A Q&A With Illustrator Sarah Soh

We're teaming up with Flying Eye Books and author/illustrator Sarah Soh following the launch of her latest book all about kid wonder Juniper Mae: Knight of Tykotech City. To find out more about Sarah and her incredible new sci-fi tale, we asked her a few questions on her career, her inspiration and how to inspire our mini Islanders to have a little more courage, like their new favourite main character.

Congratulations on your first ever book! What inspired you to become an illustrator?

Thank you so much! I’m truly excited for the world to get to know Juniper Mae and Albie. There were so many things to be inspired by growing up, but one of my biggest inspirations was my dad. Both my parents were very encouraging of me and my sister to be creative, but my dad  always wanted to have art time with us. He’d take us to the library and draw with us, paint Christmas ornaments, doodle on pieces of paper while helping us with our homework, sharing  art supplies he’s kept since his college days. Even growing up, our home had his artwork hanging on our walls. I don’t think he understands just how impactful this was in helping shape the artist  I am today, but I’m forever grateful for all that he has inspired.

We’re obsessed with the character Juniper Mae. How did she come to life and where did your inspiration come from?

When creating the story, I knew I wanted the main character to be a shy young girl who had the beating heart of a true warrior. The deeper I was diving into the character, the more I realised how much of myself I was putting down on the pages. Juniper’s story is essentially how I felt at different points in my life: unsure of myself, lacking confidence, the list goes on. I wanted Juniper’s growth to be what I would’ve wanted for myself: to find the confidence within herself to show the world she is stronger than she realises. For Juniper to find that strength, it would not only open up more worlds for her, but it would also let her see that she is loved for who she is.

I thought it was important to have Juniper say in the book “I’m a true warrior at heart.” It is the anthem that she carries within her heart and I hope that those words also resonate with young readers for them to be able to find their courage and strength within.

Can you describe Juniper Mae in three words?

Creative, Adventurer, Warrior

How would Juniper Mae describe herself?

At first, Juniper would describe herself as invisible: a curious and humble inventor who has trouble finding a voice to be heard. But as the story progresses, she’ll describe herself as having the boldness to be fearless, loveable, intelligent, and a warrior.

What’s been your favourite thing to draw and why?

Hands down, my favorite thing to draw is women warriors.

Everything about armor, how robust yet delicate it can be, how strong they can be, how it moves, how it's put together. Putting armor on women, felt very powerful to me: to represent the strength and fierceness that they hold within. It was so empowering to draw women warriors and it allowed me to speak out more confidently through my work.

How do you start your drawings?

My drawings usually start with a very rough black and white sketch. If I have an idea in mind, sketching out quick drawings usually helps me form a clearer image of what I’d like to illustrate. Then I’ll do a cleaner black and white line drawing based off the rough before I start the fun process of colouring.

What are your top tips and tricks for anyone wanting to become an illustrator

Start drawing for yourself.  Start anywhere! You can draw shapes, new creatures, your surroundings, blobs, a person, a pet, flowers in a pot, whatever! Don’t feel so pressured that whatever you’re drawing isn’t “perfect.” Have patience and just draw whatever makes you feel happy and motivates you to want to improve for yourself.

Competition Time

Challenge your little one to design their very own comic strip for the chance to win a Flying Eye book bundle, £250 RI gift card & framed print of their comic. 

Head over to the River Island Facebook page to enter.

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