1. What does a typical day in the life of team Willow Tree look like?
Sue: Fun, rewarding and exciting would be a good place to start! A typical Willow Tree day can be very varied, depending on the stage that each book is at in the creation process. For me, a typical day might include commissioning illustrations or text, editing, proofreading, reviewing illustrations with Ben, our talented designer, writing back cover copy and marketing material, or reading submissions. I also get to spend time searching for new artists and authors to work with. Above all, it’s exciting to be part of a team focused on making something completely new and engaging together … a real buzz!
Ben: And for me it’s a real mixture too! As the main designer at Willow Tree, it’s great for me to see a book right from its birth up until and after it’s been printed. It’s amazing to see something you create become a reality in a matter of months and I’ll never get sick of the feeling of having that first copy in my hands. On any one day, I could be creating a series look for a brand new set of fiction titles, giving feedback to artists, laying out the insides of a book, or (my absolute favourite job) designing a brand new set of picture book covers. No two days are the same and for that reason, I love my job!
2. We’ve had some fantastic blog posts over the last two weeks documenting Willow Tree’s latest picture book, Save the Day for Ada May! What was your favourite part of working on this book?
Sue: Ooh … that’s a tricky one! I think it has to be seeing the whole thing come together at the end. So much hard work had gone into the creation process – from the author and the illustrator, but also from the designer and myself – that to see Save the Day for Ada May! finally emerge in its beautiful, colourful, finished form was a thrill.
Ben: For me, my favourite part was creating the front cover. Patrick created such a fantastic collection of illustrations, it was hard to pick which one was best to use! In the end, we opted for the sheep image, as we felt it portrayed the mischief of Ada May as well as the hilarious fun she has with the characters she meets throughout the book.
3. Sue, you have many (happy!) years of editorial experience, having worked on a number of best-selling children’s titles. How did working on this book differ from other editorial projects?
Because Save the Day for Ada May! is a truly interactive book, where the child has to perform all kinds of actions to be a hero and save Ada May from the situations she finds herself in, we had to make sure it worked on so many levels. It wasn’t just about creating great pictures to help tell an exciting story; we had to ensure that the interactivity really worked, that the language used to encourage actions was perfectly honed and that we struck just the right tone – a balance of ‘encouraging’, ‘funny’, ‘exciting’ and ‘satisfying’. To this end, we had to visit and revisit each part of the story at every stage of the creation process, from first concepts and first drafts of the text, through to designing layouts and creating each scene in full colour. Testing, testing and more testing!
4. Ben, Save the Day for Ada May! features lots of typography on each spread to guide the reader through the interactive experience. Tell us more about how you developed the typography and visual aesthetic for this title. What was your creative vision throughout this process?
From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted all the typography to have a handwritten feel to it; so much so that during the very early stages, all of the text was actually my handwriting! However, I eventually decided that this may not be practical (for our publishing partners in other countries) and found some fantastic alternative fonts. Throughout the book, the larger words give the sense of urgency and tell the reader, ‘Ada May is in trouble and needs your help’, whereas the smaller words actually tell the reader how they can help Ada in her latest mishap.
5. As anyone in the publishing industry is familiar with, the journey of creating a book is often subject to lots of twists and turns (much like Save the Day for Ada May!). What was the most challenging element of the journey for this particular title?
Sue: Because we were constantly reviewing every aspect of the book as it came together, to ensure that it was working as well as it could interactively, it was important to be take everyone’s opinions and ‘voices’ into account along the way. Just how is it best to tell a small child to move the book in a particular way to make an event happen? As it turns out, we often had differing ideas about what worked best, but working as a team we were able to come up with the best solutions. Welcome to the world Ada May!
Ben: Although I said the cover was my favourite part, it was also the most challenging! At first, I went through so many colours, fonts and compositions that we ended up with a large number of options; Sue and I didn’t know where to turn. However, once I selected the sheep illustration for the cover, everything else just fell into place.
6. Finally, can you share any exciting Willow Tree news? What upcoming titles and projects are you both working on at the moment?
Yes! On 1st September we publish Little Fox and the Fairy, the first title in our gorgeous new Willow Tree Wood chapter fiction series of four books for emerging readers. In Willow Tree Wood, there’s magic everywhere, if you know where to look! Each time Molly and her brother, Tom, stay with their grandma in her cottage in Willow Tree Wood, they meet cute animals and magical creatures, and find themselves in adventures beyond their wildest dreams. In Little Fox and the Fairy, as snow starts to fall, Molly and Tom meet a lost fox cub, and a fairy who needs their help. Not only this, but we’re in the process of completing the second Willow Tree Wood story, Little Deer and the Dragon, which comes out in March 2020. Can you tell that we’re excited?