I’d like to extend a big Frog on a Blog welcome to up-and-coming picture book author and illustrator Emily Kate Moon. Her first picture book (and certainly not her last) Joone was published this year. Joone stars a precocious and sweet little girl and features bright colors and a whole lot of fun. I think fun may be the perfect word to describe Emily Kate who, as you can tell by her wonderfully detailed interview responses, has a lot of fun doing what she does. You will no doubt enjoy this interview as much as I did.
Q. You are both an author and an illustrator; which do you prefer and how did you get your start in the children’s picture book arena?
EKM. Oooh… I don’t know if I could say that I prefer one over the other. I really love them both. And they are so interconnected, I find it that one gets the other going! When I sit down to start a new idea, I do it with a pad and pencil. If the words don’t come, the drawings do. And with each pencil stroke, the story comes to life, whether my pencil is making a picture or a word. It’s a really fun process. And when I’m really in the flow, it feels like I am channeling from some other place. That’s the most glorious moment of all: when I have no struggle to create what comes out — I’m just the one holding the pencil!
I got started in the children’s picture book arena when I was 17. I illustrated someone else’s book, but it didn’t go anywhere. It was an important step, though. It definitely started my career. (It’s a long story, actually. If people want to know more, send them to my website blog!)
EKM. My workspace consists of two desks: a drafting table that tilts, and a flat desk on which rests my computer and art supplies. I also have lots of cubbies and drawers and a big bookshelf full of children’s books! Looking around right now, my studio is kind of a mess. I guess I like it that way. It feels like something is always in progress!
My default medium is pencil on paper. It’s the easiest for me. I also love fat felt tip markers. But I really enjoyed learning how to use gouache when making the illustrations for Joone. Gouache is a magical medium! It’s somewhere between watercolor and acrylic. And I also love doing large paintings: abstracts of acrylic on canvas. I’ve just moved to Florida and right now I’m inspired by the ocean so I’m working on a series of wave paintings. I love standing outside at an easel, with the music on, lots of colors to choose from, a cup of brushes and a bucket of water — just going with the flow to see what happens!
EKM. Joone wandered into my head one day, fully formed, and bugged me until I knew I had to write about her. I had always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books, so it didn’t really surprise me that this little girl popped in one day and wouldn’t go away! She came with all the details: orange dress, purple hat, brown shoes and turtle atop her head! She even came with a grandfather. (The yurt came soon thereafter.) I grew up in California, so the setting is inspired by the country hills and vineyards that surrounded me there.
Q. Who are your favorite authors and illustrators? Any favorite picture books?
EKM. I have all sorts of favorites! And I love so many of the new authors these days that my list just keeps growing! I think storytelling, in general, is getting better. Which makes sense, I guess, as we learn from each other and expand on our collective work. But some of my classic favorites are Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight, Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne and Ernest Shepard, and the many tales by Beatrix Potter. As a little kid, I memorized Eloise from beginning to end (which is quite a feat, considering the length of that story!) and I later filled drawing pads with watercolor reproductions of Ernest Shepard’s and Beatrix Potter’s beautiful illustrations. I also love Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, and Joone’s proportions were greatly influenced by Calvin! And, of course, who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss… I’m pretty sure he has influenced us all! But my all-time favorite children’s book is Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. That one just really hits me! It makes me emotional all the way through because it is so well done. By page 4, my children are like, “Mom why are you crying?” and I say, “Oh! Because it’s just so good!”
Q. Can you tell us about any picture book projects you are working on right now?
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with picture book fans?
EKM. When I tell people what I do, they often say, “I’ve got an idea for a children’s book!” or “My cousin wants to do that!” It seems everyone has an unmade picture book in their lives somewhere. But it’s something that remains faraway… mostly because they don’t know how to move it forward. My answer to them is, “Just start it.” (Or tell your cousin to start!) Start by writing it down. Make it as good as you can. Read it to people, including children, and see what responses you get. Be willing to change it. If it’s great, submit it to an agent! (Agents are everywhere, but it will require some work to find the right one.) And some of the best advice I ever got is this: do not team up with an illustrator. It reduces your chances of being published. Either do it all yourself or submit the manuscript alone. These agents and editors who will read your manuscript are pros; they can envision illustrations and will match your story with the right illustrator. Most of the people who say they have a children’s book idea but haven’t moved forward with it is because, as they put it, they can’t draw. Don’t let that stop you! There is a whole world of illustrators out there who can draw and would love to illustrate your book! And the world might just love your story….