Sunday, 15 September 2013

The creative process:Q&A with Nancy Tillman

1.    Animals figure prominently in your books. What is your favorite animal?

   My favorite animal is my pug, Figgy.  That’s the truth!  Fig is my mascot… he sits beside me every day as I write and illustrate.  Other than that, every animal has special characteristics that draw me to it. Everyone is unique and wonderful in its own way…and each one suits a child differently.  Giraffes are so tall they are perfect to help children pick apples.  One can easily cross a stream upon a hippo.  Who better to have a water fight with than an elephant?

2.    If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why?

  I suppose I’d be a big, beautiful bird.  It would be so wonderful to fly.  I’d drop in on all the other animals. Maybe I’d be a flamingo.  I’ve always been enchanted by them.

3.    Why do you think children relate or are drawn to animals?

Children are drawn to things that stimulate them or nurture them. Animals are full of joyful surprises and funny noises… and many are great cuddlers, too.

4.    The child in I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love pretends to be many different animals.  Why do you think children enjoy pretending to be different people, animals, or things?

 It comes naturally to them, probably because pretending is so developmentally helpful. By trying on different personalities, children learn social differences and empathy for others, among many other things.  Plus, it’s FUN!

5.    When your own children were growing up, how did you encourage them to use their imaginations?

Here’s one way that I’ll share with the parents out there.  I often told my children they could scream if they did it silently.  I still have memories of my son’s silent screams.  He could let a lot of energy out without a sound!  Try itJ

My daughter, Tess, had an alter ego by the name of Jessica Reindeer.  Jessica had a dog named Candybreath.  I loved to listen to their adventures.  Once Jessica told the neighbors that her dad had died from eating junk food.  I had to explain that it was Jessica’s dad, not Tess’s dad.

6.    What was the inspiration behind the story of I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love?

 I wanted to give children the joy of becoming another creature with the comfort of knowing their parent would always recognize them.  And I always love to create interactive pages that allow children to “be” the animal either in action or in sound.

7.    Is the cover image of I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love inspired by the photograph of you with a giraffe that is featured on the back of the book?  

Yes it is!  My publisher, Jean Feiwel, loves that picture and asked me specifically to create an illustration inspired by it.  Children I’ve met on tour always tell me they love that picture, too.  That picture was taken in Kenya.  The giraffe, Lynn, licked me all over my face.  I was holding food in my mouth!

8.    Your books are heartwarming and very comforting but always close with the phrase “You are loved.” Why?  

Quite simply, it’s a message no one gets enough of.  It’s the bottom line take-away of all my books, so I always want to end with it.

9.    Millions of families across the nation have grown to love your books dearly.  What is it about your stories that you think creates such a special connection with your readers – children and parents alike?

I try to give parents words to say what they already feel for their children.  Most parents really deeply feel those words, and their children can tell.  In their early years, children are little sponges. I love knowing parents are getting those messages of love into their children before many of the world’s other messages make their way in, or before barriers go up.

10. Can you describe your creative process? How do you choose a subject? Do you have a favorite place where you go for inspiration or to work out any blocks? Do you write or illustrate first? Are you inspired by friends, family, scenery, other?

 I am inspired by the natural beauty of the world around me, and the beautiful faces of young children looking up at me.  When I succeed in reaching those children, I want to do it again and again.  Yes, there are special places that are especially inspirational to me… many countries in Africa have provided me with beautiful memories to work from.  But I could just as easily be transported by a crow that talks to me on a morning walk, or fog over a wheat field.  As much as I can I try to paint wide open spaces that children can imagine themselves in. 
Generally, I write first, although there are illustrations that I can already see in my mind.  Sometimes I envision an illustration that might influence text. 

Nancy Tillman's newest book is I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love

Visit Ms. Tillman's magical website here.

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