Monday 16 November 2020

Ella's Night Lights - Q&A with Lucy Fleming

We are delighted to invite Lucy Fleming onto Picture Book Party to tell us all about her truly gorgeous new picture book, Ella's Night Lights! 

If you look very carefully at the night sky, you might spot a teeny-tiny sparkle out of the corner of your eye, a whisper of a tinkling trail… That’s Ella.

Ella has always dreamed of seeing the sunrise. But with her delicate gossamer wings, she can only come out at night. So, when the moon is high, she collects as many shimmering beams of light she can find – a twinkle from a star, the glow from a lamp post. With her light, she guides lost and lonely animals and finds friendship in Fox and Owl. And, together, Ella’s animal friends know just how to return her kindness... A gentle, tender storybook about friendship and the power of kindness.

Click here to download Lucy Fleming's Ella's Night Lights activity sheet. 

What was the inspiration behind Ella’s Night Lights?

I really wanted to create a book that celebrated hope, kindness, and friendship, light was the perfect metaphor, that warm, glowing feeling we have when we’re happy. I had sketched a little moth girl and I just knew she had a story waiting to be told. To me, Ella represents kindness during difficult times, and I had no idea how poignant that message would be for 2020. 

I don’t think I’m alone in being drawn to glittering lights in winter when the days are short, just like Ella does. We hang fairy lights in our homes and on trees and we light bonfires and sparklers. There's a child-like joy to our enjoyment of glittering and glowing things that I've tried to capture in the picture book. Ella collects light and shares it with others in a magical way that I hope families will really enjoy. 

Which came easier, the illustrations or the words?

I’m certain that illustrations will always come more organically to me, it’s just a road well travelled for me so it’s natural for me to think visually first. The artwork is always on my mind as I’m winding through the words. I’ve always loved writing and telling stories and I’ve always got my nose in a book and am constantly trilling around with stories in my mind, but I am always drawn to drawing!

Tell us a little bit more about your process.

I work from my home studio in Greater Manchester, where I can see the hills from my window if it’s not too cloudy. On sunny days I really enjoy having my lunch or a cup of tea in the garden, getting some air, and watching the birds and squirrels. Adjusting my work-life balance and connecting with nature helps me to stay creative.

When writing the story, I started by outlining a brief concept first, a paragraph or so that sums it up. Then I’ll see what works visually, doing character sketches, and thumbnails of scenes, this often springs up new ideas and helps the story develop. More often than not there’ll be a sticking point or something that isn’t quite clear yet and allowing time for things to grow and develop organically is crucial. 

Ella is absolutely adorable, was she inspired by anyone you know?

Ella isn’t inspired by anyone in particular. Although, she does remind me a lot of my sister when we were young, very kind and giving, and far more selfless than I was. She is mainly inspired by moths and fairies. When I was very young and visited my Grandparent’s house, my Nan loved fairies and had lots of pretty porcelain fairies and I think she nurtured a love for fairies in me as well. I really enjoyed films like Thumbelina and The Borrowers when I was small, so wanting to develop a story about a teeny tiny moth girl came very naturally to me.

What was your favourite spread to illustrate?

I adored painting the first spread where Ella is sleeping in the hollow of a tree, it’s a really gentle opening to the story that really comes full circle in the end. I also enjoyed designing the village spreads with all the little windows and details. I really like illustrations to have plenty to look at and secrets to find. Picture books are often read over and over again, so it’s really sweet if there are new things to see each time.

What was your favourite picture book when you were a child?

As a child, I really enjoyed Meg & Mog, The Rainbow Fish and Owl Babies. My reception class at Primary School had a big classroom copy of The Rainbow Fish and I was obsessed with the glittery foil fish scales, I thought it was so special.


A special thank you to our guest author-illustrator this week, Lucy Fleming!

Ella's Night Lights is now available to buy from all good booksellers.