Creator Corner: Princess Pru and the Ogre on the Hill author Maureen Fergus and illustrator Danesh Mohiuddin
Welcome to Creator Corner! Each month we interview the creators of one of our recent books. This month, we interviewed Princess Pru and the Ogre on the Hill author Maureen Fergus and illustrator Danesh Mohiuddin.
Owlkids Books: Maureen, when did you know that you wanted to be an author?
Maureen Fergus: When I was growing up, I was all about science and math. Becoming an author never even crossed my mind! I got university degrees in science and business, and was working in the biotechnology industry when I had my first baby. While I was home on maternity leave and feeling a bit antsy, my husband suggested that I try writing fiction. That first time I sat down to write, it felt like I was slipping my hands into a pair of gloves that had been waiting for me my whole life. In that moment, I knew I wanted to become an author.
OKB: Danesh, when did you know that you wanted to be an illustrator?
Danesh Mohiuddin: I always loved drawing but never took it seriously or believed in it as a profession. After I graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in psychology, armed now with the amazing powers of self analysis, I realized I didn’t want to do psychology as a profession. So, I fell back on my passion, and I went back to school to study illustration. Really, I saw no other way going forward!
OKB: Maureen, what are your favorite things to write about?
MF: It depends on the day and on who I’m writing for! If I’m writing for younger readers, I love writing funny, heartwarming stories with loveable characters and silly twists. Animal characters are a big favorite of mine—I’ve written stories starring dogs, hedgehogs, gorillas, cows, swans, mice, crocodiles, anacondas and, of course, ostriches and tarantulas!
OKB: What inspired you to write this book?
MF: I wanted to a write a different sort of princess book and while I was brainstorming ideas, I had a sudden vision of an ogre buying party balloons. From that vision bloomed the idea of an ogre happily planning a party for terrified townspeople who couldn’t wrap their heads around the possibility that the ogre wasn’t up to something sinister—and for the perceptive princess who could.
OKB: Danesh, which spread did you most enjoy illustrating and why?
DM: I enjoyed the bakery scene. I ventured out on the cobbled side streets of Alicante (Spain) in sunny weather and explored different bakeries, sketching, taking photos, and of course eating samples. I love that the illustration is grounded in a real and fun experience that I had.
OKB: Which part was the most challenging to illustrate and why?
DM: The big party scene spread towards the end of the book was tough for me. When I work traditionally with a brush I struggle with scenes with small people and small details. I could just use a fine point pen, but I’m so attached to the line variety I get with a brush that it puts me in a dilemma. These scenes are also easier to do digitally, but again, for the purposes of this book in particular, I can’t achieve the same line that way. Hopefully someday it will become easier!
OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
MF: I hope readers will be reminded to give all people (and ogres) the benefit of the doubt and the chance to be judged for who they are on the inside. I also hope they will be reminded of how important it is to have the courage of their convictions and to always be the one standing up for the lonely outsider.
DM: For sure this book is about not judging people by their appearances! It’s about overcoming a fear of the unknown and doing what you think is right despite societal pressure to the contrary.
OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?
DM: I am a surprisingly high jumper! That combined with very long arms and big hands makes me very useful in sports such as basketball, volleyball, and as a goalkeeper in soccer.
MF: I belonged to a karate dojo for years and once punched two boards in half with my bare knuckles!