Monty & Sylvester: A Tale of Everyday Super Heroes

July 23, 2018

Tags: Monty & Sylvester: A Tale of Everyday Super Heroes, Carly Gledhill, Orchard Books, 2018, #firstpicturebook

Carly Gledhill has worked as a print designer for studios and retailers and completed an M.A. in childrenís book illustration. In April, she became an author too when her #firstpicturebook was published by Orchard Books. Today she tells us about creating MONTY & SYLVESTER: A Tale of Everyday Super Heroes, including how she got the names for her characters after watching a popular daytime television show.

Q. Was MONTY & SYLVESTER the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. MONTY & SYLVESTER is the first book I finished writing from start to end, I had tried a few times before to write but nothing came together. The book was quite a quick process, everything fell into place organically, although I still wasnít sure it was any good when I had finished. I completed an MA in Childrenís Book Illustration and had made many novelty books to avoid having to write a story, so itís not my natural habitat.

Q. What inspired MONTY & SYLVESTER?
A. I drew the characters first and they existed for a while before I came back to them. I loved the unlikely friendship between big furry bear and little blue mouse. I was trying, and failing, to work on other stories, so I thought Iíd give these 2 another go. The original drawings really inspired the story at this point, the characters seemed quite naive and lovable so the story naturally lent this way. I decided they should become superheroes when thinking about what kids do at play time, obviously flying and saving the world was what I did as a toddler so it seemed about right. They are the least likely characters to do well at being superheroes too which is where the humour kicks in, pow!

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. I wanted the title to reflect the everyday playtime nature of the story. Obviously MONTY & SYLVESTER need their name in lights on the cover as they are the stars, but it is just a tale of playtime gone exciting, it could happen to anyone!

Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. All by hand for this one, there isnít an awful lot of text in the book and a lot of it relies on humour. I drew it all out as I illustrated the book. Iíve always used type in my illustration so knew where and what it should look like to enhance the story. Some of the original hand-drawn type made it into the final version too.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. The first spread is probably my favourite. It hasnít really changed since the first draft and sums up the personalities of our protagonists straight away! Itís a soft introduction to the book, sets the scene with a few clues of whatís to come!

Q. How did you select the names for your characters?
A. They were originally named after a couple of property developers on daytime TV Favourite ĎHomes under the Hammerí. (I donít watch daytime TV usually I was just waiting for a delivery to arrive, honestly.)

Q. How did you decide between telling the story in first, second, or third person?
A. Oh dear, I didnít, itís a bit of a mish-mash of narration and the characters chatting away!

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing MONTY & SYLVESTER?
A. I had the basic outline readyó2 friends want to be super heroes that day, theyíre a bit rubbish at it, they need a plan! I knew the setting would be domestic. I think that was about it. It really escalated from there with a different problem at the turn of each page, introducing more characters and peril!

Q. Did you write the story first, then illustrate it? Or did the images appear before the words?
A. I have to get excited about the characters so I usually start with a good drawing of what they will look like then usually they talk to me and lead their own adventure!

With MONTY & SYLVESTER I didnít know what I was doing, so I did both at the same time. Now Iíve got more of a clue. I try to write the story first before illustrating the spreads, working on storyboards with rough sketches.

Q. Did MONTY & SYLVESTER receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. I was very lucky in this respect, I sent the book to my agent Arabella at the Bright Agency and very soon Orchard Books were interested in it. I couldnít believe my luck!

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on MONTY & SYLVESTER.
A. Disbelief, excitement, ticking off life goals with a big pen!

Q. How long did MONTY & SYLVESTER take to be publishedófrom the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. Itís been about a year and a half, which as an illustrator who has worked commercially for years, seems forever! Iíve just received my advanced copies of the book, so it still isnít out in the world yet. I canít wait!

Q. Was there a part that you really loved but had to edit out? Or did you think of something later that you wanted to add?
A. It was more the opposite with this book. The initial book had very clean spreads, very minimal with a pared down colour palette and I had to add more in. More was needed to make the book more colourful and action packed, inspired by classic Batman with graphic stars and action words.

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
A. Itís fine to give up on an idea and move on to something else, not every idea will work. Youíll know when youíre onto the right one. Also leaving your desk and going for a walk, or taking a few days off to refuel the mind is usually a good idea when things get frustrating.

Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?
A. I love storyboards. Making the story fit with exciting doodle illustrations is my favourite part. I usually have lots of blank storyboards printed out and go through tens of them before everything fits and flows together. Itís picture book problem solving!

Q. What are you working on now?
A. Iím just completing the second MONTY & SYLVESTER book with Orchard (top secret at the mo). Then Iím going to have a bit of time to draw and be creative and think of some new book ideas. I also have a childrenís brand called Corby Tindersticks, Iíve just designed some new products so Iím working on marketing those too! You can see more at www.corbytindersticks.com

Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)