Interview With the Talented Katie W. Stewart, About Her New Book - Famous Animals
Katie W. Stewart is both a talented author and illustrator. I know her mainly through working on my Smelly Troll series together, which she illustrates.
However, the range of styles I've seen Katie master, extends far beyond troll pencil drawings. Most recently, I've been charmed by her adorable character parodies - famous figures recreated as animals.
Katie has kindly agreed to give an interview for my blog about her brand new, full-colour book, Famous Animals.
Katie, welcome to my blog.
1. I know you're a writer as well as an illustrator. Is Famous Animals the first time you've combined the two in a book of your own?
Yes, it is, though I really can't say why. I always dreamed when I was little of being the next Beatrix Potter, but that all faded as I grew up and got caught up in trying to make a real living. Now I'm old (and almost decrepit) so I've decided to do what I want to do.which is write and illustrate. I've written four novels in the last few years and I've illustrated plenty of books for other people, but I've never got around to doing both for myself until this year. It's rather satisfying!
2. Here's an exchange that I love from the movie, Miss Potter:
"Bunnies in jackets with brass buttons. How ever do you imagine such things?"
"I don't imagine them. They're quite real. They're my friends. "
Do you consider your characters to be your friends?
Good question. I can't really say they are to start with. Famous Animals was different to when I write a novel, I think. As I go along with planning a novel, my characters become real to me. In fact, I probably don't start any actual writing until the characters I'm going to write about have become real in my head. With the illustrations for Famous Animals, I spent quite a while studying images of both the famous person and the animal I was going to portray them as, but they didn't really become real until I put them together on paper (or on the computer, I should say). There were some illustrations I rejected for the book and that was mainly because they never really came alive to me as I was doing them.
3. Is Queen Elizabear II the only character based on a person who's alive at present? What made you shy away from basing more characters on living people?
Yes, Queen Elizabear was all on her own in the 'still living' category. There's two reasons for that. Firstly, what counts as 'famous' these days is often not fame, but some weird sort of public obsession. People who've done absolutely nothing can become 'famous'. I didn't want to have to decide if someone was really famous or just a flash in the pan. Secondly, I didn't want to offend anyone, and I've put a disclaimer in the book stating exactly that. I don't think Queen Elizabear will offend Her Majesty though. She has a pretty good sense of humour from what I've heard and I do think Queen Elizabear is rather sweet.
4. How does creating illustrations for your own books differ from working for clients? Are there any challenges that are unique to working for yourself?
The main challenge to working for myself, I suppose, would be that there's no one sending me emails saying 'where are my illustrations?' I'm not terribly self-disciplined, so I can easily get side-tracked onto other projects and experiments unless I'm being paid and someone's holding a deadline over my head. The great thing with Famous Animals was that I didn't really suffer from that problem. The idea of the book really got hold of me and I found it fun to do the pictures, rather than arduous. That's partly, I think, because there's no repetition - each illustration is a totally new art piece. I enjoyed that.
5. Do you test your books on your children? What do they make of having a mother who creates such wonderful things?
With this book, I tested it on everyone who couldn't run away fast enough! I had the pictures on my iPad and showed them to whoever was silly enough to express the slightest interest, and even some who didn't. I think I was trying to prove that in this, my first year of not having a 'real' job, I wasn't sitting back doing nothing. As for my children, I guess if I was excited about an illustration I'd just done, I might have just made them look at it if they happened to come and look over my shoulder at the wrong time. To my eldest son, who lives away at University, my book was a chore he had to do when he came home for holidays. He's doing Honours in computing and has done a fair bit of work with InDesign in the marketing job he often does in his time off, so he was the one who got me through the actual publishing stage. My second son is sixteen - and do you know any sixteen-year-old boy who gets excited about what his mother does? My daughter (12), on the other hand, loved (or did a wonderful job of pretending she loved) the illustrations and was keen for me to do another book-full!
6. If you could meet one of your characters, which one would it be? What would you say to him/her?
I think I'd like to meet Edgar Allan Hippo and ask him what I need to do to put a smile on his face. He looks so miserable and exudes gloom. What happened in his life to make him so negative? You know yourself that Hippos can look quite cute and smiley, but poor old Edgar Allan looks as if he just needs a good cuddle.
7. Will any merchandise become available? I'd love a poster and some postcards.
Yes, I've opened a shop on Redbubble where I've uploaded a few of the illustrations and they're now available as prints, cups, cards, postcards, stickers, you name it. You could even get a scarf with Felix Mendelsswan on it if you wanted. There's a lot of my other work on there too, but if you want a print of a particular character from Famous Animals and it's not there, let me know and I'll upload it. I'm not sure about the cost of postage to other places, but what I've ordered so far (printed in Australia) was quite economical and the printing was high quality.
8. I notice that the cover clearly states 'Volume I', suggesting further volumes. What can we expect from you next?
Ah yes, good observation there! I'm into Volume II already. This time, I'm following a theme of 'Music', so everyone in it will be involved in music in some way, be it as a composer, a singer, a dancer or whatever. I have a whiteboard on my wall and my daughter has written a list of 22 that we've come up with so far, including Fred Astairedale and Placido Flamingo. There will be a few people in it this time who are still alive. I'm getting brave. It's still hard deciding who warrants the 'fame' tag these days though. My daughter is thrilled that I won't be doing Justin Beaver.
I have plans for other volumes, too. The next one will probably be Art and Literature, but I haven't quite decided yet.
Where can I buy Famous Animals?
Or it can be ordered into your favourite bookshop (ISBN 0994350503 ).+