Tom McGrath is based in the North West of England, working as a freelance illustrator since 2012. Despite being repeatedly told that all artists drink too much absinthe, cut their own ears off , and only make money after they’re dead – he has always wanted to be one. In fact, this has only encouraged him. He still has both his ears.
Who inspired you to write Space Baby?
The inspiration for Space Baby comes from my dad, who is constantly looking up, and amazed at what he sees. That amazement is in the beauty of a night sky but also in what it signifies, the ever-growing universe filled with countless wonders to be found and understood. His dad, my grandpa, was a chemist and encouraged my dad’s fascination during the lunar landing and space race; I think because he knew that the natural awe of looking up could be stoked to encourage a deeper interest in WHY space is so beautiful.
What’s up there? Why does it look like that? What do we look like from space?
Those questions are passed on through generations. Even now, when my family gets together to celebrate the holidays, my dad is likely to pull us out from the warm house into the cold, clear winter night to appreciate whatever splendor is on display.
My brother is a rocket scientist, Naval aviator. So, I guess it was him who really pursued advancing the limits of our answers to space’s awe. Now, he has a son that is already fascinated by space with toy airplanes and a plastic telescope. I, on the other hand, became an author to make up answers to unanswerable questions in ways that only fiction can.
Space Baby is dedicated to my dad, but it celebrates multiple generations of looking up to appreciate something that might otherwise be taken for granted. Space is amazing. It deserves to be admired on cold nights, and I hope this book helps a few more families do exactly that.
How long did it take to write Space Baby?
I finished writing Space Baby in 2015, collaborated with the incredible illustrator Tom McGrath in 2019 to bring it to life with images, and then became distracted by COVID. I rushed to publish a children’s book, Grow Through It, to benefit UNICEF’s relief efforts and then embarked on a wonderful project with my mom to help her realize a publishing dream.
Now, all these years later, I’m thrilled Space Baby is lifting off.
What is the message you hope to convey with Space Baby?
1) Space is amazing.
2) Love is something you take with you everywhere you go.
3) Everyone should follow their passion.
Angelic, the main character, is the instigator of this space adventure, and while I come from a family of boys (one brother!), it was important to me that the main character was a girl. Fascination breeds passion, which shapes life. I like to imagine that Space Baby might play a small part in sparking more fascination with Space and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math that help us understand it.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about writing?
FAVORITE: Unexpected magic along the journey. Whether I outline a story or sit with blank paper, the writing journey is filled with little moments of discovery that fuel the grind.
“I never expected that character to do that.” “Wow, the plot connected in a way I didn’t plan.”
It’s these things, subconscious or otherwise inspired, that feel like magic that I wield each time I sit down to write.
LEAST FAVORITE: Well, it’s not all magical moments of connection. There’s also a lot of disconnects, confusion, and aimless wandering. Some days I’ll finish writing thinking that I surely created something terrible... or maybe I didn’t create much of anything that day. Fortunately, I’ve learned that these moments are part of the journey, and I tell myself that it’s all part of getting to the good.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries. I don’t write at home much because I love being surrounded by people. Headphones in, surrounded by paper while typing furiously, might not feel like the most social environment, but I love looking up while I type to soak up the people, smells, and colors of the bustling world.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book?
I don’t have one way of celebrating, but it has become a tradition to email my family and friends to share the news. This started as shameless marketing, but now it’s more a shared reflection with the ones who matter most. Books take a long time from inception to publication, and much of life has often changed for them and me. These little emails help me say thanks for the love and support they’ve shown while I did what I love most.