Today I’m hosting part 1 of a fascinating Q&A with author-illustrator Paul Morton. It’s absolutely packed with tips for any budding author/ illustrators! For parts 2 and 3, you’ll need to visit the other stops on the blog tour too.
Bug Belly is back! After the first instalment in this highly-illustrated first chapter book series ‘Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble’ was one of the recommended reads in last year’s ‘Silly Squad’ Summer Reading Challenge.
‘The froglets are having a sleepover and wishing on shooting stars with their favourite uncle. Splish dreams of an exciting adventure, Splash wishes she wasn’t afraid of water, and Splodge wants to FLY! If only Bug Belly’s hungry tum hadn’t gone URGLE-GURGLE GLUMP! he wouldn’t have missed Magpie swooping down on unsuspecting little Splodge . . . Now, Bug Belly and the froglets must cross Whispering Woods on a dangerous rescue mission. Will his cool gadgets be enough to fly safely up to rescue Splodge from Magpie’s nest, or will Bug Belly’s penchant for yummy snacks lead him straight into the hungry jaws of Sneaky Snake? Luckily, nobody in Top Pond has more ingenious plans up than this Top Frog . . .’
Bug Belly’s second outing is every bit as funny as the first. It’s full of slug slurping, daring rescue plans, and gurgling tummies. Young readers will love this froggy adventure! Let’s find out a little more about how author-illustrator Paul Morton goes about creating one of his brilliant books:
Paul Morton Q&A for Library Girl & Book Boy
Can you tell us a bit about this new book in the series?
Bug Belly: Froggy Rescue is the second book in the series, and needed to feature some of the same villains, ALL the same froggy heroes and the familiar Bug Belly approach to problem solving. ie he needs his ingenious gadgets once again in his kit bag and lots of plans and drawings. I’ve had good feedback from readers about the plans. They, like me, love to study and enjoy the details in the plans. I had 3 or 4 ideas for a plot line and as I sketched out the scenes two of them came together nicely to make one, hopefully, exciting adventure.
Splodge, the youngest froglet is suddenly snatched by Magpie and carried off to the nest at the far side of the dangerous Whispering Woods. How on earth can Bug Belly rescue his little nephew before he becomes a Magpie mini meal?
I had great fun working out the logistics of how they might achieve this seemingly impossible task.
You have said previously that Bug Belly started out as a picture book. Was it difficult to adapt the story to a chapter book? How did you go about doing that?
At first I was terrified actually! I had worked diligently to reduce the word count to around 650 when it was a picture book. Then when a chapter book was suggested, at around 2,000+ words, I thought ‘there’s no-way!’ But as I sat down and planned it out I realised that I enjoyed telling the longer story, the fun plot twists that it afforded. It was my first attempt at anything longer than picture books and I felt I grew into it as it progressed. Plus, I had the expert help from my very experienced and patient editor at Five Quills!
All my books start in a notebook, with sketches of the major scenes and turning points. Like picturing stills from a movie. I then build around those.
And then for a second book, did the ideas flow easily?
It was a great help already knowing what the characters were likely to do or say. That part of the development wasn’t ‘unknown’ anymore, I felt the characters with me which allowed me to focus more on the plot. I also developed the character traits to establish them more clearly.
You’ve created so many learning and activity resources alongside the books – where do you get the energy and ideas from?!
Well it helps being a trained graphic designer as well as illustrator. In fact it has proved essential. I’ve produced many games for commercial companies. Board games with fact sheets, game boards, 3D pop-up buildings, game cards, character cards etc etc. So, investing all this experience into my Bug Belly passion was an easy labour of love.
It was the lockdown, and the closing of venues to appear at in-person, that made me really concentrate on establishing a Bug Belly presence on the internet. If only there weren’t so many Big Belly search hit results, Bug Belly would fare better!!
I have lots more resources planned, there just doesn’t seem time enough to get them all finished.
The Bug Belly books are so vibrant, with energetic images and dynamic text. Are you an energetic person? Do you find it easy to channel energy into your writing and drawing?
Once I’m on a roll, yes, and that feeling is a good one! I can get creative blocks, too, though like anyone else but I do have an energy waiting to burst out. I once likened Bug Belly to one of my school reports from when I was about 7 years old. I never forget it, for obvious reasons … “Paul’s over enthusiasm for games can sometimes be mistaken for clumsiness.” That’s how I see Bug Belly, which I guess is still me really, and I need to keep feeding his energetic escapades.
How do you draw – on paper, on a tablet etc? And how do you work up your illustrations? Do you have an idea of the page layout from the start, in terms of how the text will fit with the images etc.?
As I mentioned I ALWAYS start a story in a notebook, and I carry a sketchbook/notebook with me nearly all the time. Then as I start to think about the words I’ll move onto my IPad to type. I like the fact I can settle down anywhere with that and type. I’m a fairly slow typist so it gives me thinking time to ponder the plot.
After the sketchbook stage, the drawings are translated onto A4 paper and possibly tried out in a dummy book to see how they feel at actual size and with page turns. Another round of better drawings are produced to submit to my editor and publisher. Once they are approved I hand draw final artwork illustrations onto A4 paper, still freehand to keep some freshness and spontaneity.
The final stages involve scanning these drawings into Photoshop and re-sizing, re-shaping anything that needs amending. General tidying up and then the texture and colour are added on separate layers using various unique texture paintbrushes that I’ve created for myself.
Any advice you’d give to new author illustrators?
Firstly, try to be yourself in your stories and in your illustration style. You are unique and it’s this quality that publishers will look for. Draw all the time, never stop. It makes you a keen observer. As for writing, read as much as you can, write often. Don’t be afraid to fail but try and recognise when it happens; don’t get frustrated but rather see it as a necessary part of the longer success story.
And on a practical note, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s a family that is tremendously supportive and educational, offering invaluable experiences.
Bug Belly: Froggy Rescue by Paul Morton is published by Five Quills on 1st July 2021, £6.99 paperback.
PR contact: Catherine Ward firstname.lastname@example.org / 07748620051
I always love seeing some of the magic which goes into creating a book. There are always so many more steps to take and decisions to be made than you’d imagine! Thank you Paul for giving us a little peek behind the scenes of Bug Belly’s watery world.
*Many thanks to Five Quills for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*