In our new series, ‘a day in the life of’ we go behind the scenes with our fantastic Puffin authors, and take a sneak peek into their daily lives crafting wonderful stories. Here we catch up with Sophy Henn, picture book author extraordinaire, and find out what she gets up to when she’s hardest at work…
I really try to start my day super early and get a sneaky hour in between 5-6am before everyone else is up and about. I can whizz through emails and organise to-do lists in no time, and it’s so lovely and peaceful.
However, I frequently fail at getting up at 5am and instead I’ll lurch out of bed at 6am, dashing about getting myself and everyone else ready. This takes until about 7.30am and if everything has gone according to plan I am dressed by this point, so I can take the dog for a walk ( I would never walk the dog in my pyjamas) (I might)(I definitely have).
I sit down at my desk at about 8.30am and start work proper.
This obviously cannot be done unless I have a massive cup of tea next to me. If I am having a writing day I will not only sit at my desk, but lie on the floor, dance around the room and make frequent trips to the kitchen for more tea. This all OBVIOUSLY helps with thinking fantastic story-filled thoughts, probably. I cannot listen to anything if I am writing as I find it too distracting. Once I have a story idea I like I will map it out with post it notes on a big board, one for each spread, so I can move them about until I am happy. Then I will write it down all over again as one long story to make sure it reads nicely. The dog comes in handy at this point as he is a very good listener.
If I am illustrating however, it is quite a different story. I like to listen to podcasts, the radio, and audiobooks while I draw. If I don’t have something to listen to I find I get distracted and before I know it I am on the internet ordering beauty products or books (my main weaknesses). I love all sorts of books, picture books, murder mysteries, art books, funny books, old books, and comics. I LOVE comics. I find them all inspirational in different ways. I use a light box an awful lot for getting images just right, tracing over previous sketches, tweaking things here or there until they look as I want them to.
I hand draw all my illustrations and then scan them in and use my Mac to colour them up and arrange each spread. This way I can move everything around and recolour it until I am happy with how a spread is looking.
During the course of my day I will of definitely have lunch, probably go to the gym (I barely move otherwise) and possibly walk the dog again.
I work until about 7pm when my daughter gets home from school. I will try and pretend my day has been really tough so she doesn’t think I have been dancing around my desk thinking up ideas all day. Then I will cook dinner, we will have a natter, watch TV or possibly play backgammon.
But those are just two types of day I might have and one of the great things about this job is you can have all kinds of days… popping here and there to meetings, zooming about the country (or world) to visit schools, libraries and festivals, swanning about lovely publishing ‘dos’ packed full of my children’s book heroes (Lauren Child, Allan Ahlberg and Marc Boutavant to name a few), whizzing to the library, zoo, museum or some other wonderous place to do some research. I really love that no two days are ever really the same. Even if I am working in my studio I could be writing about a grumpy panda, or a polar bear looking for home, or a wise brown bear who is good at making paper hats or anything else (possibly involving a bear). Or maybe I might be writing a rhyming book about how super-duper it is to be you, but I couldn’t possibly comment on that!
I love an early night (aiming for that 5am start) but I do try to read for a while when I get into bed. I tend to choose paper backs though, as I will most likely nod off mid read and those hardbacks can be quite painful when they fall on your face.