Wednesday 20 April 2016

Robyn Silver: Chatting to the cover designer and illustrator

Robyn Silver: The Midnight Chimes will be published by Scholastic on 1st September and today I'm very proud to reveal the cover...

Life was very ordinary for ten-year-old Robyn Silver. The often-ignored middle child in a big family, the most excitement she had was the dash to the dinner table to reach the last slice of pizza. Until... she begins to see creepy creatures around her town - creatures that are invisible to everyone else. And when her school is forced to decamp to mysterious Grimdean House and she meets its equally mysterious owner, Mr Cryptorum, Robyn finds herself catapulted headfirst into an extraordinary adventure - with more excitement than she could possibly have imagined. Be careful what you wish for...

As an author, it's the best thing in the world to be given a book cover like this that clicks perfectly with your story. I love the bright colours and bold design, as well as the amazing work on the lettering and the brilliant characterisation of Robyn. You can tell from one look at her that she isn't a character that will take things lying down!

I've been curious about the cover design process for a long time and, with Robyn Silver, I knew that thoughts about the cover would just be the start as there will also be illustrations inside. Luckily, the fantastic designer, Jamie Gregory, and brilliant illustrator, Renée Kurilla, were happy to talk to me about it.

Hi Jamie, thanks for letting me ask you some questions. What were your first thoughts when designing the cover for Robyn Silver?

My first thoughts were of Robyn's character. She's such a strong female lead and it was important to all of us that we got her just right.

How important was the style of the lettering?

The style of the lettering is always important but for this particular book I really wanted the logo to use silver foil. I wanted the letters to be as monster themed as possible – I actually had to pare it back a bit. It had so many jagged edges at one point that it was affecting legibility!

What was it about Renée Kurilla's artwork that made her a fantastic choice as an illustrator?

We were trying to find this perfect style that was alluding us. The illustration needed to be punchy enough for a monster book but with soft line work to give it a feminine touch.
I saw Renée's work in a colleagues book (The Owl's of Blossom Wood) and although it was for a younger audience her line work was perfect. I contacted her and explained what we were looking for and she produced an amazing sample of Robyn and a Kobold – this convinced me that she should illustrate this series.

What will the artwork inside the book include? Are there any surprises in store?

The book includes a beautifully illustrated creature glossary with the monsters in frames. There are plenty of surprises but I wouldn't want to give them away!

Thanks Jamie, I can't wait to see the creature glossary - it sounds amazing! Next, a few questions for fabulous illustrator, Renée Kurilla.
Hi Renee, thanks for coming on Middle Grade Strikes Back! How easy was it to portray Robyn Silver and do you enjoy drawing her?

Robyn Silver is just about the coolest (fictional) ten year old I've ever had the pleasure of getting to know, so of course I enjoy drawing her! Like every project, it takes me a while to really get to know the characters I'm working with. In the beginning, I had to commit to a sketch that appealed to me and hope that everyone at Scholastic UK (and yourself) liked her as much as I did!

I feel lucky to have the opportunity and continue to get to know Robyn more and more with each drawing I make of her! (Side note: I wish my hair could always look as good as hers!)

How do you go about putting personality into a character?

For my initial sketches, I knew just a few major things about Robyn: She fights monsters (bravely) with a torch blade and she is ten years old. Now that I've read and reread her story, I've learned much more and can add proper emotion where needed. Using your manuscript as a guide makes it quite easy and fun!

For side characters like Aiden and Nora, I took notes while reading: Aiden is a talented engineer and Nora is incredibly book smart but skittish with a sword. Knowing these things helps inform things like posture and even hairstyle!

Can you tell us anything about the artwork that will go inside the book?

The interior artwork started as a series of very tiny penciled thumbnails that eventually ended up on the computer (I work in Photoshop). One thing I have learned about myself while working on Robyn Silver is that I love drawing ornate decorations such as picture frames, furniture, and rugs. You'll see a lot of that in Grimdean House! Here's a sneak peek at the thumbnails!

Thanks so much for this insight, Renée. I can't wait to see the pictures in more detail and I feel very lucky to have such talented people working on Robyn Silver!

Robyn Silver: The Midnight Chimes is out September 1st. Find out more about Paula Harrison on her website:


  1. Brilliant stuff, I think my 9 year old would love it.

  2. It's nice to hear about what the designer and illustrator do for a change. I think a lot of people judge books by their covers. This is a really eye-catching one!