Q&A with Zoe Armstrong

Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark is a wondrous and factual book filled with exceptional illustrations. We sent some questions to author, Zoe Armstrong and her answers are fantastic. Many thanks to Zoe for taking the time to answer them!

Where did the initial idea for this book come from and what made it so interesting for you?

I got really excited about bioluminescence while I was researching a wonderful marine biologist, for a project that didn’t happen. Animals quietly glowing in the darkest corners of the planet felt magical, reassuring and hopeful. And it seemed the perfect subject for an illustrated book for children.

There are so many incredible facts and details – how much research did you do before writing?

I read and read and read! I watched TED Talks and videos virtually exploring caves and forest and the deep ocean. I gazed at photos online, and wished I was actually there to meet all the creatures. I thought the readers would probably like to be there too, and I wanted them to feel connected to the animals, so I found stories that would put us right up close to them.

Anja Sušanj, the amazing illustrator, came up with a little gang of kids who lead us into the book, and are with us at the end as we think about all the animals and our glittering planet. I love the way she did that!

Could you picture the layout and format of the book while you were writing or did that come later?

The structure emerges really quite late in the process, for me! I think that’s probably a bit nerve wracking for my editor. I had images in my mind as I was writing, but Anja and Lilly Gottwald, the Art Director, have such original and creative ideas that the final book really blew my mind!

Were there any facts that surprised you?

It all amazes me, to be honest! I think the idea that there’s this constant busy chatter of sparkles and flashes and pops of light going on deep down in the ocean, is pretty incredible.  

Did you have a favourite fact?

Not a favourite fact so much as a favourite theme. I love that these brilliant animals totally outshine us humans! They make light – something we can only dream of. They remind us to respect and learn from nature.

The illustrations by Anja Sušanj are remarkable – what was your working relationship with Anja like?

They really are! Anja lives in Croatia and I live in the UK. We’ve never met. I work with the editor and she works with the art director, but we’ve still managed to develop a great working relationship! I think we’re both very supportive and respectful of what the other is doing. I feel extremely lucky to be working with her.

I actually asked Anja if she would make a portrait of my daughter to mark her tenth birthday – it’s wonderful!

Did you prefer to read fact or fiction as a child? Has that changed now?

I liked stories, both factual and fictional, and I still do. I love non-fiction that has a narrative. And I’ve always liked writing that has rhythm.

Did you have a favourite childhood book?

Can I give you one for every age? Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak; The Worst Witch, by Jill Murphy; Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White; The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton; I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou. (Too hard to pick one!)

Thanks for having me.

Curious Creatures Glowing in the Dark is published by Flying Eye Books and is available now.

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