We’re thrilled to welcome author and illustrator Hayley Wells into The Reading Realm to talk about their books The More Monster and The Spectacular Suit!
Without giving too much away, can you tell us about your new book The More Monster and what inspired it?
The More Monster is about a big yellow monster who forces small creatures to make new, shiny things for him all the time. Until, one islander starts asking questions and discovers there’s more to the monster than meets the eye… Initially I wanted to make an environmentalist book about excessive consumption, but as the story developed it became more about greed, power and community, too.
I wondered if you could show us some rough first illustrations of the greedy monster and talk to us about how your illustrations developed?
The very first versions were made by cutting out bits of paper into random shapes and turning those into creatures by drawing on top. Then I refined those by drawing them over and over until eventually the monster took its final form.
Click through on the three photographs below to see Hayley’s process!
Do you have a favourite page or illustration from The More Monster you could talk to us about?
My favourite page is where the little islander is gobbled up and we see inside the monster for the first time. I really enjoy looking at cross-section style illustrations myself so it was fun to be able to make one for this book. It’s quite a silly image but also an important turning point in the narrative.
How would you say The More Monster is different to your other brilliant book The Spectacular Suit? How is it different?
Thematically they’re very different – The More Monster is a sort of sci-fi allegory set in a fictional world, while The Spectacular Suit is a more introspective family story that’s grounded in reality. I think what’s so nice about working on other authors’ texts is that I get to illustrate all kinds of stories, not just the ones in my own head. Kat Patrick’s text for The Spectacular Suit is just wonderful in so many ways.
How important do you think it is for children to see books like The Spectacular Suit? What do you hope young readers take away from it?
It’s validating to see yourself represented in books and to see other possibilities for yourself, too. I hope that young queer kids feel especially empowered by it. But equally, I hope it helps all readers understand the freedom of expressing themselves and their gender however they like.
If each of your books were a song or film, what would they be and why?
Great question! I think The Spectacular Suit would be Rebel Rebel by David Bowie and The More Monster would be I Want It All by Queen.
Can you tell us about another children’s book you’ve enjoyed reading recently or perhaps are looking forward to reading?
I really enjoyed When Creature Met Creature by John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura (an all-time favourite illustrator of mine!). It’s a quiet, lyrical story about two beings who communicate in different ways but they manage to find happiness together through shared experiences.
Finally, can you describe The More Monster in three words?
Subversive, dystopian, hopeful.