Today is exactly 2 months until the release of my debut picture book The Peddler’s Bed on September 1! And I couldn’t be more thrilled! I can’t believe it’s been nearly 2 years since I submitted the manuscript to Ripple Grove Press; time sure flies! Last month, I interviewed Bong Redila, the illustrator of The Peddler’s Bed. This month, it’s my pleasure to share an interview I did with author/illustrator Jami Gigot. Jami’s picture book Mae and the Moon comes out September 8, also from Ripple Grove Press. It looks spectacular and I can’t wait to read it!
Please enjoy Jami’s fabulous interview!
Q. What inspired you to write your debut picture book Mae and the Moon?
After my kids were born, I wanted to capture these amazing fleeting moments of our lives and also started thinking a lot about my own memories as a child. I started to write and draw bits of memories, words, silly poems and stories, trying to see things from a child’s point of view. When my daughter Mae was a toddler she once told me that the moon was following us, and we would often (and still do!) spend time looking at the sky searching for it, so I wrote a poem one night that inspired this particular story. I have always wanted to pursue creating my own ideas and stories and have an incredible passion for picture books, so decided to give it a go!
Q. Have you always been a creative and artistic person? Besides writing and illustrating children’s books, in what ways have you used your creativity?
I would say so, yes. I’ve always kept journals full of random thoughts and drawings, but they have just been my personal little books, and focusing on illustration and writing to this level and sharing it in this way is quite new to me. I went to school for film and animation and have spent the last several years working on feature films as a visual effects artist, so I mostly work on the computer in a 3D environment, and in collaboration with many other talented folks. For a few years, I also ran a business called “The Grateful Thread” with my husband where we designed and sold rock n’ roll inspired soft toy guitars and monsters, which was good fun. I love the process of making things and I also love learning, so it’s not uncommon for me to have several projects on the go, from painting, to upholstery, to trying to learn the ukulele. There are just not enough hours in the day!
Q. What part of the process did you like best when you created Mae and the Moon?
Really, I enjoyed the whole process very much. I love the moment when after staring into space and thinking so hard my brain hurts, I’ll get the little sparks of an exciting new idea that helps move the story along. My favorite part of illustrating is getting to the place where the image is really starting to work and I can envision more clearly where I would like it to go. I spend a lot of time drawing, erasing, and redrawing trying to get the character expression and posing right, changing the composition, and exploring the color palette, so my drawings often look pretty messy, but I need to try things out to get it right. Once I feel like the composition and initial sketches are working then it’s all about building it up bit by bit.
Q. How did you hear about Ripple Grove Press and why did you decide to submit Mae and the Moon to them?
When I felt I had a dummy book in a state that was ready to send to publishers I did a lot of research into potential publishing houses. I don’t have an agent and most of the big name houses won’t accept unsolicited materials, so I targeted a few of the mid and smaller ones. I found Ripple Grove Press online. It is run by a married couple Rob and Amanda Broder, and having run a business with my husband before, I admire them for taking a risk and following their passion. I read an interview that Amanda had done and she mentioned a few of her favorite picture books, which really matched my personal taste, so it seemed like a good fit.
Q. Do you have a favorite picture book, favorite picture book author, or favorite illustrator?
So many! I love everything by Arnold Lobel, Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, and Roald Dahl. There are so many amazing illustrators there and I’m constantly discovering new artists. Some of my long time favorites are Moebius, Mike Mignola, Hayao Miyazaki, Dave McKean, Tove Janson and Shaun Tan, and some more recent favorites include Daniel Salmieri, Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, Julie Morstad, David Weisner, the list could go on and on.
Q. Why do you feel picture books are important?
The time spent between adult and child connecting through a world of wonder, learning and imagination is incredibly precious. Picture books cross all sorts of different styles, mediums, and cultures; they inspire children and bring out the child in adults.
Q. Where can fans connect with you online?
and I occasionally blog on Tumblr https://www.tumblr.com/blog/jamigigot
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring picture book authors or illustrators who are trying to get published?
Keep writing and/or drawing! The act of working itself will spawn more ideas and take you to new places. Experiment with your craft and push yourself to improve. Seek out advice and constructive criticism from individuals with more experience than you and don’t be afraid to change things.