! The map that has always stuck with me the most is the one in The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. It was my one of my favorite books growing up and I liked that the map really was a part of the hero’s journey—it turned up on his doorstep with the Phantom Tollbooth! I remember spending a long time staring at it and getting lost in the twisty doldrums and it was just so fun to envision a place with the name “Valley of Sound”.

2. KJ: How do you decide when to put a map into a book? Why did you want maps in these books?

Karyn: I feel we put maps in books that we always think could use an extra bit of world-building. Traditionally, maps are included in books with journeys—long journeys across lands that are unfamiliar and fantastical. For the Wilderlore series, we’re attempting to give young readers more of a vision of this ever-expanding world Amanda has created. This series is a great contender for a map because of the vastness of the world and because Amanda put so much thought into these locations, it’s wonderful for readers to see the time and effort she put into creating it. I hope they go back and reference the map as Barclay and his friends move from place to place.

3. KJ: Do all maps in books need to do the same thing? Or what are some of the purposes a map might serve?

Karyn: Oooh, I don’t know! I’ve always felt maps have been in books with long journeys, but I’m recalling the map in Circe by Madeline Miller that was just an island. And I think in that book, for me, at least, the map really emphasizes how confined Circe’s life was during her exile. I also have seen maps used in crime novels and think that’s a fun idea as a reader could use it to help them envision and solve the crime in the book, trying to figure out where suspects were at the time of the crime. So, I think there’s a ton of possibilities and reasons why a map might be in a book.

4. KJ: What’s the process you follow when you’re commissioning a map? Are there any surprises in that process? Has anything ever gone hilariously wrong (that you can talk about)?

Karyn: I have to say, that this is the first map I’ve worked on! So there’s nothing hilariously wrong that’s happened yet. I think finding the right artist is always the hard thing—there are so many ways to render maps and we wanted something that young readers could really get lost in. And you brought ours to life so perfectly with all the little details and beasts—there are so many things to consider in maps that I’ve never considered before (like… waterways!) I always think it’s interesting when an author has a comment (not just on maps but any art that goes in or on the cover of a book!) where they say like “oh this isn’t quite how I envisioned” because everyone envisions things differently.

5. KJ: What would be your favourite thing to find in a map?

Karyn: Ooh, I don’t know… I like little easter eggs—places in the book that maybe get passed by and mentioned that aren’t fully explored in the text. I love when we still get to see it on the map!

6. KJ: What would be the worst/funniest book to have a map in, if you could only get away with it?

Karyn: I think it would be so funny to have a map in Holes by Louis Sachar—also one of my favorite books from my childhood—the main character, Stanley, is sent to a correctional boot camp where, every day, he’s tasked to dig large holes in the ground “to build character”. It’s an amazing book that is more than it seems. But the setting is essentially a desert full of holes with a mountain range surrounding it, which I think would make for a hilarious map!


Here are the books:

Cover Image of The Accidental Apprentice
Cover art: Petur Antonsson, design by Karyn S Lee

A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods in this “wholesome, delightful” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and cheeky middle grade fantasy debut—perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

Cover image of The Weeping Tide
Cover art: Petur Antonsson, design by Karyn S Lee

Barclay and his friends must save an island city from the Legendary Beast of the Sea in this exciting second book in the Wilderlore series, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

Support and/or follow

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An Interview with Amanda Foody

Amanda Foody is the New York Times and indie bestselling author of All of Us Villains, the Wilderlore series, the Shadow Game series, and more. Her work has appeared in publications including Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Culturess, and Amazon selected All of Us Villains as the Best Young Adult Book of 2021. Originally from Pennsylvania, she lives in Boston, MA with her partner and their orange tabby, Jelly Bean. When not writing, she unironically loves to cook. All of Our Demise, the sequel to All of Us Villains, will release on August 30, 2022. The third book in the Wilderlore series will follow in Spring 2023.

The first two volumes in Amanda’s delightful middle-grade series of Beasts, exploration and magic are out now. I illustrated the maps (the covers are by Petur Antonsson), and also got to ask Amanda questions about maps in her books!

(Illustration process post is up, and interviews with editor and art director to come!)

KJ: What do maps do for you as a reader? Do you have a favourite map (literary or otherwise)?

Amanda Foody: I love opening up a fresh fantastical book and being immediately greeted by a map. It’s such an exciting peek into the world even before you read the first words. And though I might be terribly biased, the Wilderlore maps truly are my favorite! I love how much they burst with detail—you could spend ten minutes admiring them and still catch new words or Beasts you hadn’t noticed before.

KJ: Why did you want maps in these books? (Or, if you didn’t — which is potentially funnier — how did you feel when maps were thrust upon you?)

Amanda: I didn’t request any maps up front because, in comparison to other fantasy books I’ve written in the past, The Accidental Apprentice didn’t require one so much. And since we had the Beast glossary in the back, I figured the book already had some wonderful extra content. But The Weeping Tide did lend itself better to a map, so when my team suggested adding one, not just for Book Two, but for TAA, TWT, and all the future books in the series, I was thrilled! Why would I ever say no to such delightful additions? 

KJ: These books take place in very different locations (the Woods and the Sea), and all the remarkable beasts in them change accordingly (except for the ones who travel with the main characters). Yet these aren’t exactly journey or quest fantasies — they’re much more about mystery and discovery. Did you want to explore the geography of the world as part of that? How/why did you choose the areas for those stories to take place in?

