''Ned, go to bed'' Author & Illustrator Interview

My kiddies love storytime before bed and often ask me to read a favourite book over and over again. One story they enjoy is Ned, go to bed written by Cathy Oakley Calvert and beautifully illustrated by Margaret Swift. They enjoy listening to the daily adventures of Ned the fluffy, black and white border collie.

So I recently booked special guests to attend our Home Education session at the local library where I work. Cathy and Ned the sheepdog came along to meet the children. They were delighted when they found out that Cathy had brought in Ned to meet them. She read out the story followed by an activity which everyone enjoyed!

Today I will be interviewing Cathy and Margaret to find out more about what it's like being an author and illustrator as they answer my kiddies' questions. Keep reading to find out how you can purchase a copy of this book, with low postage costs and Cathy is happy to sign it as well as adding your child's name!

Cathy Oakley Calvert, Author of Ned, go to bed

What does a typical day in the life of a published author look like?

The day starts with a nice walk with the dogs, Ned and Bess, and then back home for a coffee. I check my emails and follow up any requests for bookings, this is when Ned and I visit schools, nurseries, libraries to run a story session. These sessions sometimes also involve Margaret, my Illustrator, so I need to liaise with her to check she is available too. If we have an event coming up then Margaret and I might meet up for coffee or lunch to plan what we are going to do, and make sure we have the resources we need. I also check whether stocks are running low in the outlets selling my book, and arrange to replenish stock if necessary. I am constantly on the look out for events we can attend, so I check social media and look on local school websites for events. If I have books to post out to people who have ordered them from me, Ned and I will have a walk down to the Post Office to send them on their way. As we have another book in the making, I have also been taking photos of Ned and Bess as these are helpful when Margaret is doing the illustrations.

What inspired you to write a book?

I have always loved books – being read to as a small child, or reading them myself. I grew up surrounded by books, as my Mum taught English. I guess it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, to try and create a lovely book which other children can enjoy.

Do you have any top creative writing tips?

Try and think about your target audience when writing – don’t use words beyond the vocabulary of the age group you are writing for. Read it out loud, to make sure it flows.

What do you do when you get writer’s block?

Take the dogs for a walk or do something totally different…it’s amazing how ideas come to you when you’re not thinking about it.

Who inspired you when growing up?

Personally, my Mum, as she loves books too and made them a big part of our lives.

What advice would you give to any aspiring young writer?

Do it! Keep a notebook with you and scribble any ideas down as and when they come to you. Keep reading.

What is your favourite book?

That is a difficult one but as a child I enjoyed the Topsy and Tim collection and ‘My Naughty little sister’ (maybe that’s because I have a little sister of my own, as does Ned)

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An Actress. I love how the theatre can bring books/scripts to life and the wide variety of genres. I am involved in an amateur dramatic group and enjoy watching the show evolve into an amazing production – rather like writing, I suppose.

If you would like to order a signed copy of Ned, go to bed directly from Cathy herself, then please email her on Nedgtb@gmail.com The book costs £8.99 + p&p of £1.64.

Ned with a copy of his book!

Margaret Swift, Illustrator of Ned, go to bed

What does a day in the life of an Illustrator look like?

 A glance into my studio as I start the day can make me feel either happy or sad; in the morning I can be honest and critical having been away from my drawing board for a while and with the prospect of having a whole day to ‘put things right’… then a walk with Doodle, my dog, over the fields. This is a valuable time for us both to clear our thoughts for the day ahead. 

 Home to my drawing board, dependent upon my plans; sometimes, even after my evening meal, I may continue into the small hours (if things are going well!). 

 I don’t work to a strict pattern day by day, but I do enjoy having a deadline to work to – it focuses the mind. 

Did you draw as a young girl?

 Yes, always; when only young I realised that I could bring a drawing to life and produce a ‘likeness’. 

I noticed that I could draw a subject whose eyes would follow me from any angle – “The eyes are the window to the soul”, a proverb to remember when drawing a portrait. 

What were your favourite books growing up and are there any illustrators that you feel have inspired the way you approach your illustrative work?

One series of books I loved as a child was that of Beatrix Potter. 

Her characters are quite lifelike and maybe this influenced me when I was developing a style for my own illustrations. 

For myself I prefer realistic imagery rather than an over exaggerated, cartoon approach, which works well in many children’s books, but one I would find difficult or unnatural to replicate. 

How did you start your career as an illustrator?

Began my career as a Graphic Designer in industry followed by Lecturing in Graphic Design, specializing in Typography, Life Drawing, Computer graphics, Page layout and Image manipulation. 

Worked freelance as a designer and Digital Artist, also taking commissions for Portraiture. Then, recently I was approached to illustrate a Children’s Book – wonderful!  I thank the Publishers for allowing me to have control of the type and layout of the pages –a great bonus, also to the Author for allowing me to play with and illustrate her words! 

I guess to answer the question it was quite a complicated route! I still attend Life Drawing classes regularly and Summer Schools in London at The Slade and London School of Painting & Drawing - you never stop learning. 

What advice would you give to someone who would like to work in this field?

 Love your work – try to make ‘work-time’ your ‘play-time’. 

 Take advice, accept criticism, continue through the pain barrier which you will inevitable hit, it’s there for a purpose – if its not hard work, anyone could do it. 

Work continuously all your life to develop your skills, on paper or on screen for a love of the process, then it’s up to ‘happenstance’ as to where it will lead you… 

What are your favourite and least favourite things about the job?

 Favourite:  that you never quite know what your next challenge will be, it’s always fresh and original. 

Least favourite:  being faced with a blank sheet of paper and not daring to make the first mark – it happens every time. 

It really isn’t a job – more a way of life! 

Margaret Swift

"Ned, go to bed" Illustrator

A big Thank You to Cathy and Margaret for taking the time out to answer our questions. I'm sure all my readers and their children would enjoy reading this book!

Happy reading! :)


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