Interview by Hira Peracha
Janet Hill is an artist and writer living in Stratford, Ontario. She is the author and illustrator of Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess, Miss Mink: Life Lessons for a Cat Countess, and Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House.
You created illustrations that are an integral part of Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House. The drawings evoked a huge sense of nostalgia for me. What inspired you to include art?
I’ve always loved vintage book covers, especially paperbacks from the 50’s and 60’s, and I’ve always been disappointed when that is where the visuals start and end in most adult and young adult books. I wanted to create a book that visually communicated with the reader beyond the cover and figured that if children’s books can incorporate art into the storytelling process, why couldn’t young adult fiction do the same? I created the artwork to complement the text more than distract from it.
Many times, writing and illustrating are done by two different people, but you’re multi-talented. How did you decide which moments were important to show as images?
When I began the book, I didn’t have a publisher, so I thought that I had all the time in the world. When it was picked up, a publication date was given and that immediately meant that I had to be more selective with my choices of imagery. Initially, the balance between text and image throughout the book was very lopsided—heavy with visuals in the first few chapters and with minimal illustrations in the last few chapters. I had to remove quite a few images to achieve balance, and that meant selecting moments that were both visually interesting and important to the plot.
As both an illustrator and a writer, do you find that one form inspires or guides the other, or do they go hand in hand?
When I’m working on a book, I outline the story first so the writing informs the visuals. It’s likely not that much different from a children’s book where typically the writing comes first, but visuals are still very important and are considered throughout the writing process.
In Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House, you combine many different genres, including horror, mystery, and fantasy. What was your writing process like and how did you develop all of these atmospheres cohesively?
I watch a lot of horror movies and have always found the ones that incorporate elements from other genres to be the most compelling. I brought that same approach to my book. By adding humor to the storyline, I hoped to make the narrative it more believable.
Do you have any words of advice for new writers who want to delve into writing novels that cross genres like mystery, horror, and fantasy?
When blending genres in a story, try to keep the basic plot points simple so that it doesn’t go off the rails. Playing with several different genres can get confusing, so simplicity in other aspects of the story is key.
Our reviews of Janet Hill’s books: