Do you love thinking up new ideas? Do you jump from one idea to the next? Would you rather start tomorrow? Join Sozi as she experiences the elation, struggle and triumph of making ideas happen. Her idea is a story for all ages and a tale about getting to THE END.
Rilla Alexander takes young readers through another superb journey into the depths of the imagination with Sozi.
– Flying Eye Books
My Q&A with Rilla Alexander
What inspired you to make books for children?
When I was very little my mother would take my drawings, put them into her typewriter, and ask me to tell her what was going on. An early highlight was a story about my little blue trailer, a butterfly flying past and daddy burning the porridge – with the recurring line “her did everything her mother told her”.
I’d design the cover, mum would bind the book and she’d add a blurb and a bio: “Rilla is a home loving girl”.
We gave these books to our grandparents for Christmas and it was the highlight of the day to have them read your book out loud and be SO pleased with your gift.
I’ve been making books, in one form or other, ever since. I think I was brainwashed!
Do you sometimes have trouble seeing your ideas through to completion?
I’ve always loved thinking up ideas so much that I’ve often found myself overwhelmed by them.
When I was seven I started writing a book about a giraffe that I wanted to be a masterpiece. I drew the entire book in pencil but when I started to colour it in it didn’t look as good as I had hoped… and it stayed pinned to my cork board, taunting me as I grew older. When I left home to go to university I threw it away – ashamed for having let that idea slip through my fingers!
Nowadays I spend a lot of time drawing with both children and adults, and I find – no matter what age – we often abandon ideas simply because it’s not turning out the way that we expected. It really is such a challenge to keep going…but you can be so proud if you do finish your idea. Or as I often say “done is better than none”. As you finish more and more ideas, you can only get better.
You seem like the perfect choice of picture book creator for Flying Eye Books, and vice versa. Who approached who and do you have plans to make more books together?
Yes, yes! We will be making more books together! I love Flying Eye Books. Their books are beautiful, smart, fun, produced superbly and smell good too (as all books should!). We first met in Dublin where Offset (http://iloveoffset.com/
) had invited a group of artists – including Ben Newman (creator of Professor Astro Cat and an art director for Nobrow and Flying Eye Books) to do a project together. We had a lot of painting to do and so had plenty of time to get chatting.
Can out tell us about the process of making this book, from the seed of the idea to its publication.
Her idea has been with me for quite some time. In fact, I did another version of the story for my mother (when I was about 25) where “Her” was a mouse and every time “Her” got a little bit stuck with her idea “Her” called her mother. Her idea turned out to be a rocket ship so she could go and visit her mother – to save on the telephone bill!
And so when I was once more stage-struck by my own high expectations, I decided to rewrite that story. I really didn’t know what was going to happen this time – maybe the ideas might get exasperated with her and build her an idea finishing machine? I could dream! Every line in the book was written or drawn as I experienced it. The bit about thinking up ideas was easy and joyful to do, but as I hit the part where Sozi procrastinates, I procrastinated. And it was completely true when I wrote “Yet even after she finished the start and worked till half past the middle, she still didn’t know what’d be at THE END and if she’d have to begin again.”
By the end of the book Sozi does actually finish her idea, which turns out to be her book – and, in doing so, I finished mine too! Though, it really wasn’t the end for that idea. Next I turned my attention to publishing it…of course, I had designed a very elaborate book with a die-cut dust jacket and cover and many more pages than a “normal” picture book so that makes publishing and production complex. But I’ve been very lucky to be supported by people who believe in the idea. I also put on exhibitions (including making a life size sculpture of Sozi and wooden idea toys) and started speaking to more people of all ages about finishing ideas. I often do feel like I am living in this book along with Sozi. It’s even more true than I knew when I wrote that last page.
What were the last 5 picture books you bought?
While I lived in Berlin I bought many wonderful old books (mainly in German, Russian or Czech). But now that I am in Portland – and I can sit in a book store for hours and happily read away (rather than just look at the pictures) – many more books in English are joining my shelves!
The last five were:
The Day No One was Angry by Toon Tellegen and Marc Boutavant
The Lion and the bird by Marianne Dubuc
Zoom Zoom Zoom by Katherina Manolessou
A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
While not technically picture books, I went on a bit of a Spike Milligan spree recently and bought Silly Verse for kids and Badjelly the Witch. Or should I say “rebought” because I often have to buy books that are stashed in storage in Australia that I haven’t been able to read for over ten years!
Also, I’d like to suggest everyone who loves picture books should seek out Ed Emberley’s monograph by Todd Oldham. It’s such a treat to have so much of his work together in one big fat book!
Check out Rilla’s stunning website
& be sure to follow her on Twitter
Here are some of Rilla’s first draft sketches for the book.
These are some of her second draft sketches
And finally some rewordings of those sketches
The finished book