A very happy New Year to everyone! 2013 was pretty great all round, and I hope 2014 brings lots of good things to all.
I’ve lots of exciting things planned for the coming year. It’s going to be a busy one! As ever, fitting it all in is going to take some major planning, which is hard work in itself. I’m revisiting my time-management bag of tricks, and flexing those organisational muscles in preparation.
Monster & Chips Audiobooks
Here’s a bit of Monster & Chips news: the first audiobook is released tomorrow, read by the supremely talented actor Oliver Hembrough. It’s so exciting to hear someone else’s interpretation of the story and I absolutely love it! You can listen to an extract on SoundCloud (or clicking the orange play button in this very post).
The other books in the series will also be released as audiobooks in due course, available as downloadable mp3 or as CDs from libraries. I’ll post buying links in the Monster & Chips page when I’ve dug them out.
Some exciting Christmas-y news! Every visitor to Santa’s Grotto at Canary Wharf in London this Christmas gets a copy of Monster & Chips! (I think some T&Cs apply but Canary Wharf haven’t got back to me on this yet.) Santa can be found in the marvellous (but not edible – I tried) Jubilee Place grotto every weekend in the run up until Christmas and every day from December 14th onwards. Good little boys and girls only, please!
Speaking of Christmas presents, for the Christmas period you can get 10% off everything in my online shop. Just enter XMAS13 at the checkout (the code is valid right until the end of the month). New additions include signed copies of my Monster & Chips books and also the latest issue of ink+PAPER, the comic anthology that I edit (and have a comic in!).
Some more ink sketches – the end is in sight! These are from days 11-14.
The Gentle Author’s London Album Launch
I’m a London-nerd and a history-nerd, so the Spitalfields Life blog is pretty much essential reading as far as I’m concerned. A great mixture of stories and pictures capturing the London of today, and the London that is vanishing or has already vanished.
The launch of the Gentle Author‘s latest book, The Gentle Author’s London Album, took place last week at the appropriate venue of Christ Church, Spitalfields. It was great to have a chance to meet the mysterious person behind this fantastic blog; I love the way it documents the ordinary life of the city, ordinary but not without its quirks. We have some family connections of our own in Spitalfields and the G.A. was able to enlighten us about some interesting leads for investigating further.
You can read the G.A.’s own account of the launch here. My bonce even makes it into a couple of the photos. Nice to run into illustrator Noelle Davies-Brock there too.
New in the shop
I’ve some notebooks with freaky creature covers designed by me on sale in the shop. A6-sized, they’re filled with blank pages for drawing or writing, or both (if you’re me). They’ll be available at the Comiket and Thought Bubble too. Great stocking fillers!
On a visit yesterday to the HQ of my publishers, HarperCollins, I bumped into familiar face: Fuzzby Bixington, all dressed up in his apron and ready for customers!
He’d opened his monster diner there for the evening (a plop-up?), with the help of his glamorous assistants, the Fuzzbettes!
It was part of a company event taking place called ‘the Harpers’ where each division show-cased their current projects and handed out awards to outstanding promotional campaigns. The children’s book division had worked tremendously hard in turning a corner of the staff canteen into Fuzzby’s diner for the night. Fuzzby’s footprints led the way:
And there it was! With red-and-white checked table cloths, chips in paper cones, proper menus (laminated for easy wiping off of those difficult food residues) and even squeezey ketchup bottles! I have to confess to having more of my fair share of the worm spaghetti.
I spent the evening doing monster drawings to order for the customers – it was great fun and I got to meet loads of people, including some of those who worked so hard on the digital version of MONSTER AND CHIPS. I even did a drawing for the new UK CEO, Charlie Redmayne, who was previously responsible for JK Rowling’s Pottermore digital enterprise!
Thank you so much to everyone at HarperCollins – they’ve really looked after me this last year or so, and given me so much support. It’s made creating these books such an incredibly enjoyable experience – I’ve loved every second of it!
