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January 2016

Little Boy Soup by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillmann
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Artist Interview: Amalia Hillmann, Little Boy Soup

Balcony 7 is proud to present Little Boy Soup, a delightful new bath time book by Joshua Russell, illustrated with a contemporary approach by Amalia Hillmann. The following Q&A with Ms. Hillmann expands on her process and is accompanied by numerous images provided by her as she completed the project.

B7: Balcony 7 | AH: Amalia Hillmann

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B7: When Joshua Russell first approached you to illustrate Little Boy Soup, what ideas crossed your mind about the illustration style, and how did you determine this process?

AH: Once Joshua and I sat down to discuss how we wanted this book to look, I illustrated three sample images in three different media: cut paper illustration, acrylic paint, and a mix media of graphite pencil and digital coloring. At the time, I had just completed a large cut-paper illustration series. The style, texture, and character of cut paper seemed a perfect match for our book. Joshua was not familiar with the medium but was open to the concept. Once he saw the sample illustrations, we both agreed our book was meant to be illustrated with cut paper.



Little Boy Soup, Illustrations by Amalia Hillman, Image 1-2Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillman, Image 2







B7: Take us through the steps as you begin the concept of an illustration and then proceed with building it to the final version submitted for print.

AH: Each illustration begins as a quick black-and-white pencil sketch and grows into a colorful paper design. After reading the book’s text, I spend some time brainstorming ideas and sketching concepts. Once I have the final design approved, the illustration transforms from pencil sketch to cut paper as I begin cutting colored papers and cardstocks into seemingly random piles of shapes. I assemble all the unique elements of the illustration—such as a toy or the little boy—separately. Once all the characters and environments are finished, I glue everything down together on a piece of illustration board. The final illustration is then photographed to bring it into a digital format, edited, and sent to the publishing house.



Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillmann, in progress 1Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillmann, in progress 2Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillmann, in progress 3Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillman, in progress 4









B7: It’s a very unique approach that lends particularly well for this early reader niche of bath time books, especially with the clean lines and the depth of shadows from your cut-paper art. How did this process evolve over the course of your creative endeavors?

AH: Even before working on Little Boy Soup, I had already refined the main aspects of creating cut-paper illustrations, during both my creative work at university and earlier projects. However, each new project offers its own learning experience—from color choices to the order in which I glue down elements of a single image. I think the greatest evolution in my illustration process during Little Boy Soup was finally taking control of pacing the work.

B7: And now that this book is complete, what was the stand-out take-away from this experience?

AH: For me the most challenging part of the book-crafting process is working with the author, the editor, and the publisher—all the cooks in the kitchen. It’s a unique experience. Everyone involved with making a book wants it to be the very best it can be. We all come from various backgrounds with vastly different perspectives. Most of the time, this is a wonderful thing—I have learned more than I could have imagined from the people I have collaborated with on Little Boy Soup. As a layout designer and illustrator, I have strong opinions on the visual aspects of the book, but the author, editor, and publisher may have completely different thoughts. Finding the space where all our visions align is challenging, but when we do so, it makes the book even stronger and more beautiful.



Little Boy Soup, by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillman, interior 1Little Boy Soup, by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillman, 8









B7: In conclusion, please share your own background of influence from children’s books; is there an artist of note that inspired you long ago, and perhaps fed the creative energy we see from you today?

AH: As a child, I grew up reading and loving books by authors such as Eric Carle, who creates gorgeous, vibrant illustrations with painted tissue paper. At university, I was introduced to cut paper as an art form in a color illustration course. Although I fell in love with the process that semester, it wasn’t often requested by my freelance clients, so I didn’t often illustrate in this medium for several years. Recently though, I missed working in cut paper and began creating cut-paper illustrations again for my personal projects. As I work with cut paper, my process continues to evolve. I love experimenting with new ideas of how to use paper in my images! When Joshua agreed that Little Boy Soup should be designed this way, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to illustrate a book in one of my favorite media.



Little Boy Soup, by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillman, interior 10Little Boy Soup, by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillman, interior 9









B7: Thank you, Amalia Hillmann. Best of luck with Little Boy Soup!

