I’m thrilled that today I have a guest post written by none other than David Melling, one of my children’s favourite authors. If like us, you love his books you’ll be able to go along and hear him talk and show you how to draw Hugless Douglas at the Hoo Kids Book Fest on the 21st April. You’ll find guest posts from some of the other authors on some of my favourite Hertfordshire based blogs, they are all listed in this post, along with the chance to win a family ticket to the festival. Enjoy!
The idea for Hugless Douglas came about while reading to my son, who was four at the time. It began with a series of silly made up hugs. One particular night we were both yawning our way through a story and when we’d finished I said ‘Time for a Tired Hug,’ The next night it was a ‘Lights Out Hug.’ It snowballed from there, with new hugs making an appearance during the day. One morning it would be time for a Breakfast Hug, then a little later a ‘Can I have a Snack Hug?’ and so on.
Now during this time I was spending my days at my drawing board trying to come up with a story for a bear. I hadn’t written a book with a bear as a main character and I thought it would be a nice, fun thing to draw. (When you know a picture book takes anything from 4-6 months to produce these considerations are important).
Well, I wish I could tell you that it wasn’t long before I made a connection between bears and hugs but, I’ll be honest, it was the best part of a week, skipping between types-of-hugs and bear story-ideas. It’s obvious now! Once I’d made the connection the story pretty much wrote itself.
I’m often asked ‘which comes first, the writing or the drawing?’ The simple answer is, for me, they are both part of the same process. In this case, once I’d had the story idea for a-bear-looking-for-a-hug I turned to my sketchbook. I started to draw bears hugging varies things. As you can see from these early drawings and colour samples, a character may start out looking quite different before I settle on the right ‘look’ and before it is finally published. Even now you’ll notice Douglas, as well as some of the other characters (most notably Rabbit), has evolved slightly as the series has progressed.
The title of a book and the names of characters can also be tricky. By the time I began to think seriously about these details I had already written and sketched out the story. I made a list of nice sounding words, and titles that related to the bears predicament;
The Cuddle Muddle
‘The Bear with No Hug’
“Where is my Hug?
The Hug Hunt
Hunting Hugs etc
Well, somewhere down that list I wrote ‘Hugless’ and, with half my mind still searching for a name, I found a happy rhyming match with “Hugless Douglas!”
It was only much later, on listening to an episode of Porridge, the well known 70’s TV programme starring Ronnie Barker, that I heard a one line joke where someone is referred to as ‘Lugless Douglas.’ I almost certainly had that stored away in my brain when I wrote down Hugless Douglas but I didn’t make the connection until I heard the programme.
A happy accident or an unconscious coincidence? Either way, Hugless Douglas was born and I’m very happy that he is still busy running around the pages of picture books, for many more years to come, I hope!
If you’d like to have a read of some of the other authors visiting Hoo Book Fest you’ll find their guest posts at Mummy Whisperer, Hertfordshire Mummy and at Dorky Mum.