It’s About Time for Sophie E Tallis

Last year at BristolCon, I had the good fortune and pleasure to meet author and illustrator Sophie E Tallis in the art room, where she was exhibiting her fantastic pencil portraits, silk paintings and incredibly detailed fantasy maps. She’s been a practising artist for over 20 years, has a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art and a Post-Grad in Education, was a teacher for 16 years and has been a freelance illustrator for the last 6 years, including working for HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and as an Artist-in-Residence for Oxford University.

Sophie has illustrated 15 books so far, specialising in hand drawn detailed pen & ink illustrations and fantasy maps, including creating the fantasy maps for Anna Stephen’s ‘Godblind’ and Anna Smith-Spark’s ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, both published by HarperVoyager 2017 and for Diane Magras’s ‘The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ by Penguin Random House, published 2018, for which she is now drawing the sequel’s map for.  Most recently Sophie has seen her artwork on the front cover of Far Horizons magazine. Sophie has also been a panellist, moderator and an exhibiting artist at BristolCon. Sophie is a shortlisted nominee in the 2018 British Fantasy Awards in the Best Artist category.


She is also a published author with BFS Award winning independent press, Grimbold Books, has been a full member of The Society of Authors and ALCS since 2013 and was an author/illustrator in the 2015 Cirencester Literary Festival. Her epic illustrated fantasy debut, ‘White Mountain’, the first of her Darkling Chronicles trilogy was re-published in December 2014 by Grimbold Books. She is still writing the sequel, ‘Darkling Rise’ and has had a number of stories published including her sci-fi short story ‘Silent Running’ featured in acclaimed anthology, ‘Fight Like A Girl’ published by Kristell Ink in 2016, and ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’, a dark fairytale in anthology, ‘Shadows of the Oak’, published December 2016 by Tenebris Books.  Sophie also has two Darkling Chronicle novellas, ‘The Siege of Kallorm’ and ‘A Friendship Forged’, coming out later this year.


If this wasn’t enough, she has also recently opened her own Etsy store! Sophie lives in Gloucestershire with her four white wolves, and over the summer I asked her if she would take part in my continuing series of interviews about finding the time to be creative. Here is what she had to say…..

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
ST: I wake, usually after an insomniac night of between 3 – 4 hrs sleep and sit for about half an hour while my vertigo settles so I know I’m safe to stand up and walk to the bathroom. Annoyingly I get vestibular vertigo every day, some days are far worse than others, but I need to move slowly and give my brain a chance to stop swirling. My waking times vary due to my library job, so on mornings I’m working at the library I wake about 7ish on non-library days it’s nearer to 8:30 – 9 depending on how late my four doggies will let me sleep! I take them out for exercising & play for at least an hour, they then get their daily Piriton and treats, more exercise and play, then ‘fishy on a dishy’ (I have a whole embarrassing song ritual which goes with this) which involves giving them tablets/supplements in their favourite tinned salmon and tuna. Did I mention that my daily life is dominated by my four huge white wolfies? More exercise and play (and at the moment a lot of massaging my poorly dog and Photizo laser treatment). I never eat breakfast, I had forced myself for a few months but in all the heat that’s dropped off entirely. By about 10/11am after I’ve fed the birds and done my doggie stuff, I work for about 2/3 hours, either on drawing for a commission work or silk painting/other art (for sale). Sadly, I rarely do any writing these days. Before I got ill, I’d be writing for a solid 6 hours or so, now, my concentration and the mental exertion needed for writing maxs out at about 30mins. After the dogs lunch and my own, I continue working until 3pm ish when I take them all out again for a couple of hours. Back in for them to rest and more work then out again for another hour before they have their dinner. I only check emails and social media in the evenings, I’d get nothing done otherwise. After a final toilet for the dogs I head upstairs and mess around online or writing notes/little excerpts or sketching drawing ideas until about 2am. I rarely sleep much before 3.

GB: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
ST: One of my older dogs Tolly has degenerative myelopathy which paralyses his back legs and travels up the spine, so he requires so much help and attention throughout the day that it’s difficult to carve out any time for other things. I deal with it better on some days, if he’s relatively good and can walk a few steps before collapsing and worse on days when he’s bad and is just dragging himself around. The other time zapper is usually having to juggle several projects at the same time, like buses you have a quiet period then they all come at once!

GB: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
ST: Small steps. It’s obvious, but if you have a hectic life or are struggling with illness, you physically and mentally can’t take 5 or 6 hours just for yourself to go work on a project or block everything out until you complete it. No-one scales Everest in one go, tackle the small foothills first, one stage at a time. Every moment spent on a creative endeavour, no matter how short, is time well spent and is a success.

GB: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
ST: I get my best writing ideas/scenes when on the toilet or in the bath/shower, bizarre but true, and I get my best art ideas at night when I’m struggling to sleep. Actually being a total night owl my creative brain really ramps up in the wee small hours. There’s something a little magical about being awake when everyone else is asleep and just listening to the night sounds outside for inspiration.

GB: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
ST: Some quiet alone time at least, which is why I’m so active at night, I rarely get quiet times during the day to just think about ideas and work out plots/scenes or artwork solutions, so my night times are essential. If I do nothing creative in a day, in whatever medium that may be in, I get really depressed, I literally need creativity for my physical and mental health!

GB: Final words of wisdom?
ST: Try to be kind to yourself. I say this as someone who beats myself up all the time over my lack of productivity, not being prolific, not writing fast enough (I’m glacially slow), not getting a project done by a deadline etc etc. Criticising yourself to the point of paralysis is self-defeating. Try not to be like me! Life throws curve balls at you all the time, it’s hard, it’s tough, shit happens, so give yourself a break if you’ve dropped a ball, missed a deadline, if you’re only writing a book once every 5 years while your friends whizz one off every few months, or if you’re only completing a few artworks every year while others manage new works every day.

Huge thanks to Sophie for her answers and insights. I love her advice to those of us struggling to find time and am a great believer in the power of small steps to move yourself closer to your artistic goals.

If you’d like to find out more, contact or commission Sophie, then all her links are below:

Website & Blog:

Illustrations: sophieetallisillustrations

Book: thedarklingchronicles

FB page: facebook/fantasyepic


If you’d like to read more interviews about finding creative time, the previous ones can be found here: Andy Bigwood, Joanne Hall, Aliette de Bodard, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gareth L Powell, Iain Clark.


The Neon Faerie

She’s finally here!


The Neon Faerie

It’s taken a while but I hope you agree she’s been worth the wait. Sitting in a nightclub doorway,  our neon faerie matches the viewer with a steady gaze. Guardian-like, yet in stockinged feet, in a dark alleyway that would usually be fearful for women alone, she is quietly confident – her inner strength is a comforting, shining light in the growing darkness around her. The location of the painting is inspired by Leonard Lane in Bristol. If you’d like to know more about the locations of the five Urban Faeries, check out their Gallery page. Feel free to ask me anything about the series in the comments below.



Detail – The Neon Faerie

In other news, I’ve been doing a few practice portrait studies of the two remaining faeries. Although these 5″ x 7″ head studies are much larger than the size the faeries will be portrayed in the finished paintings, they are still excellent practice. I definitely know these faces well now, and am hoping that will help to make the Graffiti and Litter Faerie paintings even better.


The Litter Faerie – study on 5″ x 7″ canvas board

I originally posted this portrait on Instagram, so if you’re not already following me there, please do. The Graffiti Faerie will be posted there soon too, along with other little work in progress shots now and again.

Until next month my friends!

It’s About Time for Kim Lakin-Smith

This month, it’s the turn of Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy and Young Adult author Kim Lakin-Smith.

Kim is the author of the immersive steampunk novel Cyber Circus (shortlisted for the 2011 BSFA Best Novel award),  young adult novel Queen Rat, and has been featured in numerous anthologies and publications including Black Static and Interzone.

Let’s find out how Kim makes time to be creative and balances family life and full time authoring!

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
I wake up to a chorus of dogs, cats and guinea pigs demanding feeding. Once everyone is satiated, I see my daughter, Scarlet, to her desk where she logs onto her laptop, ready for the online school she attends. Then I get out my mat and do my best attempt at yoga or Pilates, ‘assisted’ by two excitable dogs!

