I am super excited to be sharing an interview with Robert Tregoning, debut picture book author of Out of the Blue, illustrated by Stef Murphy. This extraordinary picture book is one of my top picks for 2023!
In a very blue house on a very blue street, sits a little boy who feels as blue as the world around him. ONLY BLUE ALLOWED, by Blue government demand. Anything that isn’t blue, by colour law, is banned. But this little boy has a BIG secret: he loves the colour yellow.
For a long time, the little boy keeps his love of yellow a secret, but when his dad discovers the truth, something amazing happens. With the support of his dad, the little boy steps out of the blue and into a vibrant colourful world of possibilities! My daughter was literally overcome with joy as we read this book together and she has demanded to read it over and over again.
Out of the Blue is out of this world and it is my first top pick for 2023! I was over the moon to get the chance to talk to Robert and find out more about how this wonderful book came to be.
Hi Robert, my daughters and I absolutely loved Out of the Blue! Can you tell us a little bit about the book and the inspiration behind it?
Hello! I’m so glad you all enjoyed Out of the Blue! It’s the story of a boy, who lives in a dystopian reality, where the blue government has decreed that every colour is banned but blue. The thing is, this boy secretly loves yellow. ONLY BLUE ALLOWED is all the boy has ever heard. He’s convinced himself that loving yellow must be bad and keeps this love secret, even from his dad. But everything changes when Dad discovers the boy’s hidden love. Dad’s reaction is so beautifully brave and sparks a rainbow chain reaction that leads to the whole town expressing it’s true colours! The story is based on my experience of growing up gay in the 90s, under the section 28 law.
It often felt like the world I was living in wasn’t designed for me to fit in to it and that I had to hide parts of myself to be accepted.
The colour law in Out of the Blue and the boy’s secret love of yellow are a way of visualising those feelings.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed being creative but my love for writing picture books is something I’ve discovered fairly recently. After school I studied Architecture. There was then a plot twist and I ended up working as a performer in the West End! I worked at shows including Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For several years, I was surrounded by wonderful music and incredible lyrics day after day and that certainly played a part in my journey to becoming a writer. It was actually working at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that I really began writing. I helped some of the backstage crew to put on a pantomime performance for the cast before our Christmas Eve show one year and wrote a rhyming script.
A very lovely person spoke to me afterwards and suggested I think about writing seriously. Something clicked! I’d had ideas for books from a young age. I’d plotted stories and invented worlds but never finished anything. Now I tried writing rhyming picture book texts and the ideas kept coming! This all happened shortly after meeting my soon to be husband. He’s had the most incredible impact on my life. I hadn’t realised that I’d been living with a lid on my self-acceptance and self-celebration. Billy has helped me to lift that lid, to truly be proud and to find my voice! The feeling, that I had something I wanted to say, coincided with the spark of confidence for writing and eventually lead to Out of the Blue!
If you could paint your house any colour, what colour would you choose?
I do love yellow and I love how the painted house in Out of the Blue shines like the sun but my favourite colour is green! Being in green spaces makes me feel calm so I’d go for green.
What were your favourite books growing up?
I really loved the Winnie the Witch books by Valerie Thomas and Corky Paul. I also loved Lilly Takes A Walk by Satoshi Kitamura. I loved fantastical books with lots of imagination and detailed illustrations.
Can you tell us a bit about working with Bloomsbury and your publishing journey? How long did it take from idea to publication day?
Working with Bloomsbury has been amazing! I began writing Out of the Blue back in 2018. Around the summer of 2019 I signed the contract with Bloomsbury and the book began to take shape. Bloomsbury suggested we send the text to Stef Murphy and I’m so glad she liked it! Her illustrations are so rich and full of emotion. The way she’s brought the story of this young boy and his dad to life is more beautiful than I ever imagined it could be!
What’s next for you, in terms of writing?
There are a few picture books in the works which I should be able to say more about soon. The first of those to publish will be out later this year and is full of sparkle! In the meantime I keep scribbling down new ideas.
What advice would you give to someone trying to publish a picture book?
I would say be patient and always have a voice notes app to hand. I never know when an idea or a solution to a problem will arrive but it’s usually out on a dog walk or in the supermarket, so voice notes come in very handy.
Thank you so much for chatting with me, Robert! Out of the Blue was published by Bloomsbury, 2 February 2023.
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary feature contains my honest opinion.
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