Friday 9 October 2020

Gustavo, The Shy Ghost - Q&A with Flavia Z Drago

We have the perfect Halloween reading for you all as we welcome Flavia Z Drago to Picture Book Party to tell us more about creating her new picture book, Gustavo, The Shy Ghost.

Gustavo, The Shy Ghost out now in hardback! 

Click here to download our Gustavo, The Shy Ghost activity sheets! 

Q. What was the inspiration behind Gustavo, the Shy Ghost? 

A. The idea for the story came from a tweet I wrote in 2016 when I was thinking about the reason behind ghosts wearing sheets ‘It must be because they are shy’, I thought. And so, the idea for Gustavo, The Shy Ghost popped into my head. 

When I first started working, I wasn’t sure if I wanted Gustavo to be a boy disguised as a ghost who in the end takes off his sheet to show the others who he really is, or if he was going to be an actual ghost living in a world full of monsters. 
However, as soon as I started sketching, I discovered that as a real ghost, Gustavo could do all sorts of fun stuff, like walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. Also, as a real ghost, he was able to shape-shift into different things, which really helped the story development, and in the end, he reveals his true self anyway!

When I was a child, I used to be as shy as Gustavo is. In kindergarten, during lunch breaks and parties, I used to sit alone and wonder how other children could talk and play with each other so easily. The illustration where Gustavo is looking at the monsters from the balcony is my favourite one because - happily, or sadly, I’m not sure - it’s based on my own experience as a child.
A young Flavia

Q. How long was the process for writing and illustrating Gustavo? 

A. Finishing the whole book took about ten months in total.

Q. Which came easier, the illustrations or the words? What is your creative process like? 

A. First, I started by making loads of tiny drawings with all the ideas that came to my head about Gustavo. I drew the things that he likes and dislikes, his friends, his family, his house, and the world in which he lives. The more I drew, the better I could articulate how his story was going to evolve and end. If I can draw it, I can tell it!

Once I had all my sketches, I scanned and organised them into a pdf, where I mixed the images along with the texts. This gave me a more accurate sense on how the images and words could interact with one another. Sometimes I can have many ideas, but only when I see them on paper, I am capable of really knowing which ones will work, and which ones won’t. 

For the final artwork, I created my images with pencil and ink, then I scanned and coloured them on Photoshop. With this process I can get the lovely textures from the traditional media, and I can control and edit as much as I like. Creating the final artwork is always my favourite bit of the process because I get to listen to loads of podcasts, music, and even TV shows or movies as I draw.

Q. What is your work set up/studio like? 

A. Right now, my working space is my own bedroom. I own a laptop and a small Wacom (interactive pen display) because, before this covid disaster happened, I loved traveling and living in different cities, so being able to transport my office with me is essential. 

Q. Finally, what are your favourite recent picture books? 

A. My favourite new picturebook is Les choses qui vont by Beatrice Alemagna, she’s a brilliant artist and a very original storyteller! I also like very much all books by Jon Klassen, Carson Ellis, Anushka Allepuz, Keith Negley and Marta Alt├ęs. 

Thank you to Flavia for joining us on Picture Book Party. Gustavo, The Shy Ghost is out now where all good books are sold! 

Make sure to watch our behind the scenes video with Flavia below: