Welcome to my new monthly interview feature! As an Illustrator, especially one who is a longtime member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I am blessed to have a large circle of wildly talented friends, who are fellow artists, writers and designers. And I’m so excited to be interviewing them and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.
This month I am catching up with the lovely & sophisticated Author/Illustrator, Erin Eitter Kono, whose new picture book, CATERINA AND THE PERFECT PARTY, is coming out this summer! As you may have guessed, Erin and I first met thru our involvement in SCBWI. I can't believe now that many years have passed with much sharing and critiquing of each other's dummies, manuscripts and portfolios (not to mention family get-togethers and kid's birthday parties!).
Erin is an award-winning Author and Illustrator. (You can visit more of her work here!) She studied Art History at the University of Iowa and the University of Hull in England, and she studied graphic design and writing through UCLA Extension in Westwood, CA. She lives in Palos Verdes, CA with her husband, daughter, hamster, and the neighborhood Peacock, where she spends her days drawing and writing in a cottage surrounded by citrus trees and lavender.
Q: I’m so excited, after having the pleasure of seeing many early dummy book versions, to announce the arrival of your new picture book, CATERINA AND THE PERFECT PARTY. Tell us all about it! (Psst! Get your own copy here!)
A: CATERINA AND THE PERFECT PARTY will be published by Dial July 11, 2013. Caterina is a little brown bird with lots of colorful ideas, lists and lists of them!
Q: CATERINA follows the current trend of character-driven picture books that aim to build a brand around a strong central character. Can you share your thoughts and insights into this trend?
A: I think it’s not necessarily a new trend; Children’s books have featured series with strong characters from the very beginning. I’ve always been drawn to character driven books. I grew up on Curious George, Eloise, and the Peanuts brand. I like getting to know a characters over time and see them meet different challenges and adventures. They become like friends and that’s fun.
Q: You developed CATERINA with your long-time editor, Jennifer Hunt. In the changing landscape of publishing, how important is this relationship to your success as an Illustrator, past, present and future?
A: My working relationship with Jennifer has been extremely positive. She has believed in me and my work from the very beginning of my career and encouraged me to grow as both an author and an illustrator. I think that relationships are extremely important in this and any business. Authors, Illustrators, Editors, Publishers, Agents, Booksellers, Book Buyers—we’re all here with the same goal: to make/sell great books and to keep making/selling great books. The more we understand each other’s needs and goals, both on a project and long term, the better. So good communication and relationship building helps everyone.
Q: Tell us about your marketing efforts for CATERINA. For example: Are you doing any school visits or book signing? What is CATERINA’s web presence? Do you have a book trailer?
A: Dial/Penguin has created a generous marketing plan for CATERINA.
For my part, I’ve created CATERINA’s website. On it are activities, crafts, free downloads, etc. Building the site was super fun. (I can be a bit of a techie once I get started!) I’m hoping the site fills out the character’s world a little. Creating it actually helped solidify a lot of the details in my own mind. It’s been very helpful now that I’m working on the second book.
I also have some book signings, etc. in the works. I'm excited that I'll be going to my hometown in Iowa for one of them.
Q: And because it is my favorite question, I just have to ask: How do you work to maintain the home/work life balance being an illustrator mama? (I seem to recall that you had a newborn when you illustrated one of your early picture books!)
A: It ain’t easy, but nothing good ever is. Like many illustrators, I work from home. My husband travels and when my daughter was very young it was difficult to find the space and time to work. I would manage to get assignments in, but didn’t have the luxury outside of actual contract work that I think is necessary to maintain a certain quality in art. My daughter is in grade school now, and so working from home has gotten much easier. I’m grateful every day to have flexible hours, even if it means staying up and working after she’s in bed.
Q: After publishing eight pictures books, plus a new CATERINA book on the way, what advice do you have for illustrators, both those looking to break into children’s publishing as well as those who are looking to land their next book contract?
Thank you for chatting with me & everyone here at Bird Meets Worm, Erin! We love CATERINA! Hooray!