Questions questions.

This year I have 5 books out in total.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon published by Janetta Otter-Barry Books

Necklace and book.

Little Evie in the Wild Wood illustrated by Catherine Hyde pub by Janetta Otter-Barry Books


Song of the Golden Hare pub Frances Lincoln in September

new queen

Starlight Sailor written by James Mayhew ( not new, but a beautiful edition in large format board book from Barefoot Books)

starlight sailor

The Wilful Princes and the Piebald Prince written by Robin Hobb, published by Harper Collins in UK.

Cover rough for Willful


I have once again been sent out the generic forms from the publisher who want to publicize the book, and after 20 years of filling the things in I have decided that I really can’t be bothered to answer the same old dull questions.

So, are there any questions you would like to ask me?

About books preferably. I reserve the right to not answer ‘where do you get your inspiration’ in anything other than a sarcastic manner. Interesting, thought provoking questions will be given care and attention and the best questions will win signed postcards, stickers and if really outstanding, a book. If it is outstanding enough to inspire a whole new blogpost I may even be persuaded to send a hand drawn postcard.

So, ask away.


nb: All of the books are, or will be available from Solva Woollen Mill.

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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28 Responses to Questions questions.

  1. John Ward says:

    In East of the Sun, at what point did you decide (or realise) what choice the heroine would make at the end? (and was it bound up with her having a name?)

    • Jackie says:

      Very late into the writing she went her own way and at first I lacked the courage to follow her. As i wrote and her character developed, like a child growing up, her decisions became her own, or maybe she and I just fell in love. It’s hard to write this without a plot spoiler in it, so bare with me.
      And yes, I knew her name from the very outset, which is unusual for me. I usually manage to get through a book without naming my characters. The woman in the Seal Children has no name, the Selkie woman. The children in Song of the Golden Hare have no names. In East people are pulled up sharp when her name is spoken and they realise how much they have read, moving through the story with her, but not knowing her name.
      In my mind she may make other choices in her life, after the pages end. The story continues.
      I met a woman the other day who said that East of the Sun was her comfort book and that she carried it everywhere with her. Such a compliment.

  2. Your response above makes me want to run out right now and read all of them. But my question, though not directly book related, and not your books related necessarily…but it’s on my mind. Is this true?–
    ”Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.” – Anais Nin (The Diaries)

    • Jackie says:

      I’m not sure. I wouldn’t say that I create great art. But the place that my work comes from is not a place of terror or loneliness. It comes from a constant search for beauty and a wish to share it. At least I think that is so. In many ways painting and writing keep me stable and sane. In other ways they both drive me crazy. So yes, there is a balance there.

  3. Sarah Ewing says:

    There are so very many questions I would love to ask you – but I shall restrict myself to just one. Is there any particular book from your childhood which had a great impact on you and which, perhaps, has stayed with you? If so, was it illustrated and did those illustrations impact you as much as the written word? (Ok, that’s sort of 2 questions, I admit!) Thank you.

    • Jackie says:

      Not a book, curiously. There was a program on tv. I don’t have a tv now, don’t like them.
      When I was little there were a series of films on tv from Czechoslovakia. One in particular was The singing Ringing Tree. In it a foolish prince, in love with a vain but beautiful princess is turned into a bear. I loved this. I was terrified of the little ‘mannikin’ who stamps his foot in rage when the princess learns a bit of humility and learns to love the bear, was sad when he turned back into a prince, loved the unicorn, the trees, the giant fish and the Singing Ringing tree. I have a dvd of the film. I loved it so much. And it is really odd. And you can watch it on youtube
      I think the story influenced me, and the visuals, the look of the trees and the dark haired princess ( how to make a woman ugly= change her hair from blond to dark!)
      I would love to rewrite and illustrate this book.

