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Interview with Fiona Halliday

From now through the end of 2020, I’m interviewing the authors & illustrators of the debut group Perfect 2020 Picture Books. Today, I’m thrilled to chat with the very talented Fiona Halliday, Author/Illustrator of Numenia and the Hurricane, releasing from Page Street Kids on January 21st 2020.

Welcome, Fiona!

Fiona Halliday-foto

Congratulations on your-soon-to-be-released debut picture book! It is gorgeous. Tell us a little about the journey to publication.

Since childhood I always wanted to be a writer, but I had no aspirations to be an illustrator. (My family are all very artistic.) In 2012, (aged 31) I moved to Austria without being able to speak a word of German. My first job was photographing spare parts for motorbikes and mopeds, which was frightfully dull. I was lonely not being able to speak any German so it was then I started taking things like exhaust pipes and radiator coolers and making them (in Photoshop) into creatures, I think my first was a whale. Since then I haven’t really looked back. I signed with Essie White of Storm Literary Agency in 2016. I didn’t sign my first PB deal until summer of 2018, but now I have 2 PBs on the way and a third I am illustrating.

I can’t help but notice your intriguing subtitle: ‘Inspired by a true migration story.” What facts inspired Numenia?

In 2012, Hope, a GPS-wearing whimbrel, was followed by scientists from the Center of Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary as she negotiated her way through Hurricane Gert. She battled her way through raging headwinds for 27 hours, going an average speed of 9mph. Not only did she survive the storm, she used its headwinds to catapult her back to Cape Cod, where she wanted to be. Days later she arrived in St. Croix and spent the winter feeding on fiddler crabs before her long migration back to Canada the following spring.

Incredible! And truly inspiring as we all face our own headwinds in life before getting where we want to be. Looking back at your career so far, Fiona, can you describe the most pivotal moments that helped you “get there”?

  • Signing with Essie was a wonderful moment for me and she has proved to be a wonderful agent.
  • Long before I signed with Page Street Kids, Kristen Nobles offered me advice and guidance which I do believe I will never forget.
  • And I love the openness and generosity of the kidlit community in general. Being part of that is a wonderful experience.

From what age did you consider yourself a writer/illustrator?

I still find it odd to consider myself a writer/illustrator in a professional-ish capacity. It is something I have always wanted to do but had neither the courage or wherewithal to follow through with in my twenties. I have a degree in English Literature, I worked as a journalist, photographer, graphic designer and translator, also a host of less impressive jobs like house keeping, fruit-picking and room service. Now at the age of 38, I have been pursuing PB writing and illustrating for the last four/five years.

What subjects do you most like to write about/illustrate?

I love writing about and illustrating animals and nature. I love bird photography – I think that influenced Numenia to a high degree. I use digital techniques because I like incorporating a lot of layers into my work from old photos like rust and radiator coolers. I guess I’m a bit of a magpie in that respect! I would love to splash around with some paint someday, but I suspect I’d be lost without Ctrl. V! 

What does a typical day in your life look like? 

Lots of dog walking! When I am not working, I am sitting in front of my computer screen. I find dog walking and running help clear my head.

What feeds your creativity as an artist?

As I said, I like playing with disparate objects. For example Numenia’s feet and scaly legs are made from radiator coolers that I photographed and then liquified in Photoshop. I also used that texture for the moon.

Do you have any advice for other creatives?

I really think you just need to get your head down and do it. Work hard. Don’t give up. Find your critique buddies, do a course, learn your craft. Be steadfast. Be prepared to revise and revise again. Numenia went through many, many revisions. It started off in (bad) rhyme, then I unrhymed it, then returned to the rhyme which slowly got better.

I’m curious–how did you decide on the name Numenia for your main character?

I read that the Latin name for Whimbrel was Numenius Phaeopus and I just knew I had to call my whimbrel ‘Numenia,’ I thought it was a beautiful name about newness and had just a hint of magic. (She is a wading bird and looks just a wee bit drab, I wanted to give her the name of a queen!) Page Street later added ‘and the Hurricane’ to the title, which I also really like!

Love it! Now…any future projects that you can tell us about?

I have a second PB called The Storm Goose coming in 2021 and I have a project I am illustrating at the moment. I currently have another of my PBs on submission, which I am hopeful about.

Here’s wishing you every future success, Fiona!

In the meantime, readers can take a sneak peak inside Numenia and the Hurricane below:

Nowadays, pre-orders are vital to a new author’s career. To support Fiona and her beautiful book, pre-order Numenia and the Hurricane through any of the following retailers:

To see more of Fiona’s work, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @fdhalliday 

Cover image "Numenia and The Hurricane"
Cover image “Numenia and The Hurricane”