The writing starts around 10am, when, coffee in hand, I collapse onto the sofa and open my notebook. I write nonfiction on a pc and fiction using pen and paper. I am a Paperblanks addict; opening the little metal clasps of an antiqued notebook is very inspiring. I also love the fact that I can write anywhere, a coffee shop, library, train, etc.

I aim to write 6 pages every day. I’m not sure of the word count but I write in a tiny, indecipherable scrawl so it’s usually enough to make my brain feel emptied out. In-between, I perform the duties of your average domestic goddess and try to post on social media – something I struggle with as I’m a pretty private person. Usually I try to think of the inanest thing I can and go with that 🙂

I finish up work around 4pm, in time for the next round of feeding at the zoo. Evenings are reserved for family time, Scarlet’s homework, US TV shows, and the occasional night out. I’d love to say I collapse in bed with a good book around 11pm, but more often than not, my husband, Del, and I are also accompanied by two cats, a fat Labrador and a mad spaniel.

GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
Everyday life is my biggest time suck. I think it is a conscious choice whether a person allows themselves to be interrupted or not. Some writers are totally self-absorbed; family, friends, reality, everything comes second to the writing. My persona choice is to embrace these interruptions to my writing day. I do dream of a perch in the garden in summertime a few years from now when Scarlet is happy at college and everything is peaceful.

GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
I live in a family of social media addicts and do my best to personally steer clear of mobile phones and being online too much 🙂 That said, I use the internet daily for research. On the occasions, I have had no internet connection, my productivity has increased tremendously. It is a modern dilemma for us all!

GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the compromise that comes from trying to juggle work and parenthood. But there are also great splashes of technicolour which come from the wonder, pain, joy, and awe of having a child. In recent years, I have switched gears from adult SF to Fantasy for children and young adults. I’d love to say I write for Scarlet, but she doesn’t read books so I settle for remembering the child I was once and the kinds of stories I loved to read – J M Barrie, Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll, Michael Ende, and their ilk.

GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
You really do have to create time, by which I mean dedicate a realistic portion of the day to working on your craft. In terms of writing, I think it is all too easy to underestimate how valuable it is to read. See your reading time as adding to your practice. In addition, I find that I can achieve a lot in a very small amount of time so long as I dedicate myself wholly to the writing. Tuck yourself away, set an alarm and focus entirely on letting the words flow.

GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
I am often to be found making strange hand gestures! By this I mean I will act out a scenario or an action with my hands to try to spark ideas and come up with the ideal description. I also have to find exactly the right mood of music to fit each individual story.

GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
Only paper and pen, and a lock on the office door!

GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
I have asked Scarlet her advice on occasion, but she is a very fierce critic! She has introduced me to some wonderfully inspiring resources which I would never have known about otherwise – South Korean music videos, Japanese Anime and Manga, Youtube stars, and Cosplay.

GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
Coffee and music 🙂

GB Final words of wisdom?
How hard do you want to work as a creative? I would say that is the only difference between success and mediocrity. That, and wholly embrace the ethos of artistic self-reliance, as expressed so eloquently by the inimitable David Bowie:

I am immensely grateful to Kim for taking the time to answer my questions and let us sneak a look at her daily process and finding time to be creative. As ever, please comment below to ask more questions or share your own tips. If you’ve missed the previous interviews then just follow the links below:

Aliette de Bodard
Gareth L Powell
Joanne Hall
Andy Bigwood

It’s About Time for Aliette de Bodard

If you’ve been struggling to find time to be creative, and have also been following my website, you’ll know that I’ve written a series of blog posts full of advice from my creative friends. This week I’m thrilled to share with you a few insights from the incredibly prolific award winning author Aliette de Bodard.

Aliette de Bodard writes science fiction and fantasy: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and a British Science Fiction Association Award. She is the author of The House of Shattered Wings, a novel set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which won the 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award.

In addition to her impressive bibliography, Aliette also works full time as a System Engineer, is a wife and mother of two children under five and is a fantastic cook!

