Q&A with Author/Illustrator Duo from @Zak_and_Jen #ChildrensFiction

My blog is a place to share a passion for books, writing, and ‘life stuff’ that I think people would be interested in reading. Earlier this year I attended my first Comic Con event – you can read about that HERE. A big bonus of this event was the opportunity to meet and chat with local authors and artists. It was as I drooled over various books and artwork that I got chatting to illustrator, Chris Rivers Nuttall who works in collaboration with children’s author, Natalie Page. I loved Chris’s artwork and decided I should stalk entice him onto my blog for a chat. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, Natalie joined him too (I do love a 2-for-1 deal!)

So, I am delighted to introduce both author and illustrator of the wonderful Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures children’s books (you can read my review HERE) to have a chat about writing, drawing, super powers, and rock gigs. Over to Natalie and Chris…

Nat and Chris

The Fun Stuff: 

What part of the world do you both come from? 

N: I grew up in Hertfordshire.

C: Manchester!

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

N: Either a journalist or a writer, I was always writing down stories – I took my notebook everywhere!

C: All the typical boy stuff, I wanted to be a solider, a spaceman, I’m pretty sure I wanted to be a farmer at some point too. Then it was a drummer in a band. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up though.

List three words to describe yourselves.

N: Imaginative, organised, and dedicated.

C: Obsessive, messy, and creative

Who would play you in a film about your life? 

N: Oh gosh, I honestly have no idea. I’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence interviewed and personality wise she is quite blunt like me, so possibly someone like that! Plus she is much better looking than I am!

C: At the moment my life has took me on numerous paths, so I’m not quite sure at the moment ha! Ask me in a few years. (Sorry to kop out!) tsk! 😉

If you had a super power, what would it be? 

N: Too many to choose from, but if I had to I think Telepathy would be my super power. How awesome would that be?

C: Fly, I don’t drive so it’d make my life much easier.

Zak and Jen with Medal

The Sensible Side: 

Tell us a little about yourselves. (How did you get started writing/illustrating?  What do you do when you’re not writing/illustrating? How did you meet?) 

N: I started writing when I was really young, I was always making up stories for my myself and my family. My Grandpa was an artist and I used to ask him to draw the pictures for me. When I’m not writing I am usually spending time with my family or working, sadly writing is a part time role for me as I have a day job too! Chris and I met when my husband and I went to see his band play in Oxford. At the time, I was organizing a rock gig in aid of Help for Heroes and I remember saying to my husband, ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could get these guys to play?’. He encouraged me to give it a try, so I called their booking manager and to my surprise, he agreed! I got to know the guys really well and saw them several more times over the years and Chris and I kept in touch.

C: Some of my first ever paintings featured these two doll like characters exchanging love hearts on cherry blossom planets, I started having the idea to do a children’s book and it just so happened that Natalie got in touch and had an idea for the story, so it’s from that first phone call we came up with the idea of collaborating on a series.

Where did the inspiration for Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures come from?

N: I had been following Chris’ artwork for a while and he always drew these beautiful rag doll characters in space and it immediately got my creative brain going. I contacted him and asked him if he would mind if I wrote a story about them. It turned out he had been looking for someone to do just that, so I promised to send him something. Luckily he liked what I wrote and a partnership was born!

What comes first; words or pictures? 

N: Both! For the first book the pictures came first, but for our Christmas book Tinsel Town and the upcoming third book, Chris is illustrating the stories I wrote.

C: Words, it’s fun to paint pictures around Natalie’s words although it works the other way around too just like how the book was inspired by the first few images.

Chris, can you tell us how you developed the illustrations for this book? 

C: It usually starts with a very quick two minute sketch of the scene just to figure out placement of things within the images (Zak and Jen, houses, planets etc) after that I’ll go straight to the canvas. I paint all the paints in oil paints, I’m quite anti technology and digital art, I like anything creative to be done with as much human touch as possible,  nothing beats the feel and look of something painted by hand. The oil paints are fantastic to work with. The most important thing for me is to make the illustrations understandable for the children who read it. It’s about simple, effective images. Having space is important and filling it. It sounds silly but I almost want them to look like a child has painted them so I try to go approach it from a different angle to when I do my usual artwork.

Chris Rivers Artist

What excites you about writing/illustrating children’s fiction? 

N: What I love about Children’s fiction is that you can let your imagination run wild. Anything is possible! I always test things out on my daughter, if she is interested and asks me to tell the story over and over it’s usually got something good about it!

C: I get to leave my usual style of artwork behind and step into the shoes of 6 year old me. As long as the images relate to the words after that there’s no rules with doing artwork like this, is completely open to be as crazy and out there as your imagination allows.

What can we expect from you both in the future?   

N: I think both Chris and I would like to see a Zak and Jen series if we can make it happen. We are also working a collection of illustrated children’s poems, which we hope to have done by Christmas, which aim to help children come to terms with common things that scare them. In addition to Zak and Jen I also write young adult novels so I have two of those in the editing stage right now which keeps me busy!

C: I don’t see any reason why the Zak and Jen series can’t continue for a long time. I think it can be as good or better as anything else out there. Natalie has done a draft for the 3rd book which I’m starting the illustrations for soon.  Aside from this I’m a full time artist  currently working towards a lot of exhibitions and art fairs, I decided a year or two ago that artwork is what I’ll be doing the rest of my life, simple as that! I’m a firm believer in following your dreams! Amen to that!

How can we contact you or find out more about your books? 

N: Zak and Jen info can be found on Twitter and Instagram.  We also have a WordPress website Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures

C: Zak and Jen info can also be found on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/zakandjen, I also have my personal website www.chrisriversart.com which has info on all the work I do.

HUGE thanks to Natalie and Chris for joining me on my blog, please do check out the books as well as Chris’s artwork. You can BUY a copy of Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures via Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you enjoyed this post. Want more? Connect with me here:  Twitter @ShelleyWilson72, Instagram or check out my Facebook pages http://www.facebook.com/FantasyAuthorSLWilson and http://www.facebook.com/MotivateMeBlog. You can also find me on Pinterest

9 comments

      1. Quirky stuff is brilliant IMO. Most people know the standard book or author review so anything a bit out of that zone helps us get to know the actual person(s).

        Now why would you say that about my spotlights I wonder 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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