Spotlight On: Victoria Turnbull

This month we caught up with the wonderful author-illustrator Victoria Turnbull ahead of the publication of her latest picture book Pandora.
Victoria’s debut book The Sea Tiger saw her named winner of the Association of Illustrators New Talent Award 2013 (Children’s Book Category), and was published by Templar in 2014. It was later shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Kings of the Castle followed in 2016, also published by Templar. Victoria is represented at the agency by Helen Mackenzie Smith.
In our latest Spotlight On interview we find out why Victoria started drawing and writing for children, where she gets her inspiration from, and what she’d like to work on next…

KOC spread

1) What inspired you to start drawing and writing picture books?

From an early age, I loved to draw but as an adult I struggled to find a purpose for my drawings. Then a few years ago, I rediscovered picture books and enrolled on the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. I realised my pictures had the capacity to tell stories and since then I’ve been hooked.

2) What comes first: The drawing, the character or the story?

It’s usually a combination. Often what motivates me is an emotional response to a character or an idea that makes me invested in telling a particular story.


3) What artist’s tool could you not work without?

I love pencils of any kind. Graphite. Mechanical. Wax. Coloured. I feel at home with a pencil in my hand, I’m less dexterous with a brush!

4) If you weren’t an illustrator/author what would you like to be?

A chef, perhaps? I love food and I think I could get quite obsessive about it if I had more time.


5) If you could collaborate with any other picture book writer/illustrator, past or present who would it be and why?

Shaun Tan. I think he has a unique way of looking at the world.

6) Who is your favourite picture book character, and why?

The title character in The Snowman by Raymond Briggs is a favourite. I remember watching the animation as a child and a few years ago I was lucky enough to work on the sequel. He was partly the inspiration behind my first picture book, The Sea Tiger.

VT Sea Tiger roar

7) What’s your favourite word/colour?

My favourite word is peanut. My favourite colour is green.

8) What was your favourite book when you were growing up?

I remember continually taking Burglar Bill, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, out of the library. I’d pore over the detailed illustrations for hours on end.

Little Hoo snipped

9) What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

When I was a child I had a big teddy bear called Arthur. If he wasn’t in bed to prevent me falling out, I did… once from the top bunk.

10) What has been your career highlight so far?

My debut picture book being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize was pretty special – I got to see The Sea Tiger in lots of stores and windows.

VT Sea Tiger carousel

Bonus question: What classic book of any genre would you most like to illustrate?

I’m open to offers, but maybe Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book or Just So Stories?
Victoria Turnbull © 2016. All Rights Reserved.


Pandora publishes on the 3rd of November and you can buy your very own copy here. To find out more about Victoria and her work, you can view her portfolio, visit her website or follow her on twitter @vic_turnbull!