Interview with Illustrator Courtney Huddleston

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing/illustration?

My name is Courtney Huddleston, and I illustrate children’s books for a living. Like so many others, I’ve had a fascination for good art and writing, since childhood. I was never the best at either, but countless hours of practice mixed with persistence, eventually lead to me becoming a professional. 

2) What inspired you to work on these books?

Whether it’s a kid in class daydreaming or a professional writer, everyone has ideas. I’m no different than either, and Audrey’s Magic Nine happened to be my latest idea. I started with the idea of bringing hand puppets to life. From there, I listed as many stories as I could in today’s pop culture with a similar vibe. Jim Henson’s creations, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, and Pinocchio are just a few that I listed. I tried to steer my story as far away from those iconic stories as much as I could, in hopes of putting a different spin on an old idea. And, that’s how Audrey’s Magic Nine came to be. 

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your books?

I didn’t initially try to establish a message or theme when I came up with this story. I was focused mainly on making it as unique and entertaining as possible. That said, the protagonist is a genuinely kind and selfless person from start to finish, despite having many  physical, mental, and emotional obstacles in front of her. 

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

As an elementary school teacher, my wife has no shortage of stories to tell. One of the more recurring stories is how much graphic novels motivate her students to read. Combine that with the fact that I’m a life long comic book lover, and the rest is history. 

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5) If you could sit down with any character in your books, what would you ask them and why?

I would sit down with Asa from Audrey’s Magic Nine, because he’s just one of the coolest characters I’ve had the honor of creating. But I wouldn’t ask him anything, because as his creator, I know the answer to any question I ask him. I’ve never been asked this question, but it made me feel very powerful for a moment. Ha. 

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Audrey’s Magic Nine was a webcomic before it went to print. The webcomic had a more followers than any of the social media outlets. 

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors/illustrators out there?

As cliche as my cliched answer may sound, the answer is to be persistent. The internet has leveled the playing field, making it easier to showcase your work, connect with publishers and agents,research industry trends, and much much more. All you have to do is always try to improve and never give up. 

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I recently wrapped up Book 3 of Audrey’s Magic Nine, and it will soon go through the editing stages. I am also doing freelance work for another kids book series, while developing a new story that I plan to share in 2019. 

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Audrey’s Magic Nine Book Two: The Pencil and the Dream by by Michelle Wright, Courtney Huddleston (Illustrator), Tracy Bailey (Illustrator), Francesco Gerbino (Illustrator) Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Audrey’s incredible journey continues in author Michelle Wright’s “Audrey’s Magic Nine Book Two: The Pencil and the Dream”. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

In Audrey’s Magic Nine: Book 2 the unwavering Audrey Hinkle proves that an extraordinary imagination cannot be easily vanquished. Even as she continues her quest to discover all nine magic puppets and defeat an evil queen in another realm, she finds that Earth provides its own set of challenges, requiring the sort of creativity and ingenuity that only Audrey can conjure. As she faces bullies, posers, carnies, and a terrifying enchanted dog, Audrey transforms hardship into unconditional love and acceptance through the power of her art. In the process, the truths of her time in foster care reveal themselves, and though Audrey faces the difficulty of these revelations, her fierce individuality helps her stay her course. Critically acclaimed for its originality, charm, and stunning art, Audrey’s Magic Nine, introduces readers to a dauntless heroine who encourages her audience to indulge fearlessly in creativity. Featuring over 140, full-color pages and bonus short stories Audrey’s Magic Nine: Book 2 celebrates whimsy, innovation, and the artist in us all.

The Review

The story of a young girl adjusting to life as an adoptive daughter while trying to help find a group of puppets who are in reality heroes and members of an elite council from another world, who were banished by an evil witch who dubbed herself the queen of the realm. The illustrations are beautiful as they highlight the protagonist’s dual life of saving these magical beings and learning what it’s like to be a daughter in a loving family for the first time in her life. 

The protagonists’s strength and will are something everyone can admire. Embracing her mission and bonding with parents she never thought she could have, the story highlights the struggles of children lost in the foster care system and the adjustment that comes with finding a family. Mix that with the often hilarious and always magical fantasy elements of the core story, and young readers everywhere will fall in love with Audrey’s tale. 

The Verdict

This was a fantastic sequel to this children’s book. Filled with action, humor and creative storytelling filled with important life lessons and themes of family and hope, this book built upon the first book immensely and solidified the growing mythology of Audrey and the Magical Nine. By book’s end, the mystery behind why Audrey is connected to these beings and how she got into the foster care system to begin with will be answered, and it will leave readers on the edge of their seat, eager for book three to be released. Be sure to preorder your copy of Audrey’s Magic Nine Book Two: The Pencil and the Dream today.

Rating: 10/10

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