No Such Thing as a Fear of the Light? Hmmm... : An Interview with Anna McGregor
As both an author and an illustrator you must have lots of freedom to explore and express your ideas. Is that more of a challenge than being just one or the other?
I love being an author/illustrator because it allows me to bring my ideas to life seamlessly. Someday I would like to experience collaborating with an author, illustrating their book.
I am a strong advocate of endpapers; they add so much to a story. I was thrilled to see yours; they made me laugh and feel intrigued before I even reached the story. How do you feel about them, and why did you decide to create the ones in Who’s Afraid of the Light?
I had a lot of fun creating the endpapers. I wanted to visually lower the reader down into the ocean depths where the story takes place.
It’s fabulous that you engage the reader on, quite literally, every page. How much of a challenge is this?
That was the biggest challenge in making this book. The whole concept is that because it's pitch black at the bottom of the ocean, we can't see the story’s main character, Fergus. Throughout the story, Fergus slowly reveals clues about himself through the conversation, yet he’s still not quite what we imagine when he’s revealed at the end. To keep things visually interesting, I hand-lettered Fergus' dialogue bubbles.
What made you take the idea of being afraid of the dark and turn it on its head?
I wanted to create a book about deep sea bioluminescence with a fictional story aspect to it. What I find fascinating is that we know so little about the deep sea environments – scientists say that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean depths of our own planet. I can't remember how I came to fictional aspects of the story (being afraid of the light), but it took a lot of experimentation to finesse the story.
I love the fact that we don’t meet Fergus, not properly, until the very end of the story. It’s a gradual reveal. How do you think readers will feel about this approach?
Yes, it's a bit daring for a picture book to purposely not illustrate the lead character until the end, but I love pushing the boundaries of what a picture book can be and how the reader interacts with it. I was unsure how readers would receive it, but the reviews have been fantastic so far.
I genuinely laughed out loud when I turned to the last page! It's utterly brilliant. How did the idea come to you and were there any variations?
My 8-year-old son and I had a wonderful time researching deep sea creatures during lockdown. I wanted Fergus to be a slightly outrageous-looking creature while still being scientifically correct, but I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil the ending!
The style of the story, with the narrator talking to the main character, is also unusual. What made you choose to write this way?
I was imagining the narrator as a David Attenborough type. The narrator is a stand-in for the reader, making discoveries and asking Fergus questions.
It’s both picture book and non-fiction; a book of story and facts. How long did it take you decide which creatures of the deep to include?
I started with an anglerfish because that's the most famous deep sea creature. Then the minute I saw a picture of a Spookfish, I knew I needed to include it. The vampire squid has a wonderfully spooky name, so that also made the cut. The facts at the back of the book are perfect for a deep dive into the non-fiction aspect of the midnight zone.
And, finally, what scares you more? The light, the dark, or Fergus?
Anna McGregor is a Melbourne-based author, illustrator, and designer. Anna is devoted to giving her young readers modern, quirky and conceptual stories from the heart. She enjoys travel, art and picnics with friends.
Find Anna on Instagram: @annamcgregorau | | @scribe_uk
Find her publisher on Twitter: @ScribeUKBooks
Who’s Afraid of the Light? By Anna McGregor | Picture Book | Published by Scribble (and imprint of Scribe UK) | Hardback | £12.99 | Available now