1.     Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
Currently it’s a bit of an atypical day, as I’m on maternity leave and writing/childcaring full time. I get up, run the eldest to school, and then get about 2-3 hours for my own appointments, cooking lunch, and writing in whatever cracks are left? Then, shortly before lunch I pick up eldest from school, get him to eat lunch and settle in for his nap. In the meantime I deal with the youngest who’s still a baby, which means feedings at odd times (generally not the most convenient ones). And in the afternoon I play with both kids before dinnertime comes around. By the time my husband comes home I’m generally headed for total collapse and netflix videos!
2.     What is your biggest challenge regarding time at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
My biggest challenge at the moment is not finding enough time to write–I genuinely have very little of it that’s not taken up. I’m trying to write in the morning before the day has completely exhausted me, and also on weekends when my husband is around and can take on some of the burden of childcaring for me. I usually get a good chunk in on Sunday morning when he and the eldest are at the market shopping for food.3.     Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
I used to, but for some reason Freedom won’t start up on my laptop anymore, and I haven’t found anything that really satisfies me? I haven’t found it really effective–I tend to research things on the internet for details and cutting it off wholesale didn’t work out for me. I know there’s finer tools out there but I haven’t really convinced myself to try any of them. And the internet and social media are contributing to keeping me functional at the moment (because getting out of the house isn’t always easy), so I have to admit I’m not that motivated to cut off the internet, even to write!

4.     How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
I’ve become very good at writing in snatches of free time, though I still need large chunks for first drafts–for everything else I do checklists and run through them and it’s actually worked surprisingly well, better than binge writing. I basically went through two rounds of edits on my novel while being the primary caretaker for my eldest (though I admit naps are very useful in that respect and I don’t know how I’ll cope when they don’t happen anymore!).

5.     What tip(s) would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
I think the hardest thing is to pace yourself–when becoming a parent I still expected to write on the same rhythm and production schedule as before, and of course that wasn’t going to happen! I know I find it very hard to forgive myself when I’ve not written because someone is sick, or because stuff happened that required extra laundry or cleaning the house or something–and a big part of this, for me, has been accepting that I can still write, but that it’s totally ok not to write or to write more slowly if that’s how it works for me.

6.     Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
I’ve found the two best ways to deal with plot problems that have me stuck are going for a walk, and drawing a mind map on paper (it has to be on paper for some weird reason, it doesn’t work when it’s on a computer, though I do love Scapple as a piece of software).

7.     Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
Not that I can think of? I think the most helpful was finding parents in similar circumstances, either young parents or people who remembered what it had been like to be parents–it’s very helpful to be able to chat and share, and also to set aside time to write together.

8.     Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
I would love to involve my children in my writing, but right now they’re a bit young! I have no doubt that as they grow up they’ll feel free to give me their opinions of my plots and characters, though I’m not sure how much of it will make it into the final book…

9.     What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
Green tea. I buy sencha from the local Japanese shop, and it’s basically my one treat of the day (well, my six treats of the day as I consume rather a lot of it).

10.  Final words of wisdom?
I think there’s this great pressure when you’re a parent (and especially a mother) to dedicate yourself to your child, and to feel terrible guilt when you fail to? And if you want to do it that’s totally fine, but if you don’t it can become stifling very quickly. I know that for me I needed to strike a balance between time for others and time for myself, and I had to teach myself not to feel guilty about taking time to write.

My thanks to Aliette for taking time to answer my questions, despite her obviously busy schedule! As ever, feel free to ask questions or share your own tips in the comments below.
If you’ve missed my previous blog posts on finding creative time, just click on the links below:
Thanks also to Lou Abercrombie for the photo of Aliette

The High Rise Faerie

It’s been a long time coming, but the first painting in my Urban Faeries series is finished!

Please welcome…..(drum roll)…..



The High Rise Faerie.jpg

20″ x 30″ Acrylic on canvas

What do you think?

I can now reveal that there will be a total of five urban faeries (not all female), set in the city of Bristol and that each painting will be set at a different time of day, highlighting a different facet of urban living. As you can (hopefully) see from the High Rise Faerie, her time of day is sunset.

The complete series looks something like this:

The Litter Faerie (Sunrise)
The Graffiti Faerie (Midday)
The Diesel Faerie (Afternoon)
The High Rise Faerie (Sunset)
The Neon Faerie (Night)

I am now frantically painting The Graffiti Faerie and hope to be able to reveal her to the world at BristolCon on the 29th October. Also at BristolCon, my husband Neil will be speaking at one of the panels, followed by a reading from a very special book of his – check out his website for more details.

