Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Fiona Halliday


© Fiona Halliday

Jan. 17, 2020

We're thrilled to feature author-illustrator Fiona Halliday and her debut picture book, NUMENIA AND THE HURRICANE (Page Street Kids), coming out Jan. 21, 2020. Enter to win a copy!




Tell us about yourself and how you came to write illustrate for children.

I always wanted to be a writer, not necessarily for children, but I have always loved reading and telling stories. I came to illustrating quite late - that is perhaps more interesting. I had moved abroad and I was quite lonely and couldn't speak the language, so I started drawing characters during my lunch break. (Or to be more accurate, I was working as a product photographer and I remember looking at an exhaust pipe and thinking that it looked quite like a whale, and the screws could be eyes and if I took a tension regulator and liquified it a bit, it could look like stormy waves, and so on - so I guess I started illustrating from photography.)


© Fiona Halliday


Congrats on your debut picture book, NUMENIA AND THE HURRICANE. Tell us about this story & what inspired you.

I was on a trip to Shetland in 2012, photographing wildlife, when I encountered a whimbrel on the island of Fetlar. I remember the way she stepped out and eyed us with this tweedy, high-stepping imperiousness. She wore that scabby old moor like it was an ermine stole. A while later, I read about the amazing story of Hope the whimbrel who got caught up in tropical storm Gert in 2011, and who battled through a raging hurricane for 27 hours non-stop, and who then used its tail winds to propel her back to Cape Cod. I loved the story for what it said about courage and stoicism in the face of overwhelming odds. That is how I was inspired to create NUMENIA AND THE HURRICANE (Her name, Numenia, comes from her Latin name 'Numenius phaeopus'.)   


© Fiona Halliday


Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Oh definitely long and winding! I signed with my agent, Essie White of Storm Literary Agency, back when we were both just starting out in 2016. She liked my illustrations more than my writing. Back then I was incapable of telling a coherent story! I spent the next few years trying to create some decent stories. I think my one strength is I can create a character - the rest I am fairly terrible at. Unsurprisingly, I didn't have too much luck on the submission front for a few years, but I kept working away at NUMENIA, which I think I started in 2016. 


© Fiona Halliday

I got some valuable advice from Kristen Nobles of Page Street, which I am sure she has long forgotten. I think she liked my illustration style but my story was woeful, and it had, I believe, 17 characters instead of the usual one or two. Finally, NUMENIA had started to take off. I wrote it in rhyming quatrains, which seemed to work for the story, since I wanted her song 'curlee, curlee, curloo' to echo through the pages. Kristen at Page Street picked it up in 2018. I then spent the next few months immersed in the illustration process. 


© Fiona Halliday


What is your preferred illustration medium and process?

I work digitally in Photoshop, because I like incorporating a lot of layers into my work, a bit like digital collage I think. I would love to splash around with real paint and canvas someday, but I suspect I’d be lost without Ctrl. V! For the thumbnails and dummy I tend to just sketch. I find that part of the process the hardest though I enjoy character design. 


© Fiona Halliday


What projects are you working on now?

I just wrapped up a lovely project called HELLO LITTLE ONE: A MONARCH BUTTERFLY STORY, written by Zeena Pliska, and illustrated myself (Page Street Kids, May 2020). And I am working on my 2nd author-illustrator PB called THE STORM GOOSE, about a little girl who loses her father at sea (also Page Street).




What advice do you have for aspiring author-illustrators?

I think you just have to get your head down and do the work. And keep doing the work. And keep redrafting and honing and learning. Tell the stories that you want to tell. There is an incredibly generous and friendly community of Kidlitters out there who are travelling the same road as you are, and experiencing the same ups and downs and highs and lows as you are. They are all wonderful. 


© Fiona Halliday


What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I speak German 80% of the time.


Where can people find you online?
my website is www.thedoodlesack.com and I tweet under @fdhalliday 

Link to NUMENIA AND THE HURRICANE trailer







I have a First Class degree in English Literature from Edinburgh University, 2004 and a Masters in Photojournalism. In 2012, I moved to Austria which is when I started dabbling with illustration, I think perhaps out of frustration at not being able to communicate very well! I was always a very keen photographer, but it is quite limiting compared to illustration. I signed with Essie White of Storm Literary Agency in 2016. 
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21 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great interview Fiona. I look forward to reading Numenia. Your illustrations are just lovely!

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  2. Gorgeous book, can't wait to read... both the words and exquisite illustrations!

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  3. Beautiful artwork and an inspiring message of perseverance. I would love to read this book.

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  4. Your artwork is amazing. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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  5. What proud, amazing creatures! Congratulations on the book!

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  6. Congratulations, Fiona! The illustrations are beautiful and I can't wait to read it!

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  7. Wow - what an amazing story (and such beautiful illustrations!). I can't wait to read it!

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  8. I can't wait to read about this bird's perseverance and will to survive. Such an inspiration for all readers. Thank you for sharing.

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  9. Thank you for this interview. I loved hearing about your journey and seeing your magnificent illustrations. Can't wait to read this book!

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  10. Congrats and kudos for persevering--this looks like a marvelous book!

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  11. This looks excellent, I'd love to have a copy. Thanks for the chance.

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  12. Lovely illustrations! Can't wait to read the story that goes with them. Congratulations!

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  13. The cover is stunning and I look forward to reading your story!

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  14. This book looks beautiful, Fiona! Congrats on your debut picture book!

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  15. I just want to follow those puffins on their journey! Congrats on your debut.

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  17. Oh thank you for your kind comments!

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  18. I'm really looking forward to reading this. The illustrations are enchanting! Congratulations on your debut, Fiona.

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  19. Wow, this book is stunning! And I'm completely in awe that your artistic talent wasn't really tapped into until AFTER you were in photography...amazing work :D <3 This trailer is beautiful and I can't wait to see the book! CONGRATS to you on all of it, Fiona :D

    (ALSO, I deleted my original tweet and reposted it, so my entry for Twitter is now: https://twitter.com/WriterSideUp/status/1219650038063824896)

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  20. I love picture books that are based on truth.

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