A Mini-Interview with Sophie Blackall
I have lost count of how many times I have read, looked, open and closed “Are You Awake?”. Sophie brilliantly wrote and illustrated it. Since I love the book and Sophie’s work so much, I had to asked her to be my last guest. It’s been a busy couple of months for Sophie, nevertheless she found time for us. With you, the fantastic Sophie Blackall.
Born in 1970, Sophie Blackall grew up in Australia. She completed a Bachelor of Design in Sydney in 1992 with honors. Blackall was seduced by New York and moved there in 2000. In 2002, she illustrated the children’s book “Ruby’s Wish” by Shirin Yim Bridges (Chronicle Books), which won the Ezra Jack Keats award in 2003. Since then, she has illustrated seventeen other books for children including “Meet Wild Boars” by Meg Rosoff (Henry Holt & Co) which won the Society of Illustrators Founders Award, and the “Ivy and Bean” series by Annie Barrows (Chronicle Books).
In the rare moments that Blackall is away from her desk, she can be found in the kitchen making preposterous birthday cakes for her children or wandering the Brooklyn flea markets in a daze.
Often exhausting but endlessly rewarding.
Which books, that were your favorites when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?
- “Winnie the Pooh” by A.A. Milne and E. H. Shepard (for its humor and completely original, endearing characters, both written and drawn),
- “The Elephant and the Bad Baby” by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs (for the clever details and unexpected compositions and the best repentant baby drawing ever),
- “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie” by May Gibbs (for its vintage colors and memorable characters),
- The entire Beatrix Potter library (I pored over these watercolors as a child, trying to recreate them),
- “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak (I think this was the first contemporary book I loved; I was an old-fashioned child),
- and, possibly my all time favorite, “The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes” by DuBose Heyward and Marjorie Flack (which I picked up just the other day and which transported me in a great rush to my childhood.)
Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience, that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.
In early 2009, having worked happily but relentlessly on children’s books for a number of years, I had an overwhelming desire to do something more grown-up. I stumbled on Missed Connections, the online listings posted by lovelorn strangers hoping to reconnect, and immediately saw those messages as drawings. I decided to illustrate them. In an effort to make myself actually commit to the idea, I endeavored to do a drawing a week, and post them on a blog. As the blog posts grew, so did this remarkable, surprising audience. The response was overwhelming, all the more because it was unexpected. I began to receive emails from all over the world; Italy and Argentina, South Africa and Israel. Magazines asked for interviews. The New York Times called. And regular people wrote begging me to help them find their lost loves. They told me my pictures had made their day, had pulled them out of a funk, had put a spark back in their marriage. Had given them hope. Hope in kindness and intimacy between strangers, hope in finding their own true loves. Hope of connecting. In 2011 Workman collected the series in a book, Missed Connections, Love, Lost and Found, which was named one of the Best Art and Design Books of 2011 on brainpickings.org (one of my very favorite websites).
Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? Please give us a peek.
It’s no longer a secret that I hide a whale in every book in honor of Moby Dick.
Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?
Email. Some of the people I love best in the world live in different time zones, so I like to see what they’ve been doing while I’ve been sleeping.
I love Are You Awake? Would you share anything you would like about the book and your experience as an author-illustrator?
This was my first book as author and illustrator and I learned a lot from the experience. I wrote the manuscript when my son was 3, and it finally came out when he was 12. In some ways it bears little resemblance to the book I imagined, and I admit that it was a rather disappointing process. Sometimes in publishing you don’t have much control over the finished book. But having said that, I read it to a bunch of four year olds at a pre-school recently, and they hooted appreciatively! So that was nice.
You can find more about “Are You Awake?” and Sophie’s process in her blog post.
Thank you for your time and the interview, Sophie! I’m so glad you had time for this. And to the readers, thank you so very much for following the series!
We still have 3 more interviews this week:
- Loren Long on Wednesday visiting Molly’s blog
- Antoinette Portis on Thursday stopping by Mikela’s blog, and,
- Brian Lies on Friday dropping in at Laura’s blog
- Marta Altes
- Eric Barclay
- David Biedrzycki
- Sophie Blackall
- K. G. Campbell
- Matthew Cordell
- Marla Frazee
- Brian Lies
- Loren Long
- Maurie Manning
- Yuyi Morales
- Zachariah OHora
- Antoinette Portis
- Matt Phelan
- Sean Qualls
- John Rocco
- Bob Shea
- David Ezra Stein
- Melissa Sweet
- Brian Won
You can learn more about the Series and the guests to this blog here.
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