Oliver Averill is an illustrator based in the West Midlands of the United Kingdom, inspired by history and most things old fashioned. He graduated from Falmouth University with a degree in illustration and enjoys creating his imagery through textures and mark making, which help create atmosphere in his work. Oliver loves to work on children’s picture books, especially those with historical content. The bigger the battle, the better! Today, I’m welcoming author-illustrator Oliver Averill to speak about his inspiration for books as well as receive a preview of his debut picture book THE BOY FROM THE MOON. It’ll be published in simplified Chinese in Mainland China, by Yeehoo Press.
What inspires you to create THE BOY FROM THE MOON? What is it about?
The theme for The Boy From The Moon in existence. With this word, I immediately thought about outer space. The story is about a boy who lives on an unnamed moon in outer space, wondering if there is any other life out there in the universe. He sets out in search for life in his red spaceship and struggles to find any form of life anywhere. Disappointed, he starts to question his own existence.
How is the creative process of THE BOY FROM THE MOON? Are there any difficulties you met and how did you overcome them during the process?
This was my first ever author/illustrator book I had worked on, so it was exciting and scary at the same time! It was a challenging book because it’s not a straight forward story. It looks at the meaning of existence quite thoroughly and trying to create a story around many different theories of existence was a challenge. Once I had the vague story of a boy looking for life in space, I was able to research many different theories about our existence and build the story around that.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer/illustrator?
It wasn’t until my third year at Falmouth University that I decided I wanted to be working on children’s books. I experimented a lot with projects and styles throughout my time there, but ultimately it was children’s books I fell in love with.
How do you start a book project? How do you develop your plot and characters?
I always start a book project by getting my initial ideas down on paper. This could be a character I have in mind or a certain scene I want in the book. My ideas for certain scenes won’t be in any order, sometimes the ending of the book can be my first idea. I try to get a vague beginning, middle, and end, and as the book develops I fill in the space between. Characters are a bit more tricky for me and need a little more developing before I am happy with how they look. I’ll do this by drawing them in my sketchbook or my iPad until I find a personality I am happy with and until I get comfortable drawing that character over and over again. Thumbnails are a great way of getting down initial ideas for composition and atmosphere. Knowing when to finish can be difficult but it is important. I’m awful for always wanting to go back and tweak pages, so sometimes I need to tell myself that it’s done and looks great! Usually, I tend to know when a page is finished and not to be overworked.
What do you like most about being a writer and/or an artist?
What I like most is being able to tell stories, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. I get so much enjoyment telling a story through images and creating an atmosphere for the reader. I like to imagine I’m directing a film and I’m in charge of cinematography, costume design and set design, etc.
Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your books?
I get inspiration from historic events and films. I watch quite a lot of films in my spare time. A lot of the films are independent of new ideas and they inspire me to create a story with atmosphere and feeling. The Boy from The Moon, for instance, was inspired by my interest in astronomy.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How much I enjoyed the collaboration with publishers and art directors. Sometimes someone else’s ideas are better than your own and benefit the book more than you could ever do on your own. I find input from art directors with an abundance of knowledge and experience very valuable.
What does your family think of your writing/illustrating career?
They support me and encourage me and tell me to never give up, even when sometimes I’ve felt like I’ve wanted to. It’s a difficult career to get into and can be discouraging at times so I’m lucky to have family that encourages me to keep at it!
Do you have multiple books you’re working on at the same time? If so, how do you handle different projects simultaneously?
Yes, I had three book projects on at the same time, this one and two others. It was very challenging and tested my ability and time management. For a while, I worked Monday to Sunday. I’m still in the early stages of my career so I’m still learning the best ways for me to work and schedule projects. But these were projects I just could not say no to!
Do you have any suggestions to help fellow artist become a better writer-illustrator? If so, what are they?
I myself am still looking for advice to make myself a better writer and illustrator. But something I’ve learned is just to get those initial ideas down on paper, whether it’s the middle spread of a book, the title, or the first sentence. Just get it down and go from there. And don’t pressure yourself! Nothing you draw or write can be wrong, it can only be developed.
Thank you Oliver for stopping by for this wonderful interview!
Oliver is represented by Lucie Luddington of The Bright Agency.
Visit Oliver at https://www.oliveraverill.co.uk/