Until then, please do ask me anything about this painting or leave me a comment – I’d love to know what you think!



It’s About Time for Joanne Hall

In another blog post about finding creative time, I’m thrilled to share with you the advice and tips from writer Joanne Hall.You may know her as the author of The Art Of Forgetting series, Spark and Carousel and the forthcoming book The Summer Goddess.

Jo is not only a full time author, but also the chairperson of BristolCon and is Acquisitions Editor for Kristell Ink. So with at least three jobs that we know of, how does she find the time?

G: Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

JH: I wake up, walk the dog for half an hour or so while I think about what I’m going to do for the day, grab a cup of tea and some breakfast and go to my office where I check emails and social media to see if I have anything pressing to do. I usually have several projects on the go on different computers, so, for example, I might spend the morning editing a book on my desktop. I break for lunch at one, walk the dog again watch the news, then I get out my laptop and work on whatever I’m working on on there from two until about 5.30, when Dog and I have another walk. I usually stop then, but if I’m particularly enjoying whatever it is I’m working on I’ll carry on until about eight and walk no 4. I don’t usually work after 8.30 at night because it makes me too wired and I can’t sleep.

G: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

JH: Just having too much stuff on the go at any one time, and I find things slip through the cracks unless I write myself strict To-Do lists and do them. I’m not in the position where I can turn down work that might pay now at the expense of work that might pay in the future, so paid work has to take priority and I find other projects fall to the bottom of the heap.

G: Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

JH: I sometimes use MACfreedom – that’s a good one. It costs around $10 and it shuts off access to the internet for a certain period of time. And if you want to go online in that time period, you have to reboot! It helps me get a lot done in a short space of time, but it’s a pain if I need to stop and look something up.

G: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

JH: Just do little bits at a time. If you can sit down and really apply yourself for, say, 20 minutes, you’d be surprised how much you can actually get done. Carve out 20 minutes when you get up, or before you go to bed, or in your lunch break and just apply Bum Glue and put pen to paper (or whatever your preferred medium is. ) And don’t be shy about asking for the time you need – ask a friend to take the dog out, shut the kids out of the room and just do it!

G: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft.

JH: I often work out very complicated scenes in my head while I’m walking the dog, and sometimes I come back to the present and realise I have no idea where we are…

G: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?

JH: Tea. And breaks for walking. Since we got the dog, who you would think would be a distraction, it’s actually really helped me to get outside and just have periods of uninterrupted thinking time while walking around. Often by the time we get home I’ve completely worked out the next scene in my head and all I have to do is write it! (This also works if you don’t have a dog, but if you’re going to roam the neighbourhood muttering to yourself, a dog makes you look a bit less bonkers!

G: Final words of wisdom?

JH: Enjoy your craft, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not doing as much as you hoped or working as fast as you hoped. But don’t be afraid to let your creative work take priority when you need it to – value your work!

Spark cover

Massive thanks to Jo for her answers. If you’re lucky enough to be going to FantasyCon this weekend, be sure to check out the launch of the The Summer Goddess – more details about the launch can be found here.

If, like me, you’re only attending FantasyCon virtually, you can also find Jo on Facebook, Twitter (@hierath77) and her own website.

To catch up with the previous blog post in this series about creative time, just follow the link below:
Andy Bigwood

As ever, if you have tips to share about finding the time to be creative or would like to ask me any of the questions just leave me a comment. Stay tuned for more creative time questions and answers over the next few weeks.

The Mask She Wears

If you cast your mind back to October last year, you may remember a painting I did for a Wet Canvas Challenge all about Masks.

Well the fascination with women and masks has stayed with me and is fast developing into a series of paintings that I envisage adding to in the future. Here are the three in the series so far. Let me know what you think! Prints and postcards of these three (and more) will be available to buy soon. In the meantime, I am working hard in the studio and hope to have more paintings to share with you all soon.


WP_20160725_003 (2)

Mask – Yellow


Mask – Blue

mask red

Mask – Red