This week we are celebrating the work of Natalie Smillie as Twice Upon a Time, written by Michelle Harrison hits the bookshelves featuring Natalie’s fabulous cover and interior artwork.

Natalie has a very special talent for character creation, and this truly comes to light with her numerous fiction cover designs. This spellbinding mystery adventure is brought to life with Natalie’s eye-catching cover concept which is sure to lead this a best-seller. An energetic and dynamic mix of colours and characters projects the action-packed nature of this brilliant story.  Natalie works digitally and often shares her work on social media including some truly breath-taking illustrations of clouds which we highly recommend you take a look at, but you must also take a look at her brilliant sketch books which really gives you an insight into her creative process.

Twice Upon a Time  published on the 11th April by Simon and Schuster.
When the Morrow twins, Merry and Spike, arrive at dusty old Fox House, they think spending their holidays there is going to be dull. But they soon discover that there are secrets to the old house. A missing woman, a baby left on the doorstep, a locked study . . . As the mysteries pile up, the girls begin to investigate, using their own secret to help them: they can stop time!
What happened in this old house? And can their strange powers help them solve a decades-old crime?

Sounds great doesn’t it?

Let’s take a minute with Natalie to hear a bit more about this project.

Do you take notes when you first read the manuscript, which elements are most important when thinking about your design?

Interestingly, I don't usually get a manuscript to work with. I can count on one hand the number of times I've had a full one! It does make it tricky sometimes but that's where a great designer shines. They know the steer they want for the illustrations and with a good briefing document you can get all the information you need. 

With Twice Upon a Time I was given a portion of the text manuscript and a list of things that needed to be illustrated. I think I only ended up asking a couple of questions in the end but it was the sort of thing only an illustrator might pick up - for instance what sort of clothes do they want on the girls and any to stay away from. 

When I start to illustrate a cover I will often try and get the largest or most important elements right first, so for this cover it was the girls and the clockface behind them. Once those things are right, everything else falls into place around them. 

How does the briefing process work for fiction cover design projects, do you get guidance regarding the fonts which will be used and image positioning?

The briefing process is usually the same publisher to publisher. I will get sent a document with a pack up of any manuscript or portions of text, an overall idea from the designer for which way they'd like the cover to go, and possibly portfolio pieces of mine they like for this job. Sometimes if I'm really lucky, the designer will send over a roughly drawn cover with tentative placements for things, which is more efficient and easier to understand than writing it down. It's also important to leave room for any text that needs to go on the front or back covers - the designer will send over a text-only layout for me if they have already decided on a font and placement which means I can just draw around the text.

Usually the designer will pick and treat a font for the cover - especially if this is going to be a series. Keeping the story branding the same is very important and picking a great font is key to this.

Which story which you enjoyed as a child would you most like to illustrate?

My favourite stories in the world are Philip Pulman's His Dark Materials trilogy, anything by Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman, the Narnia series and the Harry Potter books - if I could illustrate any of those I would be extremely happy!

Do you have a favourite author you would like to collaborate, and would you like to write your own fiction book?

My friend Olivia Hope (Be Wild, Little One) is such a fantastic author and I would absolutely love to collaborate with her. We spent a good chunk of time working on some books together a few years back for our respective portfolios and I would love those books to find a home somewhere!

Do you listen to music or podcasts whilst you are working? 

I listen to all sorts while I work! Music when I'm in the mood for it although I do tend to sing along - BADLY - and I share an office with my husband who I'm absolutely positive doesn't appreciate it. I do put films on in the background, I'm partial to a drama or a thriller, and I really like horror films too. Podcasts if I've forgotten to listen to them and need to work my way through some episodes. I also listen to audiobooks a lot! Sometimes I really like to watch a film that relates to the thing I'm drawing - so for instance if I'm drawing something to do with dragons I might put a film on that has them in! Total immersion!

What’s the last book you purchased?

The last book I purchased was Dog Man Unleashed for my son who has suddenly become obsessed with them and takes them everywhere with him! The last book I bought for me was the 3 Body Problem (on audiobook) which I got sucked into after watching the Netflix show.

Natalie said about the book:

"UTTERLY thrilled to have a copy of Michelle Harrison's incredible new book Twice Upon A Time in my hands finally! It feels like forever ago I was painting the cover and internals for this book. It was such a pleasure to work under the watchful eye of Sean Williams who came up with an amazing concept for this cover and a fabulous brief for the internals which have turned out brilliantly, if I do say so myself - he basically let me go wild for which I am very grateful! I can’t wait for this to be released! Many congratulations to Michelle on another excellent story."

THANK YOU for spending time with us Natalie!

You can grab a cop of Twice Upon a Time published by Simon and Schuster.

Natalie is on Instagram, check out her artistic sneak peeks HERE. You can also view her magnificent online portfolio HERE. She is based on the south coast and available for events.

For more information regarding collaborating with Natalie please email

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