About The Artist

Amalia Hillmann, The Eclectic Illustrator, Little Boy SoupAmalia Hillmann earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design/Illustration from Concordia University, Nebraska. Now a resident of Silicon Valley and a full-time artist, she innovates through a variety of mediums and art forms for numerous creative endeavors, including designs for sale on, and uniquely layered techniques mixing pen and ink, watercolor, gouache, and cut-paper illustration for contemporary children’s books.

Little Boy Soup is available for pre-order wherever books are sold, in print and digital formats. Here are convenient links to popular sites: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Visit for events and news.


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Business Fiction for the 21st Century

By Ann Bridges


According to popular community reader site Goodreads, “Business Fiction and Thrillers” is a growing genre, featuring books with plots driven by business issues and characters that are executives, managers, directors, employees, or investors.

And why not?

Eighty percent or more of the population works for private enterprise for most of their careers (as opposed to government-funded or non-profit organizations). Why has it taken so long for this genre to have its own set of characters and plots when there are legal and medical thrillers, crime dramas, science-fiction worlds for the technologists and futurists, historical fiction and mysteries, fantasies and underworlds, plus romance novels galore?

Perhaps it’s because, for so long, reading was seen as a means of escape from our real world. Or perhaps it’s because readers wanted to find out more about other professions they knew nothing about. It could also be that librarians and teachers, agents and editors, mostly came from the academic fields, with little familiarity or understanding of how exciting business can be.

Fast forward to the 21st century, when Silicon Valley executives are the focus of Hollywood movies, and their company’s astronomical valuations reflect the growing strength of our economy. There’s newfound respect for individuals who take risks, create jobs, and make profits. The modern day Gold Rush in northern California has captured the hearts and minds of the awe-inspired world.

Reading novels is a great way to explore any dynamic, new industry; learn what goes on in conference rooms behind closed doors; and benefit from an author’s research and experience, both for your curiosity and enjoyment, but also to enhance your career. All without having to memorize new management techniques and economic theories.

Marrying the reality of my own business background with an active storytelling imagination has resonated with readers of my two Silicon Valley novels, offering Business Fiction and International Intrigue within each title. The validation from industry insiders is gratifying.

For my first novel, Private Offerings (Balcony 7, Sept. 2015), academics, industry executives, tech writers and political figures were happy to add their voice to the importance of what I was attempting to do. Aside from hearing the wonderful words, “intriguing, suspenseful,” I was also thrilled to hear “ring of truth,” “demystifies Silicon Valley,” and “perfectly captured intensity of the Silicon Valley business world.” The icing on my literary cake was learning that Private Offerings was chosen by Wealth Management Magazine to be on their list of 10 Best Business Books of 2015; chosen for “depictions of high finance and corporate boardroom dynamics that ring true.”

My upcoming sequel, Rare Mettle (Balcony 7, May 2016), goes even further into the realm of International Intrigue, with a topic of great importance that I fear will only become popular when it’s too late: rare earths and advanced technology’s reliance on highly refined raw materials, the majority of which are supplied by China. Rare Mettle is my attempt to depict the worse case scenario in a way most people will understand: by bringing the data and facts to life through suspenseful fiction and fascinating characters.

Most recently, Jack Lifton, technology metals expert and senior editor at (who is still reading the book), wrote me a great comment:

“It may well be that you are prescient. I think it’s very plausible that China will consume all of its technology metals production by the end of the new five-year plan. This will effectively cut off the rest of the world. There is no way to bring mines, refining, and fabricating facilities on line rapidly, so that, intended or not, China could literally place the manufacturers and developers of consumer electronics in a position where they essentially give China control of production schedules. At worse, the movement of such manufacturing to China would become mandatory…”

Sounds like real-life implications to me!

So the next time you’re looking for a good book to read, ask your librarian or bookseller about this growing category of Business Fiction. You may find what you’re looking for—both entertainment and education combined.


Learn more about Ann Bridges, Private Offerings, and Rare Mettle at
Both titles are available wherever books are sold. Click these convenient links for purchase: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-A-Million