Q&A with Sarah McIntyre

Welcome back to our author Q&As! Today we’re welcoming Sarah McIntyre, the bestselling author-illustrator of Dinosaur Firefighters, Dinosaur Police, There’s a Shark in The Bath, The New Neighbours, and the all new Grumpycorn .

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Where did you get the idea for Grumpycorn?
A deadline – those are wonderfully inspiring! I had a picture book due and I was on a plane ride to visit my family in Alaska. I didn’t have an idea right then, so I just started poking a story into my phone, about someone who didn’t have an idea for a story. And then I thought it would be much funnier if I was a unicorn.

Why the maritime setting?
I was travelling to Seldovia, a small fishing town with houses on stilts, and it seemed a perfect place to set up an imaginary writer and artist retreat cottage. While I was there, I got to know children’s book artist Valisa Higman and see the amazing floating cottage her dad built, and where she works. She gets to row to work every morning! And she has sea otters popping by for visits. It’s pure magic. So I dedicated the story to Valisa and the people of Seldovia, who were incredibly welcoming and let me take part in their summer arts festival.
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What’s your advice to someone who wants to write or draw a story and can’t quite do it?
Just start writing or drawing, get something down on paper, no matter how boring or silly it is at first. A blank piece of paper can be scary – fill it up so it’s no longer blank, and then you may be surprised where your thoughts take you as you write and draw; you may do something better than you expected, or there may be a nugget of goodness in there that you can take out and refine later. And the more you write and draw, the better you’ll get at it; it’s all about practice. In the book, I show Unicorn’s friends helping him, and that might be helpful for you; often I create much better stories when I work with friends and we can bat ideas around together. Other times I just need space and quiet to get on with things, but some of the best things I’ve written have been in awkward situations, like on a plane with only a phone and no notebook to hand, or in a noisy cafe. Don’t faff around too much with creating a perfect setup, just do it. That’s my best advice.

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Do you make books alone or with friends?
Making books is a team effort! Even though I wrote and illustrated the book myself, I relied very much on my editor, Pauliina Malinen, to help with the words, and my designer, Strawberrie Donnelly, to help with the pictures and overall design of the book. And I also get help from people at Scholastic – Louisa Danquah, Bethan Chaplin Dewey, Harriet Dunlea and others – who help spread the word about the book, so people know it’s out there! Otherwise it was just sit on a shelf in Scholastic looking beautiful, but all alone and unread, and that would be sad. I hope lots of people get to read about Unicorn and his funny friends!

Once Upon a Unicorn (w/t) (PB)

Preorder Grumpycorn here

For more fabulous insights into Sarah’s world, head over to her Twitter, Instagram or website .

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