AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR INTERVIEW: Chrissie Krebs
Chrissie Krebs is not only a very talented illustrator and author, but also a lovely person who cracks me up on a regular basis! It's no surprise to me, then, that one of Chrissie's most recent humorous picture books, Rodney Loses It! is vying for the title of Book of the Year: Early Childhood in the 2018 CBCA Awards.
Chrissie illustrated the book, and the story was written by the equally talented Michael Gerard Bauer. Rodney Loses It! was published by Scholastic's Omnibus imprint in 2017, and is funny and fun, yet also meaningful.
I'm so thrilled that Chrissie joins me on my blog today to talk about her books, creative process and inspirations, and more. Let's see what she had to say...
Can you tell us a bit about your book, and the themes/issues it explore?
Rodney Loses It! is written by Michael Gerard Bauer, and I illustrated it. It’s about a rabbit that chucks the biggest tanty because he has lost his pen. The theme of frustration is a pretty big one in this book.
What was the inspiration behind illustrating this particular story, and did it change much as you went?
I must admit, I am a highly-strung, easily frustrated person. I totally related to Rodney. I did notice that I pulled all the faces that Rodney pulled as I illustrated him. I must have looked like a mad woman when I was drawing him!
How do you hope readers will connect with the book, and/or what do you want them to take away from it?
I want readers (in particular, young readers) to realise that the emotions of frustration and anger do not necessarily mean scary or shameful. As a society, frustrated and angry emotions aren’t talked about often, or if they are, it is in a serious way. Frustration and anger should be seen as a tool to guide us.
Everyone suffers from these emotions every now and then, lets celebrate being human – or a rabbit with human emotions. Lets see frustration in a humorous light. It’s ok to feel frustrated at times, as long as we aren’t hurting anybody with it.
Do you have any suggestions on ways parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers and readers can get more out of the book?
With Rodney Loses It! I love asking the kids what they do when they get angry? What kinds of faces do they pull when they are angry? What kind of activities make them feel better if they are angry or frustrated?
They love showing me what kinds of faces poor Mum and Dad usually pull when they do something frustrating!
Biggest challenges in illustrating this story?
Illustrating Rodney Rabbit was a lot of fun. I did, however, have to be aware of some challenges with Rodney’s story - he was the only character in the whole book and all he did was interact with other objects and himself. Rodney was his own one-man show. Lucky Michael Gerard Bauer’s story was so hilarious – that’s what made it easy to draw Rodney’s character.
Are there any tidbits from the publishing process of this book that you could share with regards to working with the publishers and/or the illustrator or author?
Michael Gerard Bauer would have to be one of the funniest and nicest people to work with.
In general, the author and the illustrator do not have much to do with each other; we work closely with the editor who acts as the mediator for any changes.
Can you let us in on any sneak peeks into your next books or other projects?
Pig in a Wig, which I wrote and illustrated, is out in all good bookstores now.
What influences do you think shape your work?
Growing up, cartoonist Andrew Fife from Hey Hey It’s Saturday was definitely a big influence. Also, Sydney political artists Bill Leak and Paul Zanetti, I hate politics but those guys could draw hilarious characters and facial expressions. I would be constantly cutting out the political cartoons from the back of the newspapers and studying them closely.
Do you have a favourite children's book that you can never get enough of? What about a favourite book character?
Aaron Blabey’s Pig the Pug is hilarious. He does THE best facial expressions. I also love the fact that he is a bit of an antihero. Pig is a jerk, and we love him for it.
Where do you do your work, and do you have any particular rituals in your creative process?
I work from home and if I don’t have a contract with a tight time schedule, I am a terrible time waster. I will get on the internet and waste time watching documentaries on how marbles are made or Dr Phil episodes or worse – pimple popping videos, and not get anything done all day. I need forced routine or I just waste my time.
But when I am on a tight schedule, I can do twelve-hour days and not even stop for lunch. I must admit - I love being busy. I feel so satisfied after putting in a twelve-hour day doing what I love.
What got you into creating books?
Creating books was the only thing I ever wanted to do ever since I was 4 years old. I just didn’t realise people did this for a living until I was in my twenties.
Do you have some tips for other creatives?
The old cliché – Don’t give up. Don’t make excuses not to be creative. Surround yourself with supportive people who value you and respect your creative time – being creative isn’t just a hobby that people can encroach on, it is valuable time that sustains us and is a necessary part of our lives. If you have people in your life that don’t respect that – you need to find yourself some better people.
What's something you wished you had known earlier in your career?
Maybe patience is something I wish I had a grip on. The need to sit on a manuscript for a little while before shoving it under an editor’s nose is essential. I look back on some of the manuscripts I submitted years ago and I inwardly cringe. They were pretty bad. Making sure your manuscript is at its best is so important. I wish I had known that.
Best investment you've made during your career?
My WACOM tablet is the best thing I have invested in. I now work digitally and it is so much easier and faster than the traditional way. No more posting original artwork and sweating bullets, hoping it will arrive in one piece at the other end too!
Can you tell us something not a lot of people know about you?
I can read tarot cards and I have a degree in glass blowing.