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Creating a picture book can be at times mysterious and magical. Often authors and illustrators of the same book never meet. Rather, once the author has completed the manuscript, it is then sent to an illustrator who will work with an art director in order to make sure the illustrations are just right. So we thought it would be fun to give an author and an illustrator the chance to interview each other about their contributions to the same book.
Today we are pleased to have the honor of hosting both Sylvia Liu and Christina Forshay, the author and illustrator of A Morning With Grandpa.
First you’ll read Sylvia’s questions in BLUE to Christina about the illustrations. After that, Christina returns the favor by asking Sylvia questions in YELLOW about writing the manuscript. We hope you’ll enjoy their conversation!
Sylvia interviews Christina
What was the hardest part about illustrating A MORNING WITH GRANDPA for you?
Christina: I think the hardest part about illustrating A MORNING WITH GRANDPA was making sure the tai chi and yoga poses were correct. I used my kids and my husband for reference and took a lot of pictures of them posing so I could see the poses from different angles. But I had to make sure their posing was correct, so I watched a lot of YouTube videos and looked at a lot of tai chi books and pictures.
What was the easiest part?
Christina: The easiest part of illustrating this book was laying down the colors. I love figuring out a color scheme for painting and once I decided on Mei Mei’s dress colors, the rest of the colors for the book fell into place.
What career advice would you give to your earlier self when you first graduated from art school?
Christina: This is a great question–there’s so much I would say! I think the most important thing I would tell my earlier self is that being a freelance illustrator means you are also an entrepreneur. You have to make sure you know about marketing, taxes, and contract signing/negotiating, and that those things will be an important part of your career.
Is this the same advice you’d give to other aspiring illustrators?
Christina: Yes, definitely! The other advice I would give is to show your work! Find a critique group and/or a mentor who can guide you. Also go to conferences and workshops and put your work out there. You will see your work grow and improve.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would your dream job be in an alternate universe?
Christina: Definitely a rock star–no doubt! 🙂
Christina interviews Sylvia
I saw that you grew up abroad in Venezuela. How do you think that experience helped influence your creativity?
Sylvia: Growing up in Caracas made me appreciate how diverse people and cultures are. I went to an international school; my closest friends were Cuban-American, Iranian-American-Bahai, and Korean. I spoke Chinese at home, Spanish with my neighbors, and English at school. This mélange of experiences kept my curiosity alive and contributed to my creativity. Add a dash of tropical colors, music, and warmth and mix in a bookworm childhood, and you get my creative influences.
Where do you see your creative self in five years?
Sylvia: Continuing to grow as an illustrator and author—in what direction, I’m not sure.
Where do you get your inspiration from as an author?
Sylvia: From my daughters, who are so funny and interesting. From the fascinating ocean and its inhabitants, particularly cephalopods (octopi, squid, nautili, cuttlefish, and the like). From my favorite books (I have a soft spot for fantasy and science fiction).
Where do you get your inspiration from as an illustrator?
Sylvia: Pretty much the same as above.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Sylvia: Probably somewhat like yours, but less disciplined. I take the girls to school, I run or exercise about 3 times a week, I check social media and Kidlit411 (the website I help run), and then I tackle my projects of the day. They can be an illustration, a story revision, writing, or lately, marketing for A MORNING WITH GRANDPA. If I need a break, I take a quick trip to the library or run an errand.
Once my younger daughter comes home from school, the rest of the day involves driving her to a practice, attending a game of my older daughter’s, or putting together dinner. I always have a middle grade or book club book handy (I’m the parent reading at ball games and practices), so I keep up with my reading.
Sylvia Liu is an environmental lawyer turned children’s author and illustrator. A MORNING WITH GRANDPA is her debut picture book as an author. She is inspired by oceans, aliens, cephalopods, and more. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her husband and their two daughters. Visit her online at enjoyingplanetearth.com.
Christina Forshay was born and raised in sunny California, where she lives with her amazing husband and the two cutest kids in the world! As a child she could be found drawing, coloring and admiring her grand collection of crayons. She has been illustrating for the children’s market since 2006. Seriously, what could be more fun?!? Visit Christina online at christinaforshay.com.