      • Sarah Ewing says:

        I remember The Singing Ringing Tree well! There were quite a few Czech children’s programmes on TV when I was little. For me, The Owl Service, Children of The Stones and Lizzy Dripping had a big impact! I like a bit of “spooky” ! Thanks Jackie xx

  4. Karin Hines says:

    How do you know when to stop? With a painting- how do you know when to put down your brush and say That is done. I am happy with that. Or are you always a bit dissatisfied and stop because otherwise you never would? Not a great clever question but one I would actually like to know.

    • Jackie says:

      Stopping is almost as difficult as starting. Usually I try and stop before i spoil it. And yes, I am always left dissastisfied with what I have done. Always. What I think I have learned is that you have to do something in order to discover the best way to do it, and in the doing of it you always learn more and better ways to do it so you could just keep doing the same thing over and over. But you have to stop and let go and give it up almost. And sometimes you have to stop and start again. And how do you know when? Sometimes you realise too late that it was half an hour ago. I am getting better at not doing that now.

  5. Cathy Cooper says:

    Your writing and illustration is full of passion and great imagination. It is easy to see that you ‘live’ in each book as you write it and are totally absorbed. I always see your female characters as you. Is there a point in which you can ‘leave’ a book, a story, to go onto the next one? I ask this because over the past two years while I was at college, I was so absorbed in each photography project that I didn’t think I could ever tear myself away. I did of course because the next project is always a new challenge. Do you ever think so far ahead with an idea that you can’t concentrate on the one you are dealing with at the moment? This is really a question about the creativity process, letting go and maintaining professionalism. Thank You

    • Jackie says:

      Song of the Golden Hare slammed in to my head when I was supposed to be working on something else. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but that. But I revisit each book when I do festivals and reading so it’s strange.
      I have about 4 or 5 novel ideas waiting in the wings at the moment, and am working on a picture book text for Catherine Hyde and illustrations for a book for me, so my head is a curious swirl of nonsense.

  6. Carrie says:

    Ok, I have a thought….
    If a living thread of the writer, singer, artist, musician moves always tendrilling bright like a soul-strand through their work, do we shapeshift our way through our stories?
    When you write or paint, do you become the Selkie, the Hare, the Dancer? Taste the salt breeze, weep with the lost, leap into the dark eyes wide?
    Or are you the observer, the narrator, watching it all unfold from afar and bearing witness?

    • Jackie says:

      It’s more like being a kind of theatre director where you get to know all of the characters. They become friends. I was really sad when I finished Mariana and the Merchild because I realised I would never paint her again.
      Writing is different. Someone told me something the other day about one of the characters in East of the Sun. I hadn’t realised it before but they were so right.

  7. ann flowers says:

    your work, in all its forms, seems to contain a very deep spirituality. my that I mean a connection to peoples soul’s? you work touches something in people. have you always been like that or did it develop? regards

    • Jackie says:

      Thank you. I’m not sure. I have worked towards painting and writing about things that make my soul sing, so maybe that is why. And in my working life I have been very lucky to be offered some wonderful projects. I’ve never had to deal with working to advertise shallow things. My clients have been people like Greenpeace and Amnesty and Oxfam and I have worked with some of the best writers of our generation.

  8. Mary Hannigan says:

    I would like to know if you feel you are influenced in any way by Medieval art? Many of the psalters and Books of Hours etc from that period have little whimsical or humerous sketches of animals in the margins, or providing a cut-off point between sections, and I felt there was a certain amount of similarity to your style! (Or should that be vice versa?) In particular, the Macclesfield Psalter in the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge, has many portrayals of bears, hares and greyhounds – there’s one lovely sequence of a hare marrying, fighting a duel, and being buried with great ceremony, that I felt could have come straight from one of your books!

    • Jackie says:

      Yes I have. Maybe in a past life I sat with a white cat in a tower hunting words while she hunted mice. And I doodled anonymously in the margins of manuscripts. I love the blues, golds and anonimity of the art of medieval scribes.

  9. Emma Midgley-Revett says:

    In your biography section you mention how you were told, whilst at Exeter College, that you would not “make it as an illustrator”. Which I think is awful, as surely they should have encouraged creativity..instead of making judgements (and how wrong they were). How did you cope with this ? I imagine it could “squash” some people, whilst it might make others determined to prove them wrong.
    Really pleased that we now have your work in the world – thank you.

