Our guest: Award-winning author and illustrator Kevin Sylvester is the creator of the Neil Flambé series and the recent Kindie Award-winning MiNRS, all from Simon and Schuster. He is based in Toronto, Ontario.
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.
1. WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
A book called Uncle Wiggly. I was Wiggly. My brother Doug was Wolfie (yes, we would re-enact the plots). Later, of course, I got into anything with pictures – from Beatrix Potter to Spiderman.
2. WITH WHICH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY?
Max in Where the Wind Things Are.
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
Maurice Sendak (left).
4. IF YOU WERE TO THROW A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
Sendak, J.K. Rowling, Dav Pilkey, Winsor McCay, E.H. Shepard… And 5A: Neil Flambé; yes, I know he’s mine, but I’d like to see what he’d actually cook.
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
Characters you care about. You don’t have to like them, but you want to find out more about them, what happens to them.
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
Eclectic. I am curious about all sorts of things, so I tend to write stories about all sorts of stuff.
7. IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A CHARACTER FROM CHILDREN’S LITERATURE, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE?
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The cover illustrations for the first Neil Flambé books.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
Finish the stupid book.
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
I start by writing down ideas in a moleskin notebook. The plot goes on the right side, with notes about character, dialogues, etc, on the left side. Once I think I have a rough plot outline, and can hear the characters talking in their own voices, I begin writing on a computer. For illustration I often use a combination of pen and paper and then post-editing on my Wacom tablet. Although I’m now doing lots of drawing digitally from start to finish.
11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AND WHY?
Where the Wild Things Are, best explained in a video I posted a couple of years back.
12. TELL US ABOUT A BOOK THAT, FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER, HAS NOT FOUND A WIDER AUDIENCE.
It depends on what “wider audience” means…. Hmmm.. I loved the book The Swallow by Charis Cotter. It was nominated for a few awards, and has gotten some buzz. I thought it was great and should be bigger.