Amanda: As each book in the series is set in a different Wilderland, aka a magical biome, each time I’ve sat down to outline a new installment, one of the key items of my agenda is to list some geographical locations or phenomena I’d like to feature, which are typically inspired by the real world. For example, in The Weeping Tide, set at the Sea, I wanted to include a trench similar to the Marianna Trench, a coral reef, underwater rivers and lakes, islands, and even the Shifts—the very visible dividing line between the Sea and the ocean of the Elsewheres—is inspired by the real life border of where the Pacific and Indian Oceans meet. But honestly, TWT was just the beginning! This process only grew more expansive and detailed once I learned there would be maps in the series, which came after TWT was finished. Since then, I’ve begun to outline with the maps in mind, encouraging myself to feature even more dazzling and scientifically fascinating locations. Book 3 spotlights places inspired by landmarks across five different Earth continents. The maps have genuinely become integral to how I view my Wilderlore writing process.

KJ: Do you have a favourite type of landscape?

Amanda: I’m partial to the Woods, as I feel that’s the biome I grew up in, being from Central Pennsylvania. Though my ecological and geographical research has been one of the joys of writing this series, so I’ve possibly had even more fun exploring places beyond it.

KJ: Often maps are treated like an Objective Truth. But one of the things discussed when these maps were in development was that they should feel unfinished. Why was that important?

Amanda: Because the Wilderlands are meant to be so wild and magical, they’re described as not being totally explored. In fact, there is a whole class of Lore Keeper called Surveyors who make their careers out of mapping the uncharted regions of each Wilderland. I love the mystery that this adds. What discoveries might be found in places humans have yet to touch?

KJ: How did you think up the shape of the world in these stories? Some authors work out a very detailed geography first. Others make it up on the fly to fit the story. Some just have a very strong aesthetic/vibe they work with. (Speaking as an illustrator, all of these are quite exciting to convert to a map.)

Amanda: I definitely fall into the latter category. I find that if I commit to figuring out too much of the world upfront, I feel a lot of pressure to include all of that detail in the book, and it can often be overwhelming. When I start with simply what’s necessary on page and go from there, it keeps it more minimal. (Though I don’t think anyone who’s read my books would claim the worlds are minimal haha!)

KJ: Did you draw any maps yourself, and can I show your rough sketch?

Amanda: You absolutely can, though I drew them specifically as guides for you, as opposed to guides for me, so I only put the bare bones into them because I knew you’d take them away so beautifully from there! I’m very visual and good with directions, so I tend to remember the overall layout of my settings without relying on a map as I write.

[KJ: You can see the reference sketch Amanda made for me over in the illustration process post]

KJ: What is it like working with an art director and illustrator to have a map made to fit a book?

Amanda: It’s very fun! I’ve had maps included in most of my books to date, and the process across publishers and series and age categories has always been much the same. Typically, once the book is mostly finished, I’m asked to provide some type of sketch of the map to send to the illustrator, and then some time later, I receive something a million times better than what I originally sent, often styllized in a way that suits. I also love how varied my maps have been. In Wilderlore, they’re maps of the Wilderlands, which are extremely large. In All of Us Villlains, the map is of the grounds of a death tournament, which include a single city and its surrounding regions. And in the Shadow Game series, the maps are all of the same single city, with alterations to suit the locations of each installment. [Maps by Jennifer Hanover]

KJ: What would be your favourite thing to find on a map?

Amanda: I love including details that might not feature in the actual book. I find they’re such a great way to make the world feel big and vibrant and not clue the reader into every single piece of information that will be important later.

You can read all about the illustration process for the maps here:

Art Process — Wilderlore maps

Here is a sheep from the maps:

tiny ink drawing of sheep

Here are the books:

Cover Image of The Accidental Apprentice
Cover art: Petur Antonsson

A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods in this “wholesome, delightful” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and cheeky middle grade fantasy debut—perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

Cover image of The Weeping Tide
Cover art: Petur Antonsson

Barclay and his friends must save an island city from the Legendary Beast of the Sea in this exciting second book in the Wilderlore series, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

On getting maps into books: An interview with Karina Granda

Previously in this series of posts:

Karina Granda, Art Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, can be found at I’ve worked with her now on several books, including the maps and ornaments for Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series (The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and Queen of Nothing), but most recently she was the art director on Samira Ahmed’s new middle-grade fantasy (and science adventure Amira & Hamza: The War for the Worlds, and I worked with her on the map.

She very kindly agreed to be interviewed about putting maps in books (generally, and specifically Amira & Hamza) — and to interview me right back! So halfway through this post the roles flip…

Kathleen 1: What do maps do for you as a reader/art director? Do you have a favourite map (literary or otherwise)? 

Karina: Typically we place our maps at the front of the book, and they are very useful for instances where the reader is being introduced to a new world, and/or where the sense of place and space is very important. We often think of fantasy books since you are entering lands unknown, often built from scratch by the author, and the characters move through a large space, multiple kingdom’s etc. But some are more unconventional. I recently commissioned a map for April Henry’s upcoming book, TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE, which is a thriller that takes place entirely within a motel. The motel map clues the reader into the entrances, the exits, the dead ends–which creates a really interactive experience where the reader can follow the map to chart the action, or try and guess escape routes for themselves! I also love the maps for the AMIRA & HAMZA series because they deal with time and space in such an unconventional way.

Kathleen 2: How do you decide when to put a map into a book? What do you look for in an illustrator, when commissioning maps? 

