Megan Wagner Lloyd is the author of the new graphic novel, Allergic, illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter. As you know, I loved Allergic. So I was pleased to be able to talk to both the author and illustrator (for the first time ever!) about their work creating this novel. Michelle, the illustrator, also has excellent tips for new illustrators trying to find their style, and both ladies have exciting news about a forthcoming project. Enjoy!
Hi Megan, I loved reading Allergic. Maggie is such a sweet character! So many kids have a variety of allergies, but why did you decide to write about an animal-loving child with a fur allergy?
Megan Lloyd Wagner: Thank you! I’m so happy to hear that! Like Maggie, I’m allergic to animals with fur or feathers. I also have other allergies, but I wanted to keep a narrower focus for Allergic, and I thought that kids would be able to really relate to loving animals and longing for a perfect pet.
Maggie’s family is expanding and she feels a bit left out with brothers who seem to like each other more, and parents expecting a new baby. Did you experience similar circumstances in your childhood?
MLW: I have five siblings, so I can definitely relate to both how busy and overwhelming things can get with a full family life, and the anticipation and trepidation that can come while waiting for a new sibling’s arrival.
Claire and Maggie hit it off quickly and realize how different their family situations are. I like the contrast you strike between both their desires and realities. What inspired your depiction of their friendship?
MLW: I think friendships can be particularly difficult when you are young because, with such limited life experience, it can be extra-challenging to really understand how different someone else’s life can be from your own. I wanted to show two kids who are really kindhearted and really care for each other, but who still have to navigate some bumps and bruises due to misunderstandings, mistakes, and frustrations.
Did you always want to write a graphic novel? What is the process like working with an illustrator?
MLW: I didn’t read graphic novels growing up, but immediately liked them when I finally found them. It took me quite a few years to work up the confidence to write scripts of my own, however.
Working with Michelle has been amazing! I know I can trust her to beautifully portray what I’ve brought to the story and also to bring her own vision and storytelling to the table.
Hello Michelle, what was it like collaborating with an author to bring their story to life? What is your favorite part of the process? Your illustrations were absolutely stunning and add so much pleasure to the story.
Michelle Mee Nutter: It was so much fun! At first I was really nervous. I had never worked with an author before and I wanted to honor both of our creative visions. This book is so heartfelt and I wanted to do the script justice. Once Megan and I first started talking, almost all of the nerves subsided. My favorite part was going back and forth with ideas and generating the concepts in the beginning. It was so exciting and it still is when we talk about it all! I really love working with Megan, it’s truly a joy.
What do you wish people knew about being an illustrator? What is your favorite kind of work to do as an illustrator? Custom portraits, picture books, graphic novels?
MMN: Being an illustrator is really fun but it’s also hard work, for both your mind and body. I never thought about how taxing this job is on my body, so now I have a strict stretching and rest routine. You can make a wonderful career out of illustration and there are SO many types of jobs out there. My favorite so far has been picture books and graphic novels. I love getting lost in characters and their worlds. A big benefit of picture books is the timeline, it’s a lot shorter than comics. A graphic novel takes so much time and that can feel scary.
How do you find inspiration for your work? And what advice would you give to budding illustrators trying to find their style?
MMN: For me, it’s a mixture of real world observations and looking to artists or animators I admire. I love taking walks with my sketchbook and drawing whatever catches my interest.
If you’re looking for a style, my biggest advice is to stop trying to find a style. Strange I know…but stick with me. You can’t force a style and if you draw consistently, you’ll notice the way you like to draw. At this point, lean into that and it will grow naturally. But keep in mind, you should be always growing as an artist. Styles can change and that’s a good thing!
Which other books have you had the pleasure of illustrating?
MMN: My first picture book was Peyton Picks the Perfect Pie written by Jack Bishop with America’s Test Kitchen. I’m also working on a new picture book with Jess Keating, author of Bunbun and Bonbon, Ocean Speaks, and so many more. We’re really excited about this one: Megan and I are working on another graphic novel too! So many fun projects in the works.
Who are some of your favorite illustrators?
MMN: Oh where do I start?! In no particular order: Jen Wang, Vera Brosgol, Shannon Wright, Gale Galligan, Shaun Tan, Maurice Sendak, Brett Helquist…and so many more. I could go on for days.
Megan and Michelle, what are some of your favorite graphic novels?
MLW: There are so many great ones to pick from, but a few I’ve loved are El Deafo by Cece Bell, Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, and Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright.
MMN: Twins by Shannon Wright & Varian Johnson, Stargazing by Jen Wang and the whole Babysitter’s Club adaptations (all those artists are absolutely amazing).
What do you both like to do when you’re not working?
MLW: I love reading, hanging out with my family, watching TV, and going on walks. And listening to audiobooks while I do necessary life stuff like cooking and cleaning.
MMN: Playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends. We’re all artists so we get super into painting miniatures of our characters and we even started writing a comic together about our D&D campaign.
Megan, is there anything you can share about your current work in progress? Do you think middle grade and graphic novels are the best fit for you or would you consider another format/age group?
MLW: I’m happy to share that Michelle and I are working on another graphic novel together with Graphix! We don’t have a lot to share about it yet, other than that it is a standalone (not a sequel), and that we’re both really excited about it!
I also have a (traditional prose) middle grade novel coming out with Candlewick in spring 2022 called Haven: The Story of a Cat, about a cat who must go on a journey in search of help when her owner falls sick.
I love writing in different formats and for different age groups, and have also written four picture books: Finding Wild and Fort-Building Time (both illustrated by Abigail Halpin), Building Books (illustrated by Brianne Farley), and Paper Mice (illustrated by Phoebe Wahl).
Thank you both so much for your time!
MLW: Thank you for having us!
About Megan Lloyd Wagner
Megan Wagner Lloyd is the author of the picture books Finding Wild, Fort-Building Time, Building Books, and Paper Mice. Her kids’ graphic novel Allergic, co-created with illustrator Michelle Mee Nutter, comes out on March 2nd from Graphix/Scholastic. Megan lives with her family in the Washington DC area. To connect with Megan and learn more about her books, visit her website, Instagram or email.
About Michelle Mee Nutter
Michelle Mee Nutter graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, 3×3 Illustration, Creative Quarterly, and more. Michelle lives in Boston. Visit her website, instagram, facebook, or tumblr.
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