Guest Author: David Melling
The idea for Hugless Douglas came about while reading to my son, who was four at the time. It began with a series of silly made up hugs. One particular night we were both yawning our way through a story and when we’d finished I said ‘It’s time for a Tired Hug,’ The next night we had a Lights-Out Hug. It snowballed from there really, with new hugs making an appearance over the next few days. The morning might start with a Breakfast Hug, then a little later a Can I have a Snack Hug? and so on.
Now, during this time I was spending my days at my drawing board trying to come up with a story for a bear. I hadn’t written a book with a bear as a main character and I thought it would be a nice, fun animal to draw. (When you know a picture book takes anything from 4-6 months to produce, these considerations are important).
Well, I wish I could tell you that it wasn’t long before I made a connection between bears and hugs. But, I’ll be honest, it was the best part of a week, skipping between conversations about different types of hugs in the evenings and trying to draw bear story-ideas during the day. It’s obvious now!
We Love You Hugless Douglas is the fourth title in the series. The ideas for the other titles in the series have, I suppose in some ways, been a collaborative process with my son. He’s 8 years old now but still occasionally loves settling down for a picture book bedtime story. So we chat and laugh and, sometimes, I might scribble a quick note of what he says in response to…well, anything! (If you want to understand how a children’s minds work there’s no better way, in my view, than talking to them!).
I am often asked about the themes that run through the stories. Well, they usually suggest themselves as I work although, as with any creative process, there are no hard and fast rules. Often, the trick is to recognize an idea when it’s staring you in the face (as I mentioned earlier!). The idea for We love You Hugless Douglas, and its theme about friendship, came about after I overheard a conversation between my children (I also have a 12 year old daughter), about the tricky business of friendships and who was popular at the time. It immediately took me back to my childhood and the playground dynamics that all children deal with…making friends is one of the most important parts of growing up, and is something that can cause worries for children.
Douglas has been a real joy to draw and its success has been a huge surprise to me. I’m very grateful to the growing fanbase both here and abroad. And I’m happy to say there are still a few more stories to be told about the world of Hugless Douglas!
David grew up in London. He studied Art and Photography to degree level. In the mid eighties, he started work as a freelance illustrator but soon found himself working in animation studios: drawing backgrounds, assisting animators and rendering cells for TV commercials and a handful of TV films including Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs, Grandpa by John Burningham and Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.
It wasn’t until the early nineties that David turned his attention to children’s books. “I fell in love with storytelling with images while working in animation. I love drawing characters, bringing them to life and letting them tell a story.”
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