If you were stranded on a desert island, what one colouring book would you take with you?
I would have to take the Deluxe Edition of Animal Kingdom by Millie Marotta, it’s one of my favourite books and I find it the most calming and it suits so many mediums that I wouldn’t get bored colouring just the one book.
What do you like most about reviewing?
Being able to help people. My sole aim in life is to help people and I love that my reviews are doing that and enabling people who are housebound like me, who can’t visit bookshops and pick out their own books, to reliably choose books that they’ll definitely fall in love with. I also love being able to see the huge variety of books that are currently available and give my opinions and reviews of those and best of all, it’s like Christmas most days of the year when books and pencils keep being delivered to be reviewed, especially when a new favourite arrives and I fall in love with a new title!
What do you find hardest about reviewing?
Being critical is really difficult. When I’m sent a book that doesn’t live up to expectations or has been produced poorly, it’s really hard to be honest or critical when I know that an artist has put their heart and soul in to the work. It’s also difficult having to colour images that I have no interest in because I try to review a good cross-section of books which obviously means I have to review books that aren’t at all interesting to me and it’s difficult to muster up the motivation to spend hours colouring and reviewing something that doesn’t fire me up.
Can you tell us about your review process, and what do you wish people knew about reviewing?
I wish people knew just how much time goes into it all and how much I have to do behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly. I go on Amazon almost every day to search for new books, check release dates (these change regularly), and find out publishers for specific books. Then I hunt down email addresses or Twitter profiles and contact the publishers requesting copies. I have to keep a record of all of this to make sure none get lost in the post and I chase up those that do. When I receive books I have to put them on a spreadsheet so I know when it arrived, when the review is due (if I’ve been given a deadline) and keep on track with it all. I then colour a page and test both pens and pencils, I write my review making sure I cover each specific criteria I have on my reviewing list. I then have to wait until daylight on a bright day if possible to take the best photographs of the books, those then get downloaded onto my computer and I have to edit each one to change the file size because Wordpress my blog host has an upload limit and I’m running out of storage space, I then upload each review onto both of my blogs, add the photos, create a title image, add tags and categories so people can find the review, and then publish it. I then add the review to Amazon UK and Goodreads. After that I have to add each review to my difficulty categorised list and A-Z list and then share it all over social media which includes Twitter, 2 Facebook pages and about 18 Facebook Colouring groups and then email the publisher with a link telling them that I’ve reviewed it, thanking them for sending it and potentially requesting new titles. I also spend time on social media every day networking with other reviewers, publishers, answering questions from the colouring community, advertising my blog and responding to email requests for reviews and requests for help to find books to suit individuals. I also run giveaways which are funded by me and I have to fit in sleeping occasionally too! It’s a full-time job trying to keep up with it all!
What book releases are you most looking forward to over the coming year?
Oh goodness, there are so many it’s hard to list them all! I can’t wait for The Aviary by Richard Merritt and Claire Scully, Magical Jungle and Johanna’s Christmas by Johanna Basford, Millie Marotta’s Botanical Bounty, the third title in the Tangle series by Jessica Palmer, the full list of books that I’m looking forward to can be found HERE - https://colouringinthemidstofmadness.wordpress.com/pre-orders/
Who is your favourite illustrator?
I’m really indecisive and can’t possibly pick one after seeing the work of so many talented people so I have 5. In no particular order: Jessica Palmer, Johanna Basford, Millie Marotta, Richard Merritt and Claire Scully. I love them all!
If you could have a colouring book created just for you, what would be included in it? What shape and size would it be?
I’d want it to be square, the same size as Millie Marotta and Johanna Basford’s books, with lay-flat binding and a softback cover that opens out and can be coloured on both sides. It would need to have thick paper because I love double-sided books but would want to be able to use water-based pens. I’d want there to be a storyline and lots of pictures of landscapes, both real and imagined, animals, flowers and plants and food (especially cupcakes). I’d love it to be a tour around the world with double-page spreads showing the landmarks and landscapes of the country, their signature foods, the indigenous animals and more so that you could take a trip around the world without having to pack a suitcase or board a plane.
When you’re colouring just for you, what book do you go to and what mediums do you use?
I don’t get a lot of time to colour for me but mostly my go-to book is Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom or for a smaller project I love colouring Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden Postcards. My favourite mediums are Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners, Stabilo 68 fibre-tips and Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils, they’re all a joy to use!
What are the elements that make up a good colouring book in your opinion?
Flat binding or a border around all images, single-sided or printed on thick enough paper that there’s no bleed through from water-based pens, cohesive images that fit well together with no filler images, and a signature style that’s recognisable to that artist so that it’s clear it’s by them.
Please show us some of your colouring work!