Friday, 15 March 2013
Author Interview: Susan Stockdale
Susan Stockdale is the author and illustrator of a number of children's books, including Bring on the Birds, Fabulous Fishes, Carry Me! Animal Babies on the Move, and Stripes of All Types, which will be reviewed on this blog on 18 March. Stockdale's books have won awards from Parents' Choice, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Library Association, and Bank Street College of Education. Her work is featured on puzzles and in colouring books and other products.
How long does it take for you to write a book? It usually takes me
a few weeks to come up with my rhyming text. Then it takes me a few
more weeks to write the addendum, in which I provide additional
information about the animals included in my book.
What medium do you prefer to use for your illustrations? I
always create my illustrations with acrylic paint on paper. I like using
this medium because of its bright, opaque colors and because it’s
very “forgiving”; I’m able to paint over my mistakes easily.
How long does it take for you to do an illustration? It can take anywhere
from a week to a month, depending on the size of the illustration.
What kinds of writing quirks do you have? I say my words out
loud as I write them. I need to hear how they sound. This is especially
important since I write in rhyme, and the rhythm has to be just right.
Who is your favorite author and why? I have lots of favorite
authors! They range from writers of nonfiction like Doris Kearns
Goodwin and David McCullough, who impart historical information
with suspense and excitement, to fictional writers like Michael
Chabon and Jonathan Franzen, who write with imagination and
What is the writing process like for you? Is it the same with
every story you write? I follow the same process for every book. I
get an idea, for example - how animals carry their young. Then I
begin researching my theme and gathering information. Then I
synthesize this information into spare, rhyming text and an addendum.
What inspired you to write 'Stripes of All Types’? I was stirred to
create the book after seeing an exhibition of colorful frogs at the
American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Many of the
frogs had stripes that served a purpose, usually alerting other
creatures that they were poisonous. That gave me the idea to create
a book about how different animals benefit from stripes. I also love to
paint patterns, so this topic was a perfect fit.
Can you make a living as a children's writer? I’m trying! I’d say
that, adding the income generated by my school presentations, I
currently make the salary of a part-time job.
How was your first publishing experience? It was a steep learning
curve because I had been painting fantasy landscapes for years.
Then suddenly I was writing and illustrating a nonfiction book, in
which all the details in both the text and illustrations had to be
factually accurate. But I had a great editor and art designer who
patiently showed me the ropes, so it was a very good experience.