    • Jackie says:

      I wasn’t to devastated as I hated the course which is why I had made a move to transfer. When I arrived at Exeter the inroduction to the course was a talk about art. In this they anonymously read out part of an essay. We had all been asked to write an essay over the summer. The extract was mine. It was about ways of seeing and looking. After two terms I hated the course which wasn’t what I had expected, very based on advertising. We had had a few weeks of life drawing which was great, but I needed more space to develop ways of looking, seeing, rather than how to do an advert for a lawn mower. So I looked around for other courses and found Bath.
      The college said that they would give me support to move, but then told me that I wouldn’t get the place in Bath so it was a waste of time going. Seemed someone was transfering within the college. Anyway, I did get the place, which meant I could continue with my education. I knew I was crap, I didn’t need them to confirm it for me, but I had such a passion to learn and such a desire to draw.
      I always felt that I was kind of saved by Brian Dunce who accepted me onto the course and I loved Corsham, Bath Academy with a kind of love hate, as opposed to the hate hate I had for Exeter. And i felt strong for making the choice and changing my life and not just letting things happen to me. A good lesson. Probably the best lesson Exeter taught me. Has stood me in good stead for many years.
      I also felt terrified, going in to a new college two terms in, and this was the last chance to make it work.
      Exeter very helpfully forgot to let the authorities know that I had transfered so I had no money on beginning my course, for food or rent. Ah well. Happy days.

  10. Emma Midgley-Revett says:

    I am so pleased to hear that you were able to make this a positive !! I cannot agree with you describing your ability at that time as “crap” though !! I am sure that your talent laid within you, you might have been taught techniques, but not your own style and creativity – it was there – at that point – you were guided. Thanks for answering.

    • Jackie says:

      It’s not really about talent, I think it is more about inclination. I love making marks on things and ways of seeing, and trying to make sense of the mad world through colour, line and word. It’s about hard work then and learning and an open mind. The talent is for a desire, a hunger. People have it for different things. Anyone can draw. If you have the patience, the will to do it 14 hours a day, to not look and be satisfied with what you have done but to constantly push, harder and harder, then you hopefully get better.
      One thing Brian Dunce said to me in that first interview stayed with me and helped me so much over the years. He said ” I am not interested in working with talented people. Talented people are lazy. They sit on their laurels and are self satisfied with what they do. I want to work with people who have some ability and who are really hungry to learn.” Guess I am still hungry. Still learning. Every day.

  11. Jacqueline McElligott says:

    During or after you have finished a piece of work does it ever make you tearful , sometimes when I see pieces of art or read particular passages I am reduced to tears of , raw emotion really …..I can only imagine that you must ..the Hares and Bears have such age old world weariness in their eyes ……..

    • Jackie says:

      Writing does, but not painting. I can’t read The Seal Children aloud to an audience. Makes me cry. I have managed, once or twice. But not painting, unless it is tears of frustration. But I do love making other people cry ( in a good way).

  12. Mo Crow says:

    love all these responses Jackie the questions and the answers can’t think of anything more to say except you are brilliant an inspiration and that you remind me of Joni Mitchell in this recent interview who also has no time for foolish questions-
    especially that line early on writing is like “raiding the chaos”

  13. Janet says:

    In your heart of hearts, what do you most want to write about?
    What do you most want to draw?

    • Jackie says:

      Oh yes. Love this question.
      In my heart of hearts what I most want to write about is beauty, and this too is what I want to paint. At the moment I see beauty in the wild eye of a peregrine falcon. I have stories tangled in my head and i write them out to try to understand them and to try and make sense of the world. And I am painting bears because I want to help a generation of children have respect for the land and understand that it does not belong to the human race but is a shared place and that other creatures on it deserve our respect. Does that make sense? I will think about this more and try to answer it in better and more full ways.

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