Author and Illustrator Interview – Robert and Karen Hanvik and Ella Ransom

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Monster Twins

Written by Robert and Karen Hanvik

Illustrated by Ella Ransom

Publisher’s Synopsis: Bella and Bertie are twins, but they don’t know that, or each other. Separated while babies by bad law, they grew up 6000 miles apart, in Singapore and London. Follow the twins as they discover their shared past and do their best to make a better future for themselves, their families, and others like them.

Author Interview

1) Thank you for joining me today. After reading The Monster Twins, I feel there must be a story behind it. Is there? What can you tell us about the story behind the book?

The Monster Twins started as a family project to bring together our various interests and abilities in creative writing, design, and illustration. A children’s book felt like a logical option.

From there, the book evolved based on a variety of inspirations. Ella has been creating monster pictures since she was five or six years old (she’s 19 now); as she has grown up, she added a deep interest in drawing architectural features and icons. These two elements became a focal point for the book.

Karen has been stretching her creative muscles for years. Having trained at London College of Fashion and Central St Martins, Karen has channeled her creativity into numerous areas over the years, including her own line of high-fashion scarves (karenhanvik.com) and a successful career as a digital marketing consultant. She is inspired by her passion for travel, as am I. This shared passion made the element of multiple locations for the setting of the book another logical decision.

Regarding the copy, it started as a much longer manuscript designed to introduce many concepts and images that could inspire the book’s design. Gradually, the words were pared down to allow the design and illustration to carry much of Bella and Bertie’s story. 

Finally, subconsciously at first, then consciously, the emotional elements of the story were inspired by current events. The Monster Twins features a number of conflicting emotions, such as sadness and joy, separation and togetherness, loss, and gain. This mirrors the current state of so much of the world, with division being such a common theme across geographies, political affiliations, and personal ideologies. We wanted to share a book that focused only on overcoming those divisions and finding happiness together… in such a way that makes a positive difference for others.

2) Along with that, who did you have in mind as you wrote the book?

We had three groups in mind as we developed the book. First, we thought about kids (and monsters!) who feel isolated; we wanted to share the message that it’s OK to be different, and how helpful it is to find yourself and others who will support you. Second, we thought about all children; by reading about others who may feel alone, they can gain some perspective and empathy… in a fun way. Finally, being parents, we always kept them in mind; we tried to focus on how to create a book that has meaning, but is also fun to read and look at and won’t get stale after MANY readings!

3) What can you tell us about the future adventures of The Monster Twins?

We already have drafted manuscripts for two more books, which will take Bella and Bertie and their newly expanded and mixed family to other parts of the world, starting with the United States. SMALL SPOILER: Due to the visibility of monsters’ rights that was driven by Bella and Bertie, and the work of their monster-parents, the twins have been named goodwill ambassadors. The Ministry of Monster Affairs has asked them to bring their message of togetherness to other parts of the world, and they are up to the challenge! You will see more architectural icons, in maybe different ways than you have seen them before, along with more bright, bold colors and fun.

4) Now, I’d like to share a little more about you all with my readers. When did you first know you wanted to be an author and an illustrator? When you are not writing or making art, what other hats do you all wear? What do you do for fun?

Ella: I have been drawing since I was a toddler and haven’t stopped! I always wanted to find a way to have a job where I could pursue design and art. I’m currently studying for a degree in Animation at Bournemouth University, one of the world’s leading universities for this field. Recently, I took up indoor wall climbing – Bella and Bertie must have inspired me! – and I would love to take a beginners’ mountain climbing course in the French Alps!

Karen: I didn’t know that I did! Initially, I helped Robert and Ella in little ways to get the book started and then, before I knew it, I was fully immersed, writing, sketching, coloring, and illustrating! It has been such a wonderful experience, and I can’t wait to start books 2 and 3. I had major spinal surgery two years ago, and working on the book was massively therapeutic for me as I went through months of physio and recovery. Fun for me centers around my family and sharing experiences, whether it’s a day-trip to nearby 900-year-old Leeds Castle or seeing a new part of the world together. 

