Bookbug Author Spotlight: Mary Murphy

Bookbug's Author Spotlight gives you the chance to learn more about the work of authors, publishers and illustrators connected to the Bookbug programme. This week, Mary Murphy, author of Mouse is Small, answers some questions about her work. Mouse is Small is included in the 2015/16 Bookbug Baby bag.


Tell us a bit more about your work

I write and illustrate books for very young children, from board books for babies like Mouse is Small to picture books for toddlers. My background is illustration, and my first book was published in 1997.


What inspired Mouse is Small?

I think I saw the curved page format in another book and liked it. I thought it could look like a rainbow of colours. The ‘small getting bigger’ concept naturally suggested itself, since the pages start small and get bigger. The spider was a surprise to me, but the book would have been awfully straight without her.


Can you give us a tip for sharing Mouse is Small with little ones?

The smallest creature, Spider, is the one with the most effect – she frightens everyone. Some children like to scare adults when they are sharing the book, so that’s the best bit for me… though I know a lot of people also like the learning of size and scale, and of the (unnamed) colours.


Some children like to scare adults when they are sharing the book, so that’s the best bit for me.

Which books did you love as a child?

The ones I remember best are Moomins, Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, and a book called Jade Tales that I was able to track down last year. I was taken aback by how shockingly un-PC it – and therefore my child self – was. But I still love the images.


Describe your typical working day

I tend to work every day, even if only for a couple of hours. I think writing is a bit like farming: you feel you can’t leave the books alone just because it is a weekend. But I also swim, walk the dogs, meet a friend for coffee pretty much every day.


What’s your top tip for budding authors or illustrators?

Do it if you love it. Don’t get stuck on one idea not being accepted. You’re creative; you can come up with lots of ideas. Don’t show your ideas to friends or family (unless you happen to be part of a publishing dynasty). Don’t show your ideas to anyone until they sing (in tune) for you.


What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished a picture book called ‘Goodnight Like This’, and a board book called ‘Crocopotamus’, both with Walker. This is a lovely stage in work, because I’m starting two new books, again a picture book and a board book, both with very strong colours. We don’t even have titles yet.


Mouse is small front cover

Is there a picture book you wish you’d written or illustrated?

No - that would be wishing you were someone else. But there are lots that I read again and again. The Very Kind Lady and her One Hundred Dogs, Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm and Queenie the Bantam are three of my favourites.


How do you get over a creative block?

Usually I have two books on the go, so if one is a bit sticky I will turn to the other to loosen up. It’s good with both writing and illustration to walk away from it for a while to get a perspective on what I’m really doing. I have hundreds of ideas, and I collect them, so in that sense there are no creative blocks. Most of my ideas will never get further than the back of a coffee receipt.


What’s your favourite thing about your local library?

My local library is a converted church with lovely light and friendly staff who are far too helpful for their own good. I was in there today and they ordered Orlando for me. (They nearly ordered a travel guide instead of the novel.)


Read more Bookbug Spotlight Q&As with authors, illustrators and more here.