If you’re free this weekend and into the process of making comics, then come along to CAPTION, Oxford’s annual comic festival. There’s a great line-up of creators talking about their work in various discussion panels, along with workshops and talks. All the details can be found here. This year’s logo is by comic creator and graphic designer Rian Hughes, who is one of the guests.
Monster met Friet?
In MONSTER & CHIPS news, I’m delighted to announce that there will be a Dutch edition of the books, to be published by Veltman Uitgevers in the summer of next year. I can speak a tiny bit of Dutch so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how ‘snotburgers’ gets translated!
Copies of both Monster & Chips books are up for grabs along with a number of other great titles in a summer book giveaway from Mrs Tinks Foods. All you need to do is write about your favourite book in 100 words or less. Find out what to do here. I see the Mythical 9th Division books by my friend Alex Milway are also part of the prize – it’s worth entering for those alone.
Also the competition to win a Kindle Fire and a picture drawn by me is still running at Monsterandchips.com! To enter, send in your recipe for a monstrous midnight feast – make it as disgusting as possible!
My first trip to the Edinburgh Book Festival! Wow, it was well-organised and huge fun too! We had a hotel near Charlotte Square so were just a quick trot down the street from all the action. Here’s me in the Imagination Lab with some very keen monster creators! They were bursting with ideas for weird and wonderful creatures and there were plenty of volunteers wanting to come up on-stage and have a go at some drawing. Very brave considering how many people were watching in the audience.
We all worked together to make a monster that would appear in the next MONSTER & CHIPS book. Here’s me doing the final drawing. I always forget that I hold the pen in such a weird way!
It means I draw on the board in a wonky way! That’s our creation, below left. Behold: Sluggybottom Ninjapants! Look out for him in MONSTER & CHIPS 3: Food Fright! It’s out next April.
Thank you to everyone for your help! Also thanks to Michael Merillo from the Scottish Book Trust for hosting and to the brilliant Sam White, my HarperCollins publicist, for all her help.
Then on to some signing. Thank you so much to everyone who came along and queued for books! I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.
The next day we paid a visit to Glasgow so I could sign some books in the Argyle Street branch of Waterstones – such a great display of children’s books. Bookseller (and theatre-maker) Sarah Bradley had been running a monster-themed story time that morning, coincidentally! Then we popped into Glasgow’s Museum of Art, a lovely old building:
There was a fabulous display of work by French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle:
I couldn’t think where I seen her work before, then I remembered the spectacular fountains outside the Centre Pompidou in Paris. I love the colour and cartoony shapes. Those dancers really make me smile!
I’m back home now, reunited with the dog after her little holiday at Doggie Hotel. Lots to do – back to work!
The wheel fell off my monster alphabet pretty quickly, didn’t it? All will be corrected over the coming weekend and I’ll have a catch-up next week. Meanwhile, my copy of MONSTER & CHIPS: Night of the Living Bread has arrived! It’s a chunky little beast of a book and I’m completely thrilled with it. Those are actual shadows from the lettering you can see, as the cover has lashings of glossy spot varnish on it! It makes a very handsome companion to book one.
It’s officially out on Thursday August 1st (although those who have pre-ordered online will probably get their copies sooner). I’m hosting some drinks at the George Inn, Borough High St (in the Winchester Room from 7pm) on the day to celebrate, so come along if you’d like to say hello and clink glasses!
Book Two of my Monster & Chips series is off to the printers today! Here’s how the cover will look after a few final tweaks. I’m so in love with the cover design of these books – brilliant work by designers Kate Clarke and Matt Kelly.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING BREAD is out on August 1st – I’m counting the days! Joe and his monster mates are off on a new set of adventures with plenty of food-related mayhem, along with one of my favourite characters, cover star Mr Jubbins with his see-through tummy.
We get to see some more of Monsterworld and there’s even a bit of a road trip for the gang. And of course, the Guzzelins provide their usual commentary throughout.
They’re in super-heroic mode here:
This is one of several pics I’m using as covers of notebooks I’m having made. Fearsome beasts all.