Robert: I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember. As the youngest of eight children, it was sometimes hard to have my voice heard, so maybe I just wanted to get my imagination out somehow! I studied journalism as an undergraduate and have spent my entire professional career writing – plans, strategies, speeches, position papers – so I have had plenty of opportunities to sharpen my writing ability. I have also done some creative writing over the years for magazines and newspapers, but children’s book writing is entirely new… and enjoyable. These days, I consult with governments and private companies around the world about how best to communicate their messages, so, until lockdown, I was traveling ¾ of the time. Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, I enjoy traveling for fun, seeing new places, embedding as much as possible like a local. I am a pretty avid reader; I try to stay fit, enjoy cooking, and am writing some other genres. I also enjoy just being with my family, working in the garden or on the house.

5) As a former K-12 school librarian, I have to ask – what is your favorite children’s book?

Karen: Ella and I both share a love of Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy. The poor mum in the book wants just that, five minutes of peace; I initially read it to my children as a hint! The kids in the story have different plans, though, which is why Ella enjoys the book: She relates to being a child, and one of the siblings, always following me around so I could never get that five minutes of peace! The illustrations are beautiful and cleverly, gently depict the emotions of all the family. 

RobertHarold and the Purple Crayon – purple has always been my favorite color. I like the lean simplicity of the copy overall and the final line in particular, ‘he drew up the covers.’While not technically children’s books, I came to Sherlock Holmes stories when I was quite young, probably 8 or 9 years old, and I enjoyed them very much and still do.

6) What advice would you give to a child or teen who wants to be a writer or an illustrator?

Read as much as you can. It doesn’t have to be heavy books or other content; even comic books get you in the habit of reading and following plot lines and character stories. We also recommend writing and drawing things that interest you, that you’re passionate about. A lot of boring stuff goes into producing a book, particularly one like The Monster Twins, which we created entirely digitally – edits, corrections, alignment, layering – and if you don’t love what you’re doing, this will be painful!

Ella: My advice is to keep drawing, painting, inking, crayoning, modeling…. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing – doodles and sketching and trying new media are all part of the fun of finding out what you enjoy and using your talent and growing your skill. Tracing and copying drawings you like is absolutely fine to start with, too, as it gives you the ability and confidence to find your own style. My final thought is this: Definitely don’t feel like you have to conform! 

7) Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

One unusual thing we have done is to prepare the book in multiple formats, to make it as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. In addition to the traditional print format, for example, we also created an entirely new format – it’s online and interactive. It does not require any special software or an e-reader. Every page features’ hot spots’ for readers to click on, and each hot spot has fun/obscure facts and pictures associated with what’s on the page or downloadable pictures for coloring… there’s even a word search. We have put a sample of this new approach at www.monstertwins.com so people can try it out.

I appreciate you joining me today. My readers and I enjoy learning a little more about authors and illustrators and the “why” behind their work.

For more information, visit https://monstertwins.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Purchase The Monster Twins at https://monstertwins.com/collections/the-monster-twins-book

To visit more stops on this tour, go to https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/weblog/2020/07/the-monster-twins-awareness-tour.html to get a list of all of the stops.

GIVEAWAY

Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Monster Twins and a Visa gift card!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A physical copy of The Monster Twins
  • A digital flipbook copy of The Monster Twins
  • A $25 Visa gift card to stock up on more books from your favorite bookstore

Five (5) winners receive:

  • A choice of:
    • A physical copy of The Monster Twins
    • A digital flipbook copy of The Monster Twins

Giveaway begins July 20, 2020, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends August 20, 2020, at 11:59 P.M. MT.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is in partnership with The Children’s Book Review. I received a free copy of The Monster Twins to review. All opinions are my own. 

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