Karina: When I commission a map, the first thing I think of is the purpose of the map. Does it need to be highly literal? For non-fiction books, or perhaps a book where we are following a war, etc.—we often want to be very exacting about scale, relative positioning, dimensions, landmarks, etc. Or is this one where we can take more artistic liberties? Is this one where we can add more decorations and fun tidbits? Where we can choose which places to emphasize in scale/detail based on significance in the book, and not literal size? For very literal maps, I look for artists that have a cartographer’s approach. If not, I cast a wider net—including some artists that may never have done a map before—but that match the tone and feel of the story (and the art created for the cover). Or perhaps the map is an opportunity for contrast. One thing I found really fun about working on the FOLK OF THE AIR series is that we had these hyper-modern 3D covers, but were able to use the map and interior art to add a softness and whimsy that we needed for a more complete package.

Kathleen 3: Why did you want maps in this book? Did the particular requirements of this map give you any pause? 

Karina: The maps for AMIRA & HAMZA posed quite a unique challenge in that we were not just looking for how to move north to the mountains, or east to the ocean, let’s say; but we are dealing in different dimensions and moments in history. In all honesty, I conceptually understood what Samira wanted, but I did not have the vision for how to execute it in a way that was digestible as a map. But I knew Kathleen is so fantastic at fantasy, and maps, and also in giving extra special care and detail into everything she does, that I knew if she took it on, she would figure it out. And it was truly perfect.

Kathleen 4: Thank you!
Do all maps in books need to do the same thing? Or what are some of the purposes a map might serve? Have there been any Unexpected Moments in Maps in your career? 

Karina: All maps “set the scene”; but I think that can be literal, or more for the purposes of feel/tone. I do my best as an art director to avoid surprises! And really it is out of respect for the time and energy that artists are bringing to the work. So I try to start by seeking out as many details and as much information as possible. Though I have to admit that I was thrown for a loop when it was decided that FOLK OF THE AIR would need different (but similar!) maps in order to adapt to a changing landscape—and our artist works in ink! Series pose the most surprises since it can be the author’s prerogative to introduce change at many points in the process. That said, we were lucky that Holly and Kathleen are both so flexible, and such pros, and we were always able to make it work. ;)

Map for The Wicked King, by Holly Black. Little, Brown 2019

Kathleen 5: What’s the process you follow when you’re commissioning a map? Are there any surprises in that process? Has anything ever gone hilariously wrong (that you can talk about)? 

Karina: First we determine whether we need a more literal or artistic map, and then we look for artists that would complement the style of the art we are pursuing for the jacket. Typically we share some options with the author so they can have a say in the art style too. Then I pose what many authors consider to be a big challenge: Please doodle the map for me. It can be incredibly rough and amateur, but it is very important that we are all on the same page about the relative positions of the different landmarks and locations. And I promise that everyone has been more than capable of providing what we need. I also ask for a list of the landmarks and locations with written descriptions and/or visual references so that the artist has something to work with when adding all their great details. We’ve been lucky to work with so many fantastic artists and authors, that the rest of my job tends to be easy on my end! It mostly entails shepherding and clarifying feedback. But the artists are really the ones working their magic. I am just a gopher. ;)

Kathleen 6: What would be your favourite thing to find in a map? 

Karina: I think all great art for books brings its own level of storytelling. For example, when I think of a good picture book, there is always a little something more being said in the image. It is in conversation with the text, but not just a literal representation of the author’s words. And I think the same can be said for maps. I like finding the hidden characters, the specific flowers that would grow in that forest, the pearl or mermaid in the ocean, etc. I look for all the things the mapmaker brought to the art in order to make it feel vibrant and alive.

Kathleen 7: What would be the worst/funniest book to have a map in, if you could only get away with it? 

Karina: I imagine that any book with a map that would travel through the human body could have a hilarious and also totally gross component. A book like EVERYONE POOPS or TRUE OR POO? Or if there were some non-fiction book about how cities work, you could map some poop or dead goldfish making it’s way through a sewage system. And honestly think some kids would love maps like that. Kids can be totally weird! But that said, maps are always in conversation with the text, so I don’t think it would ever be any weirder than the story the author and publisher have already agreed to put out there!

Kathleen 8: Any questions you’d like me to answer?

Karina: Yes!

Karina 1:  What is your process for taking an author’s words and doodles and giving them an actual shape/drawing/form?

Kathleen: Obviously it depends a little on the final shape. Usually I sketch out the basic layout on the first page of my folded sketch paper, just to keep it in mind. But after that, I like to start by first just reading the manuscript or extracts, and taking notes. Where possible, I take make the notes in pictures. That way I’ve already solved (or identified!) a few problems, and can see at a glance where I might need to do more research — for example, whether certain creatures should be drawn with or without shirts, or whether something “appears” because it becomes relevant or because it magically comes into being (both of these on maps I worked on with you!). That’s where I might play with style, make little wishlists of things I’d like to draw, and so on. 

Sometimes this is like reading through the pencil — it goes straight from the book to the page and I just follow along. Sometimes it is a very complicated logic puzzle — sentences that seem to make sense can be tricky to turn into an actual picture, especially with fantasy! And then I have to get the tone right — what am I doing to the words. A picture can make something more grim, more whimsical, austere, warm…

After that I get more mechanical. I rule up several boxes with the shape I have to work in. Often I’ll make a cardboard template — I have a few standard ones already in my pencil case. They might be only a couple of centimetres/an inch tall. Then I start sketching the strongest ideas into them, very tiny.  I choose the best of those and send them to the art director, so you can consult and choose or suggest variations.

