For my first interview of 2013, I am extremely pleased to showcase super-talented author and illustrator Melissa Guion. Baby Penguins Everywhere may be her first picture book, but it certainly won’t be her last. It is interesting to note that I can interview several people and get responses as diverse as the picture books they’ve written. In other words, I could interview ten authors or ten illustrators and ask them the same or similar questions and each would have totally unique answers. But all of them are fascinating. I know you will find Melissa Guion’s interview fascinating as well. Enjoy!
First of all, congratulations on the publication of your first picture book Baby Penguins Everywhere! It’s a wonderful book and I hope we see more from you in the near future.
1. Have you always enjoyed writing and drawing? And when did you decide that you’d like to be published?
MG. Yes, making books is probably my oldest dream. I wanted to be a gymnast for a while, after watching Nadia Comaneci at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. One out of two isn’t bad.
2. What’s the first thing you did when you got the news that your manuscript was accepted for publication? How did you get the news?
MG. I was actually hired without a manuscript! My future editor saw my artwork and emailed (via my agent) to say he wanted to give me a multi-book deal. I went into our first meeting fairly dubious, but it turned out he meant it. When I got home, there was an email in my inbox from the editor about how we might go about developing a story, and we were off.
When I got that email, I think I did all the obvious things like jumping around. I called my mom. I had champagne with friends that night to celebrate. The next day I told different friends and we also had champagne. I dragged it out.
3. How long did it take from acceptance to finished, shelf-ready book?
MG. People keep asking this and I keep guessing. I’m going to actually look it up right now… Start to finish, it took 2 1/2 years. That’s slightly misleading because, again, there was no manuscript. We made a handshake deal to do a penguin book in late 2009. I had a contract by the summer of 2010, and that’s about when I had my first dummy done. I turned in the final art in January 2012 and saw a finished copy in August 2012.
That’s a really long time. My second and third books will get done much faster, at least according to my contract.
4. How excited were you when you saw your finished book for the first time?
MG. I’m excited every single time I see it. I don’t know if that ever wears off.
5. How did you come up with the idea for Baby Penguins Everywhere?
MG. When I met my editor, I was a new mom and a first-time illustrator. My life was full of chaos. My editor suggested the premise of the lone penguin who finds a magic hat overflowing with babies. It felt applicable to every area of my life.
6. You also illustrated your book. What materials did you use to create the illustrations? Are they your favorite media to work with when creating art?
MG. I used pencil and watercolor. I thought about doing something experimental, but I already had plenty of challenges to deal with. Anyway, I really like watercolor. I love that it has a mind of its own.
7. Where can your fans go to learn more about you?
MG. I have a website, www.melissaguion.com. Readers can subscribe to my blog there. I try to update it a few times a month. I’m also on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BabyPenguinsEverywhere) and Twitter (@MelissaGuion).
8. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog on a Blog readers?
MG. If they’re ever in NYC, they need to go to Russ and Daughter, on Houston Street, for smoked salmon and horseradish cream cheese on a bagel. It’s the best! Penguins like it, too.