In August I’ll be at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year. It’s years since I’ve been to Edinburgh, easily the most beautiful city in the country, and I can’t wait!
Come and see me on Saturday August 17th for “ZOMBIE CUPCAKES AND EXPLODING MILKSHAKES!” at the Baillie Gifford Imagination Lab from 3pm. It will be a lot of monster, foodie fun! You can get tickets here.
Check out the other events too, as a bunch of my comic and book friends are taking part in the associated Stripped Festival, celebrating comics in all their forms. It looks amazing!
Come along this Saturday to the Chatham waterfront for a shed-load (actually a tent-load) of comics-making fun as part of the Fuse Medway Festival! Organised by the magnificent Gary Northfield of The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs fame, there’ll be professional comic makers on hand to help you create your own master-pieces. Neill Cameron (Pirates of Pangaea), Jamie Littler (Cogg & Sprokit) and Laura Anderson (Evil Emperor Penguin) of the Phoenix Comic will be there, as well as Alex Milway, author of the Mythical 9th Division series and myself! There’ll be books and comics for sale too. It all kicks of from 12pm and will be A-MAZING.
Lots of things! I’ve been doing some work with Sarah McIntyre on a mystery project. The mystery has, for a while, been whether it would ever see the light of day at all! But happily the end is (almost) in sight. This is an image that may (or may not) be in the final thing. Dissemblers assemble!
Monster & Chips
I’ve also been busy on the illustrations for MONSTER & CHIPS 2: Night of the Living Bread. The deadlines are TIGHT but I think I’m on course.
I gave a short talk last night to some of the lovely people from the children’s book division at the HQ of my publisher, HarperCollins. They were very polite and attentive as I babbled on about comics a lot. There were chips and wine afterwards too – most civilised!
In other Monster & Chips news, there’s an interview with me in the current issue of TBK magazine and here’s a quick reminder that the competition to win an iPad is still open at the official Monster & Chips website. Create your own recipe and you could win!
Also not in my comfort zone: I was very honoured to be asked to contribute to the new Tiny Pencil artzine, edited by Katriona Chapman and Amber Hsu. It celebrates illustrated work in pencil or charcoal, untouched by ink or any digital shenanigans. Yikes! All my safety nets gone! The pic is a detail of my contribution. Yes, more monsters!
Finally, I was very fortunate to visit the BT Tower this month on one of its rare openings to the public. It was open in aid of a charity event which happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary so we made a day of it. There was a glass of champagne waiting at the top too, appropriately enough, and the organisers had switched on the revolving floor which was a novel, if slightly disconcerting, experience. The weather had been kind so the views across London were spectacular.
I much preferred it to the Shard which we’d visited just before it opened in February as part of a free preview for local residents.
I think the Shard is just a little too high to appreciate the mostly low rise city below it, but from the shorter BT Tower you can see the detail better. I was pleasantly surprised by just how green London is too. Lots of little parks and tree-filled squares everywhere. The city definitely looked at its best.
Free Comic Book Day was spent at the wonderful GOSH! Comics in London’s glittering West End. It was hectic and fun – there should be a word for that. Funtic? I spent some time at the drawing table with budding comic-creators who all had very firm ideas about what they wanted to do. I’m always so taken by surprise by the limitless creativity of the very young. They are capable of making extraordinary and bizarre stories and characters, uninhibited by the tastes and rules of the grown-up world but with a a logic that makes perfect sense. Very refreshing.
My friend Richy Chandler of Lucy the Octopus fame brought his son Emir with him – an honour for me as Emir is a Monster & Chips fan. It was brilliant to hear him talk about the characters so knowledgeably. We drew a picture of Fuzzby together (photo by Richy). All the creators present were then asked to draw a picture on the large windows of the shop. I did a rather splotchy Tintin and managed mostly successfully to keep the paint on the glass rather than on me. You can see all the paintings on the GOSH! tumblr. It was great to see Viv, Gary and Warwick again and to meet Dan White who creates the amazing Cindy and Biscuit. A fine day.