Tiny sketches from developing the map for Amira & Hamza

Karina 2: What is your biggest challenge when creating a map? Or, is there any map you have worked on that has been particularly challenging?

Kathleen: The biggest general challenge, apart from sometimes drawing more trees than I bargained for, is fitting the map into the page. Worlds are very rarely written to exactly fit two open book pages! And that’s working with just one world, and not the multiple tilisms of Amira & Hamza. But I have to fit the world plausibly into that space, and then fill the rest of that space pleasingly, accounting for margins and the area that risks disappearing into the gutter (fold).

Specific challenges vary. Amira & Hamza, with its map that’s more of a conceptual representation of the links and progression between spaces, made me pull right back and ask what a map could and should look like. For Folk of the Air, I had to think about real-world vs fairytale geology in designing the islands — and then fit new details into the sequel maps (splendid fun, but some spatial tinkering!). In two maps I have coming out next year, I had to deal with a lot of unexplored space, and ask how the characters who might have made the maps might have filled those areas up. 

I like to draw maps which capture the feeling of a world, rather than precise distances. But there’s still challenges there — with Folk of the Air, for example, you and I had to consider the ideal balance of whimsy and ominous elements, which led to me adding (among other things) some tiny skulls. But still I need to think a bit about geography — what flows where, or if it’s a slightly 3-dimensional map, what might be obscured by mountains or buildings.

Karina 3: What is the most fun part of working on a map?

Kathleen: The fact that every map is so different! I really do love these little puzzles — and then, once I solve them, getting to fill all the blank spaces with simurghs or mermaids or skulls or ominous toadstools or stars. And getting to put tiny stories and jokes and reinterpretations into the design. And I love how much people who see them get excited about having a world unrolled in front of them.

When I was little, I envied the characters who got to climb into books, and of all the jobs I’ve had, being an illustrator is the closest to that, and of all illustrations, drawing maps is like parachuting in.

Karina 4: What are your favorite maps? Literary or otherwise?

Kathleen: The Muppets travelling by map!

Well, my least favourite is the big wall map I have which is centred on Australia, because it turns out there are good design reasons not to do that: vast oceans on either side, and all the other continents squished around the edges. It’s rubbish for reference, and has made me feel so much further away from everyone all year.

Favourite… Hmm. I love so many — I’ve previously posted links of some of my favourite books of maps. Pauline Baynes’ maps were my first fantasy maps and she was the first illustrator who made me realise what illustration could do. And the maps always make me taste salt air and smell pines in the snow… When I walked into the Tolkien exhibition and saw her maps of Middle Earth — right there, in gouache! — I gasped. And my father used to build 3-dimensional maps out of blankets and cushions, to demonstrate historical events or how our property was laid out. That was when maps first made sense to me, as objects you could — almost — hold and touch and turn to see how the world works. More recently, I really like Elisabeth Alba‘s work, especially her map for Henry Lien’s Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword.


And do check out Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds, a rollicking, thrilling middle grade adventure through science, mythology, poetry, and more worlds than you usually get in one map!

Amira & Hamza — An interview with Samira Ahmed!

A few days ago, I wrote about the illustrated map I drew for Samira Ahmed’s Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds. Here is the link to that post: Map Process — Amira & Hamza.

Photo pinched from Samira Ahmed. Cover illustrated by Kim Ekdahl and designed by Karina Granda

Samira very kindly agreed to let me interview her for this blog, about the book and its world(s)!

About Samira: Samira Ahmed is the bestselling author of Love, Hate & Other FiltersInternmentMad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, and  Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds, as well as a Ms. Marvel comic book mini-series.  Her poetry, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies including the New York TimesTake the MicColor Outside the LinesVampires Never Get Old and A Universe of Wishes. You can read more about her, her books, events, and more over at

KJ: You combine the physically observable world (in fact, astronomy is a big part of how the book starts!) with many things the readers won’t see so often through a telescope. How do these two parts of Amira & Hamza come together?

SA: Part of what made writing this middle grade fantasy fun for me was intertwining the known world with the unknown. It presents an interesting challenge to the characters, especially Amira, who is very much a science nerd and a logical, data-driven kid. What happens when the world you know is challenged by the fantastical? By the things you have to (maybe not so willingly) suspend your belief to confront? Those questions create tension and conflict in the story and are a space where the character can grow. And it also reflects our history. As Amira says, sometimes the magical is just science we don’t understand yet.

KJ: In between the adventure of Amira & Hamza, there is some very useful science. How (and why) did you decide to balance those two aspects?

SA: Science is real. And science is incredibly cool! Those are two facts that Amira understands at her core. Science allows us to understand the world we live in; it allows us to understand ourselves and our space in the natural world and I think that’s absolutely amazing. When confronted with some seemingly impossible situations, I really wanted Amira and Hamza to try and science their way out of things. Yes, there’s magic in the book. But science is also magical and I wanted to show that.

KJ: Is the box of the moon real?

SA: Yes! In a way. Al-Biruni (973-1050), one of the great scientists of Islam’s Golden Age (9th-13th centuries) designed the Box of the Moon—a mechanical astronomical calendar that had eight gear wheels and a gear train. It was considered an early processing machine. Though there is no existing “original” Box of the Moon artifact, I thought it would be cool to have one as a key element to the story. As a kid, I loved learning about ancient tools and instruments! And I wanted to incorporate a bit of medieval Islamic history into Amira & Hamza’s story.

KJ: Amira & Hamza is full of helpful, antagonistic, and warring beings, startling and colourful! [I had a wonderful time diving into reference images!] Where did they come from, and how did you fit them together with a story of two people who’ve grown up not seeing devs and peris on a regular basis? Do you have a favourite creature or being in the books?

