This week, I had a virtual interview with the wonderful Carol Ann Treacy, author and illustrator of Barney Goose – A Wild Atlantic Way Adventure. Carol tells us about her inspiration for Barney Goose, her writing and illustrating processes and more!
What inspired you to write and illustrate Barney Goose – A Wild Atlantic Way Adventure?
A few years ago we took a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way coastline. It was such a fun holiday, and I was struck by the beauty of marine and bird life there. I really wanted to capture that in some way, so I started thinking about creating an illustrated journey book. I am fascinated by wildlife and in particular birds (mostly because they can fly). I’m kind of in awe of how geese fly in formations and on such incredibly long journeys across vast oceans every year. I thought it might be interesting to tell a tale of a barnacle goose who starts his life as a displaced egg, away from other geese, but through instinct, determination and a little help from other animals he meets along the Wild Atlantic Way, finds his way back on track. And then he makes that unbelievable journey, thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, for the first time.
What was your creative process with this book? What came first – the illustrations or the words?
I start my process with notebooks, which are usually a mess that no one could decipher apart from myself! Initially, I worked on both the storyline and illustrations for Barney Goose in tandem. Whenever I got stuck, I could switch over, and one kind of informed the other. I worked on my main character, Barney the barnacle goose, first – they are such striking geese, with long, black necks and white-feathered faces.
After doing my research on the life and character of these geese, I started teasing out the story of Barney’s journey from West Cork to Donegal, and drawing some of the other characters Barney meets along the way. When I had my storyline in place, I submitted the text to my editor, Eoin O’Brien, for refinement. At this stage, Eoin suggested creating some ‘scamps’ – very rough sketches. Using a roll of parchment paper, I sketched out every double page spread as one long, continuous storyboard. This was my favourite part of the process, where everything started to come together. I love using a scrollable storyboard – it’s a great way to see just how all the scenes interact, and at this stage you can correct or change anything, before any detail is added.
Once everyone was happy with the sketched layout, I photographed my storyboard and started to work over my drawing in digital format. I used Adobe Illustrator and a Wacom tablet for drawing and painting.
Where do you illustrate your books?
I sketch and make notes using a notebook on the couch; storyboard with a pencil at the kitchen table; and illustrate with a digital pen on an iMac.
What is your creative schedule like? Do you work on your books at night-time, early morning, sporadically, etc?
I illustrate in the evenings/night time or at weekends. It’s definitely sporadic – depending on what I have on. I also work as a lead creative for a design studio (Designbank). That’s my day job and I love it. No two projects are quite the same – there is always something new on the horizon. Writing and illustrating are both my passion and my therapy. I find it hard to start the process, and sometimes I have to push myself really hard to really get my head into the work and over that initial hump. Once I’m happy with the story and the storyboard, everything else tends to fall into place.
Describe the character of Barney Goose in 3 words.
Curious, cute and courageous.
What’s your favourite thing about the Wild Atlantic Way?
The ruggedness of the coastline and all the native wildlife. I used to surf a bit when I was younger and loved that aspect of it too.
What is your favourite book from childhood and why?
I have vivid memories of visiting my great auntie Gertie’s house. She had a huge collection of books. I remember being drawn to all the ladybird books. They had a distinctive musky smell – I like smelling the pages. These were the first ladybird ‘series’ of books I encountered as a child – Rumpelstiltskin, The Three Billy-goats Gruff, The Elves and the Shoemaker … Chicken Licken was probably my favourite.
If you could fly like Barney, where would you fly to?
Somewhere warmer than Ireland!
Carol Ann Treacy, June 2020
Barney Goose – A Wild Atlantic Way Adventure is out now and available in all good bookshops!