We had the opportunity to interview Jo Fernihough about her debut book The Crow and the Peacock.
Jo is a lecturer in foundation graphics and illustration at the Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts. Her illustration clients include IKEA, the BBC, Tiffany & Co., and Harper Collins.
What made you decide to become an author?
I have always loved children’s stories. My mother bought me a children’s book every Christmas, even when I became an adult. Writing books is a wonderful experience and I am thankful for my agents and publishers who have helped me.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
I am very passionate about colour. I love colour. It sparks my imagination, especially combined with textures, as you can see from The Crow and the Peacock, which is filled to the brim with colour. It was really fun to pack it with so much colour in contrast to the black crow.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
My ideas come from everywhere. When I am walking the dogs in the countryside, I love to observe the wildlife and imagine what they are doing. I have dreams which I quickly scribble down in the morning or from stories people tell me about their own lives which I see as illustrations as they regale their tales.
How much research do you do before you begin a book?
My research will start with observing and drawing the animals or people that I am going to be using and taking photographs of elements that I want to use in the backgrounds. Getting to know the movements and characteristics of the subject whether that is a child or animal is really important to create characters people will love.
Where do you find your inspiration for new stories and characters?
Often I illustrate books that have already been written but walking my Labrador (Blanket) and Jack Russel (Mac) is the best time for me to think about stories. Often I have to rush home to sketch out the ideas or use my voice recorder in my phone so I don’t forget.
What is the process of writing a book; how does it go from an idea to a finished work on sale in bookstores?
The process is quite long from the initial idea. I begin to create rough dummy books (folded A4 paper) and write down the story, editing it as I go. Once I am happy with the flow of the story and have rough sketches for the spreads, I work on a colour rough with the characters and continue editing the text. This then goes to my agents who may have new suggestions, and once it has been bought by a publisher, they will often help me finalise the story and illustrations. It is a wonderful process and really is a group effort. I am always so excited when I see my book in the shops. All the hard work that has gone into it, is an excellent experience to hold it and see it for real.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
My highlight of my career is definitely having The Crow and the Peacock published. It was many years in the making. I am really proud of it.
What do you wish you’d have known starting out as an author?
I wish I had had more classes on how to write creatively. I love to write but I find it easier to illustrate.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Believe in yourself. There is a place for everyone in this beautiful world.
What do you hope kids learn from The Crow and the Peacock?
I hope that The Crow and the Peacock helps children to see that they should be happy with who they are and not to compare themselves to others. Everyone is amazing in their own way just like Crow finds out when he visits all the different birds.
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
My mother was also an illustrator. In the 1960s she illustrated children’s books, greeting cards and designed clothes for Dusty Springfield and many other things, she was very creative. My friends said that when they visited my house it was like entering a fairy world full of imaginative and beautiful things.