SA: Jinn. Peris. Devs. Ghuls. These are ancient creatures and their countless stories and legends might be new to the Western world, but Amira & Hamza were familiar with stories of jinn and other fire spirits as are most people from South Asian Muslim backgrounds (and likely those of any Muslim background regardless of ethnicity/nationality). Specifically for Amira & Hamza, I was inspired by the Hamzanama—or the Adventures of Amir Hamza—an incredible Islamic epic about the warrior Amira Hamza. The tales of his exploits traveled across the Islamic world through oral tradition. It is believed that the legend began in Persia, well over a thousand years ago! My two favorite fantastical characters in Amira & Hamza are Maqbool and Aasman Peri—for very different reasons. But both were very fun characters to write and were critical to the story.

KJ: There are a lot of worlds in Amira & Hamza. Or rather, a lot of bits of worlds, and small worlds, and subworlds… It was quite exciting to try and draw them all on one piece of paper! How did the idea for/design of the worlds come together? And how did you keep track of them? (And do you have a favourite?)

SA: You depicted them beautifully! Truly, one of the things I’ve always wanted as an author was a cool map in my book and you gave me one! In the original tales of the Hamzanama, the warrior Amir Hamza travels to the fantastical lands of Qaf and visits many of the same tilisms and realms that I wrote about in the book. Of course, as I wrote them into the world of Amira & Hamza, I created them to fit the narrative and built them as intertwined—as you showed them—so Amira & Hamza would be compelled to travel forward to their quest’s end. I actually drew (very, very rough) sketches of the world of Qaf before I started writing so I could figure out how my characters would physically move through the world and how each place they visited presented a new danger and a new challenge.

Soon I will also post an interview with art director Karina Granda — keep an eye out for that! You can read about the map process here: Map Process — Amira & Hamza.

And do check out Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds, a rollicking, thrilling middle grade adventure through science, mythology, poetry, and more worlds than you usually get in one map!

A thrilling fantasy adventure intertwining Islamic legend and history.

On the day of a rare super blue blood moon eclipse, twelve-year-old Amira and her little brother, Hamza, can’t stop their bickering while attending a special exhibit on medieval Islamic astronomy. While stargazer Amira is wowed by the amazing gadgets, a bored Hamza wanders off, stumbling across the mesmerizing and forbidden Box of the Moon. Amira can only watch in horror as Hamza grabs the defunct box and it springs to life, setting off a series of events that could shatter their world—literally.

Suddenly, day turns to night, everyone around Amira and Hamza falls under a sleep spell, and a chunk of the moon breaks off, hurtling toward them at lightning speed, as they come face-to-face with two otherworldly creatures: jinn.

The jinn reveal that the siblings have a role to play in an ancient prophecy. Together, they must journey to the mystical land of Qaf, battle a great evil, and end a civil war to prevent the moon—the stopper between realms—from breaking apart and unleashing terrifying jinn, devs, and ghuls onto earth. Or they might have to say goodbye to their parents and life as they know it, forever.…

“Ghoulish but sentimental” — an interview with Socar Myles, Ghostwriter

BIO: Socar Myles is a Vancouver-based former illustrator and full-time ghostwriter, whose illustration work can be found at

KJ: Socar Myles and I first met years ago through the old Elfwood notice boards, and Socar gave me a great deal of thoughtful, professional advice on my early efforts. Her art enchanted me — ethereal creatures, and strange, soft, dense, spooky imagery with hints of Beardsley and Klimt and sly laughter — and recently she made a remark on Twitter that suggested she was writing seriously, only I couldn’t find anything under her name or any open pseudonym! So I sent her a message to find out more, which turned into this interview.

KJ: You’re known more as an illustrator, but you’ve moved into ghostwriting and I am fascinated. How did you get from illustration to writing full-time?

Socar: Many years ago, I wrote and illustrated a short comic, “The Zombie Ball,” which appeared in the Fleshrot Hallowe’en special. I posted an excerpt on my blog, and a book packager reached out and asked if I’d be interested in writing middle-grade fiction. I thought writing middle-grade fiction could be a quick route to children’s illustration gigs, so I said yes.

As it turned out, I never wrote any middle-grade fiction (or illustrated any). I didn’t understand the market at all. Instead, I spent years writing “for fans of” books (something popular would come out, and I’d dash off something in the same vein). It wasn’t glamorous work, but it taught me to write fast in a variety of genres, and to identify what would sell.

As my illustration career took off, I focused mainly on that, and let the writing fall by the wayside. But when my vision failed, I decided to pursue ghostwriting more seriously. By that time, my original publisher had gone out of business, and I wasn’t sure how to break back in. I Googled “ghostwriting jobs,” which led nowhere—mostly, I found Upwork gigs and content mills paying pennies a word. Then, I researched book packagers, and found a few that felt right.

At the moment, I’m doing contract work for two packagers, one of which produces mainly romance, the other YA fiction.

KJ: How does being, or having been, an illustrator feed into your writing?

Continue reading

Justin Devine: interview — art and books

A few days ago I posted the lovely lovely fanart of Flyaway that Justin Devine created for his review on Drawn to Culture.

So I asked Justin if he could answer a few questions (thinks not to say to a reviewer…) and he agreed!

Here, now, is Justin, “a fine artist and illustrator from California, who now resides in the Midwest with his wife and too many cats.”

