Episode 280: Writing and Illustrating a Picture Book Series – Interview with Amanda Noll and Howard McWilliam

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds! Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Noll and Howard McWilliam, author and illustrator of the I Need My Monster picture book series.

Amanda Noll was born and raised in Canberra, Australia and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. After marrying her college sweetheart, she began working in the purchasing division of a private university (which is ironic, since she despises shopping).

She left the business world to attend to the business of raising children and concentrate on her writing. As her kids grew up, she completed a Master’s degree in Education and became an Elementary School Librarian.  Amanda blames her fundamentally twisted sense of humor on either genetics or being raised on a steady stream of Australian humor and sci-fi. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.

Howard McWilliam left his career as a U.K. financial magazine editor and journalist in 2005 to concentrate on illustrating. He is cover artist for The Week in the U.S. and U.K. and has illustrated dozens of children’s novels, puzzles, and picture books, including the bestselling I Need My Monster series. He lives in Cheltenham, England, with his wife Rebecca and three young sons.

In this episode, Amanda, Howard and I discuss:

  • The inspiration behind the My Monster series
  • How one book turned into a series 
  • How the author-illustrator relationship works
  • Navigating the line between safe and scary for kids
  • Making picture books accessible for boy and girl readers

Plus, their #1 tips for writers.

About Amanda Noll and Howard McWilliam

Howard McWilliam left his career as a U.K. financial magazine editor and journalist in 2005 to concentrate on illustrating. He is cover artist for The Week in the U.S. and U.K. and has illustrated dozens of children’s novels, puzzles, and picture books, including the bestselling I Need My Monster series. He lives in Cheltenham, England, with his wife Rebecca and three young sons. Visit his website to learn more!

Amanda Noll was born and raised in Canberra, Australia. She immigrated to the United States as a teenager. After she married her college sweetheart, she began working in the purchasing division of a private university (ironic, since she despises shopping).

She left the business world to attend to the business of raising children and concentrate on her writing. As her children grew older, she completed a Master’s degree in Education and became an Elementary School Librarian. 

She blames her fundamentally twisted sense of humor on either genetics or being raised on a steady stream of Australian humor and science fiction. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.

Her published works include: I Need My Monster (Flashlight Press, 2009), which has won multiple state awards. Hey, That’s My Monster! (Flashlight Press, 2016). How I Met My Monster (Flashlight Press, 2019). Are You My Monster? (Flashlight Press, 2019). Check out her website!

If you decide to check out the books, we hope you’ll do so via the below Amazon affiliate links, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

I Need My Monster

A unique monster-under-the-bed story with the perfect balance of giggles and shivers, this picture book relies on the power of humor over fear, appeals to a child’s love for creatures both alarming and absurd, and glorifies the scope of a child’s imagination. One night, when Ethan checks under his bed for his monster, Gabe, he finds a note from him instead: “Gone fishing. Back in a week.” Ethan knows that without Gabe’s familiar nightly scares he doesn’t stand a chance of getting to sleep, so Ethan interviews potential substitutes to see if they’ve got the right equipment for the job—pointy teeth, sharp claws, and a long tail—but none of them proves scary enough for Ethan.

When Gabe returns sooner than expected from his fishing trip, Ethan is thrilled. It turns out that Gabe didn’t enjoy fishing because the fish scared too easily.

Also, check out this video of Rita Moreno reading the book!

Hey, That’s MY Monster!

When Ethan looks under the bed for his monster, he finds this note instead: “So long, kid. Gotta go. Someone needs me more than you do. –Gabe” How will Ethan ever get to sleep without his monster’s familiar, comforting snorts? And who could need Gabe more than Ethan does? Gabe must have gone to Ethan’s little sister’s room! She has been climbing out of bed every night to play, and obviously needs a monster to help her get to sleep – but not HIS monster!

Ethan tries to help his sister find her own monster, but none are the perfect blend of cute and creepy. Just when it seems that Ethan will lose his monster forever, an uninvited, tutu-toting little monster full of frightening fun ap­pears. Following in the spooky-silly tradition of I Need My Mon­ster, here’s another irresistible monster-under-the-bed story with the perfect balance of giggles and shivers.

Also, check out this video of Lily Tomlin reading the book!

How I Met My Monster 

One night, when Ethan reaches under his bed for a toy truck, he finds this note instead: “Monsters! Meet here for final test.” Ethan is sure his parents are trying to trick him into staying under the covers, until he sees five colorful sets of eyes blinking at him from beneath the bed. Soon, a colorful parade of quirky, squeaky little monsters compete to become Ethan’s monster. But only the little green monster, Gabe, has the perfect blend of stomach-rumbling and snorting needed to get Ethan into bed and keep him there so he falls asleep—which as everyone knows, is the real reason for monsters under beds. With its perfect balance of giggles and shivers, this silly-spooky prequel to the award-winning I Need My Monster and Hey, That’s MY Monster! will keep young readers entertained.

Are You My Monster?

In Are You My Monster?, the monster-loving boy from I Need My Monster tries to find his monster. He compares his drawing—showing a green monster with a long tail, pointy nails, and big teeth—with an assortment of amusing monsters, until he finds the perfect match. This turns out to be his beloved STUFFED monster toy. Children will love comparing colors, checking if tails are long or short, if nails are pointy or round, if teeth are big or small until they, too, find the monster who is a perfect match.

Link to Episode #280

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