We caught up with Elys Dolan, illustrator and writer extraordinaire, on the release of her new chapter book Knighthood for Beginners.
1. You’ve mostly worked on picture books; what made you change things up to work on a junior novel?
The right story came along. Knighthood for Beginners was just too in depth with too much going on to be a picture book. It didn’t want to let it pass by just because of a little thing like there not being enough pages so fiction was the way to go.
2. What inspired the theme of ‘knightliness’ (or failure at knightliness!), dragons, and quests in Knighthood for Beginners?
I’ve always loved things like dragons, castles, knights, icky peasants, swords and other sharp objects. I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a castle? (as long as you like drafts and really thick walls). I suppose that’s where the core of it came from.
During the process of making the books knightliness became an ideal. Dave goes from trying to live up to one ideal, being an awesome dragon, to another, being an awesome knight. It’s only by finding out that he doesn’t really fit into any of these boxes that Dave discovers what actually works for him.
3. What comes first for you; the illustrations or the story?
Both at once! I’ve found that I can’t really separate words and pictures. To get ideas for what to write I have to do drawings. When I draw I find that the characters have something to say or I’ve got things I need to explain so I end up writing words to go with them.
4. Where do you like to do your writing and illustrating?
I share a studio in an industrial estate with a bunch of other artists, including a few author/illustrators. It’s not glamorous, we have weird green corduroy carpets and all the walls are different textures of Artex, but it’s super fun. We’ve built full size cardboard castles, had afternoon tea and made a crime drama. There’s a pyjama day planned for next week. The studio is where I like to work when I’m not joining in with all that nonsense.
5. What is your favourite book, and what are you reading at the moment?
I can’t choose a favourite book! There’s too many good books to pick one and plus I’d probably change my mind every other day. At the moment I’m reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. It’s a novel about the moon exploding and it has me a little worried. I’m currently doing a lot of looking out the window to check if the moon’s okay. You’ll be relieved to hear last time I looked it was doing fine.
You can get your own copy of Knighthood for Beginners here – we can guarantee it’ll have you laughing all summer!