Justin Devine by Justin Devine

And here is the interview:

Kathleen: So you’re a fine artist and illustrator, but you also do fanart (to be clear, this is a thing of which I thoroughly approve). How do the two relate for you — and/or how do the things you are a fan of feedback into your fine art and illustration career?

Justin: As I progress in my art career, I’m finding myself drawn less (so to speak) to working in a fine art/gallery-painting mode, and am instead leaning more towards storybook illustration, comics, and other forms of narrative art. In that respect, the stuff I’m doing for Drawn to Culture isn’t very different from my personal work at all. In fact, most of the designs I have available for sale right now (as prints or other products) are inspired by cult movies, tv shows, and/or books I love.

The only real difference between pieces I produce for the blog and work I’d show in a portfolio is the amount of time I put into them. Well, that, and the DTC drawings tend to be a little more portrait-driven than my regular work.

Kathleen: For the uninitiated: who/what/why is Drawn to Culture?

Justin: I often call Drawn to Culture a fanart blog, for simplicity’s sake, but what it really is is an illustrated pop culture recommendation feed.

The concept is that I—along with whatever other artists want to join in that week—recommend the movies, games, books, etc. that have been giving us life recently, and we supplement our recommendations with pieces of art which pay homage to those cultural products and (hopefully) get other people excited about them, too.

(Basically, it’s the “What’s Making Us Happy This Week” segment from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, but with drawings)

I started the blog last year (with help from my friend, the excellent Vincent Kukua) in part because we wanted to provide a regular ongoing challenge for ourselves, but also because we wanted to create a little bit of art-community centered people sharing what they love. In the just-over-a-year DTC has been going, we’ve showcased over 100 illustrations from almost two dozen artists.

Kathleen: One of the things about fanart that I adore is, as I said, getting to read over someone’s shoulder — reading is a great spectator sport at the best of times, and getting that experience plus art is just <chef’s kiss>. Could you tell me a bit about how you combine reviews and art — and what you’re trying to say in a piece of art vs in a review?

Justin: Basically, whenever I read any book or watch any movie, I try to imagine what I’d include on a cover or poster for that piece of media. As such, I’m always on the lookout for the characters, objects, and/or symbols I think would lend a compelling amount of specificity to an illustration without giving too much of the plot away (and these are usually the subjects for my DTC pieces).

The constraints of trying to make art with a somewhat tight (if self-imposed) deadline, and which is mainly going to be seen in a little square on Instagram, limits the mental-book-cover exercise somewhat, but the thinking is still there.

The Widening Gyre — Justin Devine (available as a print on InPrnt)

Kathleen: If we met in person I would probably get extremely specific about “quality of line” and that little tassled finial on the circle — but since this is written, would you be able to tell me a bit about the thought and art process for the illustration for Flyaway? (Do you have any process shots/layers?)

Justin: I didn’t save any progress layers, unfortunately.

I recently (finally) got an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, and for the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to learn how to draw digitally while retaining some of the line quality I’ve cultivated in my physical media/ink drawings.

When I started on this piece (which is entirely digital, except for the applied watercolor wash texture), I thought that drawing a couple of birds in almost-profile with some lightly scrolling botanicals was the kind of thing I could do in my sleep, because I’ve done it so often on paper. For whatever reason though, this particular drawing ended up being weirdly difficult for me to get right. In the end, though, I’m pleased with how this closely this digital drawing resembles what I would have done in pen-and-ink.

Kathleen: Flyaway has art through it, as well as on the cover, and I’m interested to know (a) how much cover art — and more so, interior art — affects how you read a book, and (b) what you do with your awareness of that art when you put together a new illustration?

Justin: I’ve been a voracious listener of audiobooks for the last couple years, and a vast majority of the books I’ve consumed during that time have been in an audio format. So, while I may be familiar with the art associated with a particular title because I follow the illustrator or publisher online, I usually don’t have it in front of me, except perhaps in thumbnail form. This certainly helps me not be overly influenced by the work that’s already there.

All that to say: while I actually now own Flyway in both the audio and print versions, I had already made a sketch by the time I acquired the latter. I had no idea, for example, how many birds cutouts were sprinkled throughout the book! I knew from my first listening though that I wanted to feature the words “coward” and “monster,” which are both so evocative, and the lantern bush blooms which are so specific and also so much fun to draw. Plus a couple of birds, because, clearly.

When I create an illustration inspired by straight narration—or even something photographic, like a live-action TV show or movie—the act of drawing itself seems interpretive. I’ve found during the past year of doing DTC (and before that, creating character sketches for myself), that the hardest things to create fanart for are comics, cartoons, or other extensively illustrated works, because it’s hard to translate a drawn image into a NEW drawn image, and imbue it with personal style while keeping it looking like itself.

Kathleen: Oh, hey! We’re both Light Grey Art Lab illustrators, too — and you’re in World Roulette! That involved a little bit of writing as well as visual worldbuilding. How do you approach writing, as an illustrator — particularly of something you’ve illustrated?

Justin: This was actually my first time doing a piece for LGAL, and I’m thrilled to be included! Although I’ve followed them for years, I visited the physical gallery space for the first time last year, and was excited to see one of your pieces on the postcard display as soon as I walked in!

Per my approach to the writing, I think anytime someone creates a scene or character from scratch, they’re answering a constant stream of questions as they go along: who’s populating this setting? What are they wearing? Why this, instead of that? etc. So, when I approached the text portion of the World Roulette piece, I saw it as a matter of simply writing out the answers to those internal questions and then rewriting that block of text to be slightly story-shaped.

