December 14th, 2015

A Festive Interview Featuring a Very Naughty Gingerbread man

Happy Holidays everyone!

Today on the CA blog I am talking to the creators of ‘Tough Cookie’ written by Kate Louise and illustrated by Grace Sandford.

What could be more festive at this time of year than a story about a gingerbread man? The one in this fantastic picture book is spectacularly naughty!


Welcome, Kate and welcome, Grace.

First of all, how did you guys get to meet each other and when did you decide to collaborate?

GS: Kate and I got the chance to work together thanks to being paired by Isabel. I did a few sample spreads from the text and the story found a home with Sky Pony Press!

It’s been a pleasure working with Kate, I feel like we’re on the same page (no pun intended!) and I hope to work with her again in the near future.

KL: Thanks, Grace! I hope to work with you again, too!

Kate, can you tell me where you got the inspiration for this particularly naughty character?

KL: It all started with pyjamas. I was wearing gingerbread man pyjamas and baking gingerbread men for Christmas when I had the idea. I was measuring out ingredients and thought about a cookie character made without sugar and how they’d act/taste/fulfill their cookie purpose without an important ingredient, which later changed to a gingerbread man without ginger – the most important ingredient of all for a gingerbread man!

Grace, the colour palette you use for this book is wonderfully striking. Can you tell me how you went about choosing the right colours?


GS: Thank you! Finding the right colour palette for the story was strangely easy which it usually isn’t! In my mind I wanted to convey the same sort of magic that you feel from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate factory’ and so I chose colours that remind me of children’s sweets and pure nostalgia.

Can you tell us a little bit about your editor and publishing house? How did the book all come together? What were the highlights?

GS: ‘Tough Cookie’ is published through Sky Pony Press, an in print of Skyhorse Publishing. Our editor Julie was wonderful to work with and was very enthusiastic about the story. For my part of the process I sent off the pencil roughs for Julie to approve, once they were approved I could start painting! Very few changes to the artwork were made and the process felt incredibly natural as if we all had the same idea in mind.

For those who haven’t seen ‘Tough Cookie’ in person, the quality of the printing is stunning and of a very high quality. It’s quite a treat to see what you’ve spent so long working on printed and designed with such care!


KL: It is such a gorgeous finished book! My part involved working on the script with Julie, tweaking and checking proof pages etc. Grace also sent each illustration to me so we could discuss them together – but there was often very little to discuss because they were so great!

What advice would you both give to budding picture book writers and illustrators?

GS: Draw every single day. It doesn’t have to be something exciting or beautiful, you don’t even have to show anyone. Behind every illustrator is a few sketchbooks filled with rough doodles! Also, just be yourself.

KL: I try to keep up a habit of making up little stories for things in everyday life. A spotless ladybug, an ignored zoo animal, a skunk with a wristwatch . . . I know when a story catches and is something I can develop further. ‘The Upside-Down Fish,’ ‘Pierre,’ and ‘Tough Cookie’ all started out as what ifs and grew into something more.

The lead character is a gingerbread man – what would both your top sweet treat be? I am partial to a bit or red velvet cake.

GS: Velvet cake is a good choice! Although I’d probably have to say Haribo (especially cola bottles). I love how fun those sweets look, I feel like a child when I eat them!

KL: Oh I love red velvet cake! My top treat would have to be chocolate tiffin.

How will you be spending the Holidays?

GS: I will be staying with my parents and will be doing lots of relaxing! I feel like its the one time of the year you can get away with wearing your pyjamas constantly. Oh and I will be spending lots of time with the family cat, Bruce!

KL: Christmas morning is spent at home with my family and Freddie. There’s 6 of us, 7 if you count the dog, so it’s a great atmosphere. In the afternoon we go to my auntie’s for dinner and stay there until late, playing games and eating cheese! There’s 13 (sometimes 15) of us at my auntie’s so, again, great atmosphere!

Any gift recommendations for picture books to our readers?

GS: ‘Augustus and his Smile’ by Catherine Rayner. It’s one of my favourite picture books of all time and inspired me to pursue a career in children’s books. It’s such a simple but wonderful story with the most beautiful illustrations!

KL: I’d recommend Guojing’s ‘The Only Child’ – a stunning wordless picture book with a feel of all-time favourite, The Snowman. It’s simply gorgeous. I also like Lemony Snicket’s ‘The Lump of Coal’ – a fun tale about a lump of coal who wants to be an artist, searching for a miracle at Christmastime.

Thank you very much both of you!

Have a magical Holiday period.

KL: Thank you – you too!

Grace has also put together some brilliant ‘Tough Cookie’ activity sheets. You can download these here, print and colour in!

TCActivitySheet02 TCActivitySheet01

You can see Kate and Grace’s fabulous book trailer for Tough Cookie here. It was voted book trailer of the day by the fabulous folks at Shelf Awareness.

You can buy Tough Cookie online and in stores now!

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by Isabel Atherton


“It’s a pleasure to work with Isabel. She always knows exactly which proposals to pitch to me and makes the whole process run so smoothly.”

David Barraclough, Managing Editor, Omnibus Press