Illustrator Interview: Ester De Boer

‘Raymund and The Fear Monster’ is all about overcoming your fears. It is a brilliant, creepy and inspiring book about a young boy whose town is hassled by a monster at night.

Ester De Boer illustrated ‘Raymund and The Fear Monster’ and was kind enough to answer some of my questions as part of their blog tour with Books on Tour PR and Marketing. See what she has to say below!

Hi Ester! Thanks very much for taking the time to answer some questions. Congratulations on the upcoming release of Raymund and The Fear Monster. Can you tell me a bit about the process of how Raymund and The Fear Monster began?

It’s Meg’s story, but when I first heard it I kind of connected to it. Actually, I just straight out told her I wanted to illustrate it, whether she could pay me or not. She did a mad number of edits, and each time, because I was really wanting to just get into it, I would rework some more sketches and play with some more styles. I was originally going to do it in a scribbly, cartoonish style, but since I was leaning heavily on my drawing skills, I guess habit took over, so we just ran with it.

Raymund and The Fear Monster is all about facing your fears. What’s a fear you have had to face in your life and overcome?

Oh gosh, lots!!! I’m still facing some (right now, for example!). I used to be terrified of public speaking. That’s a common one, but what was weird with me is that I was super confident as an actor. I did an experiment with myself and wrote out an oral presentation as an acted monologue and stepped up on “stage” as a (please don’t laugh) televangelist. I was studying disabilities and was talking about infant brain development (of all things!!!) but it worked. I think I could have made some serious profit had a I taken up an offering at the end! It was just a prop, which I weened myself off over time, but now I actually love speaking.

I get some ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ vibes from your illustrations, as well as one of my favourite childhood movies – ‘Labyrinth’. Did you have any particular inspirations for your illustrations in this book?

Not directly. I love ‘Where The Wild Things Are’, so THANK YOU! “Labyrinth”, however? All I can think of is David Bowie in skinny tights looking like a Manga character in an MC Escher- type castle (It’s been a long time). We had an old fairy tale book in the house when I was a kid (the original, very un-PC versions) with amazing old-fashioned illustrations. I loved the Victorian style illustrations- artists like Sir John Tenniel and Arthur Rackham- lots of ink work, with emphasis on line, rendering and detail, rather than colour. 

How would you describe your illustrative style in three words?

(I don’t have one style, but in regard to ‘Raymund and the Fear Monster’) cheeky, detailed, dark.

What was your biggest irrational fear as a child? Mine was pulling the drain out of the bathtub, and walking up stairs with gaps in them.

We used to go swimming at a place called Palaranda, a beach just out of Townsville, and for some reason I believed that a witch was playing the harp behind the bars of the window of the dressing room, so I would have to run past really fast to put on my togs.

How closely did you work with author – Megan Higginson? What was that process like?

It was so good to able to work in the same physical space. She’s read me her changes and I’d give feedback, I’d show her my scribbles and she’d point out mistakes… We were both “in” each other’s process every step of the way. When it was going through the final edit (graphics layout etc.) we sat over coffee and went over everything together with a fine-tooth comb. We each work to our strengths and recognise our weaknesses (we’re opposites in the right areas) and stick to what we do best. 

The detail and depth in your work is incredible. I love that every time I look at one of your illustrations, I find something new on the page I didn’t catch the first time. On average, how long does a normal piece of work take you?

I listen to audiobooks as I draw, so sometimes I will say “wow, that picture took six chapters!”, but I have given up trying to time myself. I fiddle about too much and work on several different things at once, so it’s impossible to say. Some pictures I just draw straight up in a few days and some stretch on for weeks on end.

I read on your website that you are creating your own fantasy novel, can you tell me anything about that? Or any other projects you are currently working on?

I have at least three stories in my head, two of which I’ve written part of and one that’s a list of characters and pictures. I got the idea of writing Gnerk while telemarketing in my late 20s (tough gig!). It’s set in a clockwork universe that is facing complete destruction due to the misuse and neglect of its shady and corrupt inhabitants, and deals with controversial real-life issues such as rabbit crime gangs, alcohol addiction among retired planets and a growing black-market trade in deadly electric cucumbers. It’s a heavy read- tough stuff.

Lastly – if you were going to be stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life, and you could only choose three books to take with you… what would they be?

Are you serious? I’d last a day! Okay, with that in mind, I’d pack my Bible (to be ready), Edward Gorey’s ‘Gashlycrumb Tinies’ (to inspire me to see the possibility of humour in my imminent demise), and ‘War and Peace’ (in case I last longer than expected).

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions Ester, I can’t wait to see more of your work!

To read review of “Raymund and the Fear Monster”, check it out here!


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