Interview with BREADCRUMBS illustrator Erin Mcguire

Welcome to today’s official Blog Tour Stop from publisher Walden Pond Press, featuring Anne Ursu’s new middle-grade novel BREADCRUMBS (review here).

Today’s stop brings us a very special treat: An interview with Erin Mcguire, the illustrator in charge of visually bringing the story to life! The imagery is stunning and the novel is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s THE SNOW QUEEN, one of my favorite fairy tales. This is a complete win-win situation, bookworms!

The illustration process is fascinating, and I’m so happy that Erin was kind enough to share how everything came together with us. Thank you, Erin! I really loved your responses!

(You can click on any of the following images to see larger illustrations. In the case of artwork, bigger is always better!)

What was your favorite image to draw for BREADCRUMBS?

I really enjoyed working on the illustration for the scene with Hazel in the flower garden. It was a really important, emotional moment, and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture it all in my illustration. I also enjoyed working on the cover, since I love working with color.

(This was one of my favorite images in BREADCRUMBS as well. Simply stunning!)

How did you come up with the concept for what would become the cover for BREADCRUMBS? What went into its creation?

Jordan Brown and Carla Weise really pointed me in the right direction for the cover. My assignment was to draw Hazel taking a step into the fantasy world, with footprints in the snow. In my early sketches, I worked on several different ways to show that scene, while also making it clear that a transformation was happening.

We wanted to capture that moment of her entering the fantastical world, and hint that while it was magical, it was also slightly dangerous. After that first round of sketches, I showed another more refined set, adding in wolves and some snow.

From there, we worked on Hazel's specific look, and heightened the drama a bit with the color and lighting. Towards the end of the process, we decided to make it a wraparound cover, so I painted more trees for the back, and added some frost all around.

How does collaboration work when creating novel illustrations? Does the publisher and/or author dictate what scenes to create images for, or are you sent an early copy of the manuscript that gives you your ideas, etc?

It's a very collaborative process, though it seems to vary for each project. I'm usually sent an early manuscript that I read before I start on the interiors. In some cases I pick the scenes, but in this case, they had a wish list of moments for me to illustrate. The descriptions were very open though; for example, one request was simply "Hazel wrapped in the swanskin" so past that, there's a fair amount of interpretation. For each scene, I sent the editor 2-4 quick sketches, and they direct me from there. Then, it's a lot of tweaking to get expressions and character just right.

What other titles have you done illustrations for? Which was your favorite to do?

I've also done illustrations for FRENCH DUCKS IN VENICE by Garret Freymann-Weyr, LUCKY FOR GOOD by Susan Patron (as well as the paperback covers for her HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY and LUCKY BREAKS), and cover illustrations for several other titles that haven't been announced yet. It's really hard to pick a favorite, but FRENCH DUCKS was my first picture book, so it will always be special to me. BREADCRUMBS was fun to work on because Dallas got a lot of snow last year (One foot of snow! Don't laugh Anne Ursu!) so it really set the mood to be working on snowy illustrations.

(Erin, my favorite non-mentioned cover by you is from CIRCLE OF SECRETS by Kimberley Griffiths Little, which released Oct. 1st!)

What media did you use when creating your illustrations for BREADCRUMBS? About how much time did you spend on each piece?

I start all of my illustrations as really rough pencil sketches, and then scan finished drawings and paint the illustrations using a tablet and Photoshop. I used to work a lot in watercolor, so I scan a lot of watercolor textures that I make, and use those in the final illustrations. It's hard to figure out how much time I spent on each piece, we did the cover over the course of a month or two, and then the interiors over the course of 6 months. I also work full time at an animation studio, so that 6 months goes quickly because I have to do all of my children's book work during nights and weekends.

What sort of artwork would you like to create in the future? What would be your dream job?

I love working on books. It's already my dream job. My mom is a middle school teacher, and my college job at art school was a librarian, so I feel like I've been immersed in this world for my whole life. One day I hope to write and illustrate my own books, but only once I work on the writing chops a bit. I'm incredibly lucky to be doing what I'm doing so quickly out of school, and I just hope I get to keep working on books for the rest of my career.

More of Erin’s fabulous artwork can be seen on her blog, including sneak peeks at upcoming projects!
Annnnnd before you go, Walden Pond Press honored me by allowing me to share two of my favorite BREADCRUMBS illustrations that Erin created with you: :

I love how integral these scenes are to the story, and Erin has captured them perfectly.
Erin, thank you again for stopping by A Backwards Story. We loved having you!
BREADCRUMBS is available now from a book retailer near you!

But wait, the fun’s not over yet!

Additional BREADCRUMBS Blog Tour Stops:

Tuesday, 9/27 – Review and Book Giveaway at Mundie Kids
Wednesday, 9/28 – Review and Skype Giveaway at Great Kid Books
Wednesday, 9/28 – Book Giveaway at 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, 9/29 – Interview at Bildungsroman
Friday, 9/30 – Review, Guest Post, and Book Giveaway at Bookalicious
Saturday, 10/1 – Interview and Skype Giveaway at Kid Lit Frenzy
Sunday, 10/2 – Review, Interview, and Book Giveaway at The Reading Zone
Monday, 10/3 – Guest Post at Galleysmith
Tuesday 10/4 – Review at Galleysmith
Tuesday, 10/4 – Guest Post, Review, and Book Giveaway at The Book Smugglers
Wednesday, 10/5 – Review and Illustrator Interview at A Backwards Story
Thursday, 10/6 – Guest Post at The Mod Podge Bookshelf
Friday, 10/7 – Interview at The Book Rat


  1. These illustrations are beautiful! I wish I had that talent.

    I had no idea the author was a MS teacher too. That sold me on the book!


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