My biggest challenge with that particular project was editing down my blurb to within the word-count limit (I tend to be fairly wordy when I write, which I’m sure is obvious from all my answers so far).

Kathleen: What are you excited about now, and/or what are you working on (or what’s already out) that you’d most like to wave around and shout about?

Justin: In addition to Drawn to Culture—which is always looking for contributors, btw, in case anyone reading this wants to participate—and the Light Grey Art Lab show you mentioned above; my wife, the fabulously talented Megan Lynn Kott, and I co-wrote/illustrated a book last year (my first, her second), which we’re both super excited about!

The book comes out on September 1st and is called Unfamiliar Familiars: Extraordinary Animal Companions for the Modern Witch. It’s basically a humorous take on the animal fact reference book, with a witchy twist. Even though the kind of writing we did for this book is more list- and blurb-based than it is novelistic, it was still the most writing either of us had done in years. That made working on it a little terrifying, but it was also lots of fun to explore. The book is chock-full of jokes (which at least we think are funny), esoteric pop culture references, and cute animal paintings, and we can’t wait for it to hit shelves soon.

From Chronicle/Hardie Grant

Justin can be found online in the following places:

Flyawayadjacent interviews

And since this seems to be becoming a series, some previous interviews that have happened due to Flyaway connections:

Flyaway: Interview with Felicity Jurd — audio book narrator

Flyaway is now out, in the USA, Australia and as an audiobook (at the moment, it’s on Audible in the US and as a Bolinda CD in Australia — I’ll update that as I know more Edited to add: and now on Audible in Australia, too!).

When I reposted the New York Times review of Flyaway on Instagram, I received a lovely comment from Felicity Jurd, the narrator of the audiobook! It was our first contact, but I cheekily went straight ahead and asked if she’d like to talk a little bit about the audiobook, and she generously agreed.

Kathleen: Felicity! Thank you so much for narrating Flyaway. I was so glad you were able to do it — I love your warm, laid-back tones. So perfect for the light I was trying to capture in the book. 

Felicity: Kathleen! I am so honoured to narrate Flyaway – it is breathtaking! [K: Thank you so much!]

Kathleen: I read a book in very different ways depending on whether I’m reading it to illustrate, or for research, or just to enjoy it as a reader. What sprang out of Flyaway (or if you prefer, what springs out of any book!) to you, when you read it as a narrator? 

Felicity: Congratulations on your NY Times review! [K: Thank you!] I have to say I really agree that it was an unforgettable tale. It is so original. You’ve captured entering another world, a sort of parallel magical world which makes the listener think it could actually exist alongside our everyday world. What really sprang out to me was the way you wove the chapters and time shifts as well as the rich descriptions of the Australian landscape and the animals and plants. When I found out that you were an award-winning illustrator it made so much sense because it felt like you were doing a coloured sketch with words!

Kathleen: A voice actor brings such a feeling to a book — you’re the way a reader experiences the audiobook, after all, and it’s more than just speaking the words on the page. How do you tell the story, or — more specifically — what choices do you make doing that for (for example) Flyaway? 

Felicity: I feel that part of my job is to give space to each of the thoughts and concepts in the book so that the audience has time to absorb. It’s so different to reading silently at great speed on your own. I feel listening to and absorbing an audiobook is a personal and sometimes emotional experience. I try to find the balance remembering that many people listen to audiobooks on a train or in the car or before going to sleep. So I make a choice to be a soothing narrator at a steady pace and hopefully that comes across :) I make a choice to choose the age, size, energy and personality of the characters as it helps me make vocal shifts for the characters that stand out from the narration throughline.

Kathleen: I always wish that we could get cover designers and audio narrators (and translators, and…) together onto panels at writing festivals to talk about how they helped make specific books a certain way, and how they understand a book. You get as close to the text as anyone. And voice actors are actors after all (not disregarding that you are a screen actor too!). How do you like to describe what you do with audiobooks, and what most charms you about it?

Felicity: I’m just the vessel and try my best to let your imagination live through mine. I try to imagine what the author might sound like if they were reading the book aloud. I also look up examples of the author’s other work and with you, Kathleen, I did a lot of research by seeing how art and illustration was such a part of your process and how detailed the book cover was. There were so many images and they were layered and there was a sense of Celtic art to it. I always feel like it is such an honour to read a book before it has even been published. I’ve been so lucky to have that first moment with you and with a number of other authors. I did a lot of reading about new subject areas to feel ready to record. I don’t want to give anything away, but there were words and concepts I had literally never heard of before reading the manuscript! I find that part of my job fascinating and it forces me to learn more all the time.

Kathleen: I wrote a lot of twisty sentences in Flyaway — it’s very much a book for people who like sentences! But I worry there were tongue-twisters as a result. How do you narrate a book that’s admittedly in love with its own words versus one that’s more about action and momentum? 

Felicity: I love sentences, it’s true. Total book worm! When you have a book that focuses on action and momentum, the narration needs to work much more delicately with pacing and energy pushing under the layer of the throughline for the author’s story. This helps to drive the pace of the book and if you get it right, it really helps the story and suspense to live in the imagination of the listener. With novels like yours that explore its world in poetic, detailed descriptions, I tend to do individual word research. One of the things I do is read complex passages several times at home and then find the key words and look up their origin in etymology sites or books and explore the multitude of meanings. I often have so many questions about passages and usually the team at Pan McMillan/Picador are able to check with the author and I really loved receiving your audio file with pronunciations. 

