authors, interviews

Jeanette Stampone on Shadow and the Girl

Jeanette Stampone was born and raised in a spooky three-hundred-year-old English house. Jeanette now lives in a small country town in Western Australia with her husband and two boys. Shadow and the Girl is her debut picture book, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton.

From the publisher:

A giant girl towers over Shadow. Driven by fear, Shadow runs. And so does the girl. But can they really run from each other?

How long did it take to write Shadow and the Girl?

Nearly five years!

I first had the idea back in 2017. It was about a monster living under a child’s bed. I decided to change the monster to a shadow, but still had lots of trouble getting the story to flow.

So, I then completely changed the scene and took Shadow outside to a park. That’s when it really began to work. I sent the manuscript to a few publishers, but not many because I was worried the story was a bit too different. I eventually put it away and worked on new ideas.

But then in 2019, I saw Red Paper Kite were open for submissions. They were looking for quirky and unusual stories. I sent it in and … YAY! It got accepted. I feel like my story was just waiting for the right publisher.

Shortly after I signed the contract, coronavirus hit and the book release got delayed, which meant more waiting. But finally, in 2022, it was ready for print! It’s taken a long time but every stage has been exciting.

Did you have contact with the illustrator, Demelsa Haughton, while the book was being illustrated?

We really only made a few comments on each other’s social media posts. But other than that, no direct contact. My publisher worked closely with Demelsa and occasionally I was asked my opinion on her work, but that was very rare. I actually loved having no contact with her because it meant she was free to use her own creativity without me influencing it too much. She ended up making the book even better than I imagined!

How do you go about writing the first picture book draft?

So this is what normally happens:

  1. Random idea pops into my head.
  2. Idea swirls around my head, getting in the way of anything else I am trying to do!
  3. Get out my notepad and write a summary of the idea.
  4. If I am happy with the summary, I hop onto the computer and ‘grow’ the idea. I add more sentences and not worry too much about it being perfect. I just want to get the basic story down at this stage.
  5. Read through my story and chop, change, and polish until I’m reasonably happy.
  6. Finally, take the story to my critique group for feedback!

Do you have a tip for kids whod like to write their own picture book?

Imagine the illustrations as you write but try not to describe exactly what would be happening in the drawings. Let the illustrations tell one story and your writing tell another story.

So instead of saying something like, It was sunny and Ella smiled, you could describe her physical and emotional feelings like this: The sun warmed Ella’s face and her heart sang with joy.

Can you tell us a bit about what you!re working on next?

I have a book coming out with Wombat Books, The Dragon Guest Handbook. It’s a fun but meaningful story and I’m really looking forward to seeing it in print. I have been so busy with the release of Shadow and the Girl that I haven’t had a lot of time to work on new stories, but I do have a big list of ideas. Hopefully I can start working on a few of those soon because they’re all in the swirling around my head stage!

Shadow and the Girl is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


Shadow and the Girl by Jeanette Stampone and Demelsa Haughton. The cover illustration shows a girl with plaits, wearing a white dress and a red cap, sitting back to back with a shadowy figure. They both have their feet in water. Behind them are alpine-looking mountains with snow on their peaks.

Peek inside the pages of Shadow and the Girl on the publisher’s website.

Watch an animation by Jana Kaminski (this is a video on the publisher’s Facebook page)

Visit Jeanette Stampone’s website for more about her and her writing.