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A day in the life of: Children's author, Catherine Rayner

We spend a day with children's author, Catherine Rayner, from rise and shine, through office hours to storytime

Posted: 5 August 2013
by Catherine Hudson

Author, Catherine Rayner
Catherine's latest book, 'Abigail'
The workstation
An artist's tools
Tools of the trade

Catherine Rayner, 31, is an author and lllustrator. Catherine lives in Edinburgh with her husband, Colin and two-year-old son, Finlay

What is your family’s morning routine? 

Fin, usually wakes up around 5am and it’s a race to get him out of his cot and in to our bed before he properly wakes up, in the hope we can get some more sleep. Around 6.30am, Fin gives me a kiss and whispers "Mummy, UP please!” and the day begins. 

When I’m back from taking Fin to nursery, I start by reading emails and working out a plan for the day. If Colin is taking Fin to nursery, I’ll often work in my pyjamas and slippers until about 11am. I like to get on with work the minute they leave as time is so precious. Getting dressed can wait!

What is your office environment like?

I work in the front room of our ground floor Victorian Edinburgh flat. I call this room The Studio. It has an incredibly high ceiling and one wall has a massive book case. I sit beside it and work on my desk, which is an old oak kitchen table my husband rescued from somebody throwing out. He’s a furniture maker and he lovingly restored it. There are drawings everywhere and open boxes of paints, pencil crayons and mugs full of pens and brushes. I’m not the tidiest person, but I like to think of it as a creative mess! It’s a lovely bright room and it looks out on to lots of flowers and plants.

Do you have such a thing as a ‘typical’ day?

No. Every day is very different depending on what I’m working on. I always start with checking my emails and a cup of tea, but that is as much of a routine as I’ve got. I spend my days working on artwork for a book, visiting a school, at Edinburgh Printmakers working on new prints, working towards the next exhibition or working on private commissions or a new text for a new book. It’s very varied. I like it that way.

Did you always want to do what you do now, for a job?

I think so, at least, as far back as I can remember. I remember everything about being small in so much detail and I’ve always loved picture books. I’ve still got some that I made when I was four. If I hadn’t made picture books, I wanted to be either a nurse or a florist.

What was the first thing you wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?

I wanted to be a mummy.

What is the best thing about your job?

Drawing pictures that make people of all ages smile. It makes me so happy when I get a letter or email from somebody who enjoys my work.

Are there any downsides to your job?

Admin, deadlines and working on my own. I get lonely sometimes.

How do you come up with creative, original ideas?

Every book starts in a slightly different way. I usually start obsessing about a creature for a while before I start to draw it. I never really know where or when an obsession will start, it just grows, from a small seed, inside my mind. I like to think that once I’ve created a new character they sort of tell me their story. I couldn’t help drawing Solomon Crocodile with a twinkle in his eye, Sylvia just seemed lonely to me. Harris looked so young and I found it very hard drawing a smiling tiger; Augustus had to find his smile.

This makes it sound like I find it easy – and I don’t. I feel massive pressure to ‘get it right’ as every book a child reads is incredibly important and every single detail gets noticed.

How do you juggle family life with work life?

I find it hard. Fin goes to nursery four days a week and I squeeze as much in to those days as humanly possible. Sometimes I work after he’s gone to sleep in the evenings. I never work at weekends anymore – it’s a promise my husband and I made to each other last year, as he is also self employed. Weekends are family time, it’s too easy to let work nibble in to this precious time, so we have to be strict.

What do you do outside of work, with your family?

We spend a lot of time in the garden as a family. We are outside in most weather. I have a horse called Shannon, and I take Fin up to see her a couple of times a week. Sometimes I take him for a little ride; he loves that. The beach is not far away and we often go there for some digging and paddling. For a real treat we sometimes take Fin to B&Q to look at the tools…he absolutely loves it (and so does daddy). We like going out for coffee and cake – we all enjoy that. There are some very nice coffee shops around us. We do a lot of walking. In the winter we do the same, but wrap up well! We also all love a trip to the Royal Museum of Scotland. It’s one of my favorite places in Edinburgh, I think it’s magical.

What is coming up, work-wise, for you?

My latest book Abigail will be published on August 5, 2013. This is a special book to me for many reasons, and it’s the first book I’ve had published since Finlay was born. I’m currently painting the artwork for my next book about a dog, called Louie. I’ve got three more exhibitions before the end of the year and numerous commissions are on the drawing board. Life is very busy!

If you had superhero skills, what would be your dream job?

I’d just like to be a superhero! Imagine how quickly the housework would get done. Surely you could turn your hand to a different job every day if you were an actual superhero? I think I’d try something new every day and, of course, I’d keep drawing.

Abigail by Catherine Rayner, published by Little Tiger Press is on sale now priced £10.99

Enter our competition to win a Catherine Rayner print, and a copy of Abigail


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