Kathleen: Is there anything people should listen for in this audiobook — something you tried to bring out in a particular way, for instance, or a professional choice you needed to make? 

Felicity: Oh goodness! I hope I’ve done your incredible novel justice! It’s a beautiful work of art. I really tried to work hard to keep the mystery by staying in the scene — a good actor’s note I try to remember —  as the story does move quite rapidly at times. I found that helped me so that I didn’t give away the surprises. I also did my best to focus on the emotion that was in the subtext of the character’s dialogue. I love it when dialogue is underwritten so that the characters are clearly saying more with their bodies and therefore the reader has to really imagine more. As a narrator, I try to address this by emotionally loading each line of dialogue with the right intonation and mood so that it subtly communicates the whole meaning, not just the words on the page, but the whole vibe!

Kathleen: I’d actually love to know how you’d describe Flyaway! (It’s been a bit of a Rorschach Test of a book.) Where does it fit into the types of stories you like (to read, or to work with)? 

Felicity: It’s like a beautiful embroidery! Really rich in texture, and colours emerge as you explore the length and breadth of the fabric.  It really reminded me so much of two other books. Hive by AJ Betts [audio] for its creation of a parallel world and unusual exploration of nature and also The Geography of Friendship by Sally Piper [audio] for its clear passion for the landscape, flora and fauna of Australian bush. I always love reading beautiful descriptive passages about nature & animals. And I especially love reading about each character and the way an author describes and reveals their character. I loved how deep the understanding was of each person with all their flaws, but how it seeped out like the sap of a tree rather than being delivered on a platter. I also really loved the way you wrote such a wide spectrum of female characters, all of whom departed from expectations/stereotypes. 

Kathleen: What else do you do, and how do people find you and your work? 

Felicity: When I’m not recording audiobooks, I am responding to sample requests for other audio projects and have been lucky to be doing all sorts of interesting projects from my home recording studio. I am lucky to have just finished work on the first children’s fiction podcast done by ABC ME. It’s called Mackeroy Uncovered – it was such fun! If people are interested in having their book narrated, I always love doing audio samples so that they can test it out! They can contact me via the incredible team at SCOUT Management.

Felicity Jurd on SCOUT Management

Felicity Jurd’s website:

Edited to add this tweet from Scout Management, because I just realised the book in progress is Flyaway:

Flyaway Cover Comparison


Above is another process shot I took while cutting out the cover illustration for Flyaway. You can see some more of my process behind designing the cover silhouette at this post: Illustrating Flyaway: Kathleen Jennings on creating art and prose together.

I’ve mentioned before that I adore what did to the silhouette for Flyaway. Having a book coming out in two markets simultaneously, however, meant a new cover — and in this case, that meant a different treatment for the same silhouette.


I love both covers — the rich embroidered density of the cover, the airy spaciousness of the Picador — but as well as being exciting to me as an author, it’s fascinating to me as an illustrator, and as an occasional tutor/guest lecturer in writing, editing and publishing courses. It’s interesting not just because of how visible it makes the work of the designers (Jaya Miceli and Liz Seymour), but because of how clear it makes the story each publisher is telling to (and in the visual language of) their region.

I think the cover (below) leans into the literary gothic/horror aspect (and possibly for an American-inflected taste), and I am very fond of the typeface, which reminds me of midcentury Faber poetry books. The Picador cover, on the other hand, bends towards the more literary realism/fairytale genre as it exists in Australia, with a Gothic current under the almost whimsical swoop and piercing of the title.

Both are accurate, both are beautiful, and it’s so neat to get this side-by-side comparison of what two different publishers and designers can do with the same piece of art.


I asked the designers about the direction they took (and the typefaces!)

Jaya Miceli, regarding the cover:

Flyaway is an enchanting, mysterious fairy tale-like story, full of emotion and curious characters. While Kathleen’s paper cut illustration captures the elaborate quality and richness of the weaving stories, in designing the cover, I added an extra layer with an anatomical etching to peer through for color, texture and depth. At a glance the artwork feels like an intricate tapestry and up close the detail within reveals the pulsing eeriness of the story.

The font is Lydian.
— Jaya Miceli

Liz Seymour, regarding the Picador cover:

The opportunity to intertwine image and title type was an obvious design direction. Space, simplicity and choosing a sympathetic typeface were the key. Yana typeface is used for ‘Flyaway’, an elegant serif font, based on hand lettering.

— Liz Seymour › SEYMOUR DESIGN

And finally, a few words from Mathilda Imlah, publisher of Picador Australia:

There are some basic differences – the format was different, and though our markets have a lot of overlap, I couldn’t tell you why, but publishers in another country usually have really strong feelings about the type choices of other editions! When I briefed the cover I was only looking to change the type and maybe look at some variant colour.

But as we looked at those adaptations, I really felt the Lotte Reiniger-style silhouette was a strong visual referent for the audience – it speaks strongly to the tradition you work in – so preserving a silhouette became the first thing we did. I confess I always had in mind a kind of punked-up william morris illustration; that sort of literary, wistful, romantic notion of the folk/fairytale/legend oft evoked by illustrations like morris, aubrey beardsley, even mervyn peake. But you can see it cleaved closer to folk art, which suits both illustration and book much better! I would say the colour choice came out of that – I was initially asking for a much brighter set of colours – maybe even fluoro. But we didn’t favour those in the end.

— Mathilda Imlah

Flyaway is scheduled to be published at the end of July 2020, and is available for preorder from your local bookstore (see if they’re doing phone, online, or bicycle orders!), or: