Teresa Flavin at the Scottish Book Trust
I’m a Leeds, Yorkshire based author-illustrator. My mission is to delight and inspire people of all ages through my artwork, stories and teaching. Ever since I began drawing as a young child, I’ve been committed to the craft of making imaginative and beautifully finished artworks. Nothing fulfils me more than creating a painting, story or workshop that helps people feel excited and inspired.
My first love is illustration and I’ve been very lucky to illustrate for well-known international clients in my career. Along the way I taught at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and, when I moved to Scotland, I began to lead illustration and bookmaking workshops with children and young people in schools, libraries and art centres. I exhibited my work at galleries and art fairs.
I never expected to become an author as well as an artist. But the idea of writing an illustrated novel crept into my head and wouldn’t go away. I started writing The Blackhope Enigma while I was at home with a bad cold. I had no idea how to write a novel but I felt so strongly about the story, I kept going. It was inspired by my love of Renaissance paintings (the kind with lots of buildings, people and animals), labyrinths and mazes, old maps, Scottish castles and mystery stories.
Luckily I had lots of support from my agent, Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates Literary Agency, and I was delighted when Templar Publishing published it in the UK and Candlewick Press published it in the USA. I hadn’t planned on writing a series but there were plenty of threads from The Blackhope Enigma to inspire a sequel, The Crimson Shard. Again, I based the story on things that interest me: trompe l’oeil paintings, art forgery, eighteenth-century London and its dark side, including alchemy and even bodysnatching.
The final book in The Blackhope Enigma trilogy, The Shadow Lantern, was inspired by my interest in magic lanterns and their painted glass slides, ghosts and spirit photography – and I knew I wanted the trilogy to end in Blackhope Tower at Halloween. I had a great time writing the first draft on the atmospheric island of Suomenlinna in Finland and editing it back in the UK. Although it was very sad to say goodbye to my teenage characters, Sunni and Blaise, writing their magical stories was as fantastic a journey for me as it was for them.
Barrington Stoke published Yellow Rabbit, illustrated by Rich Watson, which is the (almost) true story of my lost stuffed yellow rabbit. Barrington Stoke also published my short illustrated novel for ages 12+, Jet Black Heart. It’s a dark time travel story inspired by the dramatic coast of the North Yorkshire Moors (I had recently moved to Yorkshire from Scotland). I sometimes wonder whether I would have set off on this path if I hadn’t moved to the United Kingdom. These islands’ mysterious landscapes, rich mythology and dramatic history are endlessly fascinating and they have provided me with rich material for stories and sketchbooks, paintings and other visual arts projects.
I started a new writing adventure in 2021 when I embarked on my first non-fiction book project for HarperCollins’ Big Cat series. My research for The Crimson Shard had led me down fascinating paths on the history of colour and paints. I wanted to present some of that information in an information book for young readers aged 7-11. In 2022, Our Colourful World was published. It’s chock full of interesting and quirky facts about colours, dyes and paints throughout history and around the world.
In 2015 I began teaching on the new BA (Honours) Illustration course at Leeds Arts University (formerly Leeds College of Art) and I have been proud to contribute to this dynamic academic programme with its outstanding students and staff. Though I stepped away from my Senior Lecturer role, I’m still an occasional Visiting Lecturer. I also lead occasional talks and workshops in schools and libraries.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What do you prefer, writing or illustrating?
I love both. When I do a lot of one activity, I miss the other so I try to keep drawing and painting after a big writing project and vice versa!
Which of your novels is your favourite?
I don’t have a favourite – I like all my books for different reasons. Each one has aspects of things I love like art and magic and mystery.
Will you read the story I wrote and tell me what you think?
I wish I had time to help everyone who asks me this question, but unfortunately I don’t. If you are a young writer, I suggest you share your story with a teacher who will be able to give you feedback and advice. If you are an adult writer, you might think about developing and sharing your work in a writers’ group or adult education class.
The internet has lots of advice and resources for aspiring writers, including literary consultancies that will assess manuscripts for a fee. I would suggest you check out The Writers and Artists Yearbook, which had loads of great information and guidance.
Will you come to my school?
I love visiting schools and libraries. You’ll find information on how I do events and how to book me here.