The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
Our guest: AIRLIE ANDERSON is a New Jersey-based author and illustrator with a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her most recent book, Momo and Snap Are NOT Friends, won the 2014 Gold Independent Publisher Book Award.
1. What is your earliest memory of children’s literature?
My Grandma would often bring Little Golden Books for my sisters and me. I loved lining them up so their shiny spines were all in a row in the book shelf. We would stick gold stars on the back of each one to show that we had read them together. Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are were bedtime staples.
Alice. What’s to be done when the real world gets you down? Fall down a rabbit hole of fantasy, of course.
Roald Dahl and Mary Blair. (Editor’s note: Mary Blair (right) was an artist and character designer for Disney from 1940 to 1954. She was credited as the colour stylist and concept artist for movies including Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Cinderella, but her influence is widely acknowledged to have been far greater than her credits would suggest. She was recognized as a Disney Legend in 1991.)
4. If you were throwing a KinderLit dinner party for five guests, who would you invite?
Ursula Nordstrom (publisher and Editor-in-chief of juvenile books at Harper & Row from 1940 to 1973), Leonard S. Marcus (children’s literature historian), Walt Disney, Margaret Wise Brown, J.K. Rowling.
5. Which quality do you think is most important in good children’s literature?
That the tone of the book is sincere, and gives credit to children’s sophistication. It’s best when a writer/illustrator is making something that he or she really loves, not just something that is supposedly “for children.”
6. If your own work has a defining characteristic, what is it?
Vivid color and painted texture. I always try to make something simple, yet meaningful.
7. If you were to die and come back as a character from children’s literature, who would you like it to be?
Peter. But I would drop my vendetta against Captain Hook and teach the Lost Boys to read.
8. If you could go back and redo one thing in your own work, what would it be?
I would have started writing my own material earlier. I always knew I would write my own stories, but for some reason they just weren’t coming out. They were trapped in my head, I think.
9. What is the greatest piece of advice you were ever given?
Get an agent. You WILL make it if you keep going. Write your own stories!
10. Describe your work process.
I start in a sketchbook, scribbling, doodling and writing. For a picture book I’ll make thumbnail sketches of the whole book with words included. The pictures and the words usually come at the same time. After I have a version (usually a little dummy book) that my publisher and I are happy with, I use a lightbox to trace my pencil sketches onto Arches watercolor paper. I do this with gouache (opaque watercolor). Then I’ll build the paint in layers for each spread.