In other news, I’m very proud that Monster & Chips is playing its part in the London Evening Standard‘s Get London Reading Campaign. In partnership with Barnes & Noble, the Standard is providing 1000 Nook e-readers to volunteers from the Beanstalk charity who provide help to primary school children who have fallen behind in their reading. These will be used in 290 schools across the city. I’m very pleased that Monster & Chips is one of the books that has been chosen to be pre-loaded onto the e-readers. It’s good to know Fuzzby & friends are playing their part! You can read more about the initiative here.
A school teacher friend of mine sent me these pics drawn by students in his class. They were drawing characters from their favourite books and a few of them had chosen MONSTER & CHIPS! I’m very honoured that they liked the book so much and the art is pretty amazing too:
Joe meets Fuzzby. Great expression on Joe’s face.
Barry, Joe and Fuzzby. Fuzzby’s huge paws are perfect making all those chips.
Particularly if they’re monster-sized!
More chips! I love the furriness of Fuzzby in this picture. Thank you so much, everyone!
Do come along and say hello! The Comiket is from 11am-7pm at the new Central St Martins College behind King’s Cross Station.
Entry is free and there’ll be loads of people selling comics and doing live drawing on the big screen. There are also a couple of competitions to win an iPad or artists materials.
It’s going to be huge fun – and it’s free! And it’s just part of the wonderful Comica Festival.
I’ve been busy writing the second of the Monster & Chips books just recently (amazing to think you can already pre-order it!) so haven’t had time to post any drawings.
Thankfully it’s all done and is now being knocked into shape by my brilliant editors Harriet Wilson and Sam Swinnerton, so I’ll have a little more time from next week to get posting sketches, comics and whatnot.
In the meantime, it came to my attention that over at the wonderful Playing by the Book, there’s a virtual Edible Book Festival in progress. And not only that, someone’s made a plate-load of zombie cupcakes inspired by Monster & Chips! Brilliant!
They look freakily delicious, I must say! You can see a pic in the background from the book – it’s like they’ve just stepped out of it! I’ve pinched the above photo from Playing by the Book – if you’re the chef, then do let me know.
ETA: And the marvellous baker was Polly of The Little Wooden Horse Blog! Do check this blog out – full of very handy reviews of kid’s books. Lots of good reading to be had there.
I’ve actually had a go at making zombie cupcakes myself in the past, as gifts for my publisher. These cakes rather put my efforts to shame!
Oh dear. I think I’ll stick to drawing.
Today is officially the best day ever, as it’s officially the release day for my book MONSTER & CHIPS!
It’s been a real adventure for me and I’ve loved every second – and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have enjoyed creating it. My publisher, HarperCollins, has been brilliantly supportive (editors Harriet Wilson and Sam Swinnerton, designers Elorine Grant and Kate Clarke) and I’ve really felt looked after.
The book is in the shops already (please, please, please buy from your local bookshop if you can!) but the e-book goes on sale today from the Amazon Kindle store, iTunes and Google books. It’s in full-colour and I’m thrilled with the way it looks.
The promotional work the HC team have done has been fantastic – take a look at the brand new MONSTERANDCHIPS.com! As well as info about the book and characters, there’s a fabulous competition to win an iPad pre-loaded with the MONSTER & CHIPS e-book. All you need to do to enter is think of your most disgusting recipe! Stinky coughy pudding? Frog fritters in snotted cream sauce? Vomitburgers? See what you can come up with.
I popped into HC HQ yesterday and was amazed to see the canteen was being set up for a MONSTER & CHIPS-themed lunch for today, including a bit of fancy dress, apparently! I hear chewy worm spaghetti and parp tarts are on the lunch menu today, HarperCollinsers – enjoy!
HC also presented me with a souvenir apron. I hope they weren’t suggesting a alternative career. The apron reads: Monsters need foooooood! Too true. [Spatula, model’s own.]
Phew! All this AND I’m working on Book 2 right now, so more monstrous goodness to come very soon!