New Stars – Connah Brecon
‘An idea bumps into a character and together they make the seed for a book. Other times the idea dictates the character. No two books have the same journey and that’s the thing that makes them individual.’ – Connah Brecon
Bright rising star Connah Brecon is at a really special stage of his career, having been recognised by Penguin/Philomel for his author illustrated title, There’s This Thing which will be Connah’s debut title with the publisher of Oliver Jeffers in the US, Philomel. A notoriously high-end list, it goes without saying that Connah’s welcome into their publishing family is a real testament to his creativity and brilliance. His second title, Frank! is out this September, which will be published by Running Press.
Connah is an ideas man, he’s a story teller; he has ideas, he sees them and then he draws them –
He collaborates – this is Connah in the Bright office with wife and daughter, discussing his ideas, sharing his books, drinking tea and generally having fun –
He does events – Connah is much more than just an author/illustrator; he is passionate about his books engaging with the kids who read and love them. Promoting his books directly to his key audience, Connah strives to spread a love of reading to children across the world.
Aside from his solid relationships in the US, Connah is working towards collaborating more with the UK and Australia where he has spent most of his life.
We caught up with Connah to ask him a few questions…
1. What inspired your US debut author/illustrated book, ‘Frank!’ ?
Frank! came to life through a conversation I had with our daughter. She had not long started Prep & we noticed a recurrent theme in the school newsletter regarding lateness. We joked around with reasons & excuses for being late & whether or not her teacher would believe her. At the same time I had been drawing this bear & the two ideas just seemed to collide, coming together to create Frank. From this initial combustion the full story unraveled quite naturally with the escalation of Franks’ excuses to his teacher, building to the book’s climax; the biggest excuse we could imagine!
I find most of my picture book ideas come in this way, with characters bumping into ideas to form a story. Not all have enough initial inertia to go to a full 32 page book concept but those that do are the ones I show to my agents or editors – and that’s not to say the ones that don’t make it aren’t good enough ideas, just for some reason I get bored by them or lose interest & I figure if I’m bored then no one else is gonna interested. You have to live with theses characters & themes in close proximity for quite sometime so, you know, you better like them. I like Frank.
2. An artist’s studio space is very unique to its owner – what is yours like?
Small-ish but big enough to fit two desks, one lap cat, one bike, one ironing board & one tempermental clothes horse. So, as you can tell I work from home, which suits me perfectly as I often return to the studio once our little one is tucked away for the night. This happens increasingly when I have imminent deadlines & can & often does include weekends.
3. When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?
Like most people I really enjoyed picture books & reading as a kid. I would spend hours meticulously copying out the Peanuts strips from the paper or the annuals. Saturday mornings spent watching TV, Buster Crabbe & all that. Those things & many more probably kicked off this course I’ve been sailing. It was 1991 when I took the leap into illustration. I had come through art college from a fine art direction & while I had grand ideas of being a painter in the traditional sense, I did love this idea of actually making money from the ideas in your head. I found that leap quite easy & for the next decade I solely worked in editorial illustration before landing my first picture book deal here in Australia.
4. How many sketch books have you collected over the years?
Way too many! I am quite severe though & I cull my old work every five years or so. It feels good to cut the deadwood. You can always do better work & unless there is something super special you want to keep or you like living like a hoarder, then be ruthless. When I was teaching illustration a few years back, I would get the students to produce their absolute best then we’d stand in a circle & ritually tear up that work, It’s very cathartic & also teaches you to not be precious about what you do.
5. What is your preferred medium?
Cheryl, she’s very good with the palmistry, a bit lax on the tea leaves but you know *shrugs shoulders*, that stuff is out of date anyway.
6. Who inspires your work?
7. What’s your favourite illustrated character? (yours or another)
Too many, way too many.
8. Have you found digital platforms to be a help or hinderance to your own
9. What has been your favourite project to work on so far in your career?
That has to be both Frank! & There’s This Thing. Being my US debut carries some extra special pressure, but I’ve really enjoyed working with both teams at Running Press & Philomel, who have been wonderfully supportive through the whole period *makes thumbs up sign*
10. Can you give us some hints to your upcoming projects?
Sure. There’s This Thing (Philomel), is launching in Dec, which I’m really looking forward to as I’ll be home in the UK & will be be celebrating the launch with family. Also, while I’m in the UK I’ll be in town (London), doing some promo stuff with Perseus for Frank! Beyond that I have a few things with people that I can’t really say too much about at the moment, you know, nod, nod, wink, wink.
Connah is working on various new author illustrated projects and continues to have a strong online presence. If you are interested in working with Connah, please get in touch.