I’m a Dubliner, born, bred and edu-ma-cated. At the age of two I spent a couple of days in hospital with a broken arm so I decided I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up, but by the grand old age of four I’d announced that I would be an artist, and I never changed my mind again!
At college studying graphic design I quickly zoned in on children’s illustration as my favourite subject, however making it my full-time occupation took about fifteen years. My first three picture books were created in my spare time – real life was a ragbag of stints as a graphic design assistant, an illustrator of love stories in women’s mags, and a damp spell selling paintings on Merrion Square, followed by years of part-time teaching and a million-zillion illustrations for school text books.
In 1999 I found my agent Eunice McMullen, and my fourth book, Izzy and Skunk, was published with Gullane, UK in 2000. I decided it was time to take a leap of faith in my own work, gave up the safety net of the teaching job and got a studio – firstly in Temple Bar, then in an old mill in Brunswick Street.
I started to focus completely on my creative work and finally began to find my own particular voice and visual style. In my picture book work I like to explore the blurred line between the imagined and the real in childhood and those little/big moments of change and discovery. More recently I have begun to write novels for children – a steep learning curve! I’m really enjoying the process and I’ve discovered I can pretty much write anywhere – airports, planes, coffee shops, waiting rooms, parks …
Being a children’s writer/illustrator allows me to indulge my love of travel as I often ‘have to’ go places to do research – Oklahoma for The Long March, London for the novel I’m working on now – and I sometimes get invited to take part in literary conferences in far-flung places like Paris, Mayo, Rhode Island, Cologne, West Sussex, Cork. I’m also a history lover and really enjoy immersing myself in research, particularly the social details of how people lived, ate, worked, survived in other times and places. I buy far too many books on the subject and spend way too long preparing!
I met my partner, Michael Emberley, in Maryland in 2007 at the Frostburg Children’s Literature conference where we were both guest speakers. Michael is part of a big children’s lit family – his dad, Ed Emberley, and sister, Rebecca Emberley, also write and illustrate picture books. The readings at our wedding in Boston in 2008 were all thoughts on love from children’s book characters including Winnie the Pooh and Adrian Mole. Right now we’re living in Greystones, Wicklow.
I blog occasionally – see BLOG.
Michael’s website is www.michaelemberley.com/
Studio photo: Róisín White
Douglas Library photo: Michael Emberley