“After all (contrary to opinion), the author of a book is very important. Please believe me: without the author, a book would never get written.“ –Madeleine L’Engle in The Other Dog
A couple weeks ago I posted my review of Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge’s new release No Bears. After reading the book, I couldn’t help but wonder about the creative process that went on behind the scenes of creating such a imaginative picture book. Both Meg and Leila kindly agreed to answer several of my questions, and I think that you will enjoy their answers as much as I did!
Warning: Reading this interview will make you want to read the book!
Interview with Meg McKinlay:
|Meg McKinlay, author of No Bears|
Fiona is my niece and although I wouldn’t say she inspired the book directly, there are definitely some similarities between her and Ella. They both love making up stories and they are both quite forthright in their opinions. I might also add that there are some real similarities between myself and Fiona/Ella. I was once asked in an interview why I’d chosen to write Ella as ‘such a stubborn, headstrong character’, and at the time I didn’t quite understand the question. I thought, She’s not stubborn! That’s just what little girls are like. And then I realised it was what I had been like, and so that seemed natural to me. So to cut a long answer short – Fiona is a fellow story-spinner and a fellow Ella and I think that’s why the book felt like the right one to dedicate to her, even though she didn’t have a direct hand in inspiring its writing.
Why no bears?
|Meg McKinlay, author of No Bears|
But here’s a slightly abridged version:
The book wasn’t originally about (no) bears at all. It was about (no) ducks. I had been working on another book about a duck and he seemed to be trying to insinuate himself into all my work. One day, out of frustration, I typed the line THERE ARE NO DUCKS IN THIS STORY! And then I went ooh. Because that line sounded like the voice of a little girl. A little girl confidently telling a story, thinking she was in charge of it and knew everything about it, but all the while in the background, there were other things going on. Things that only the reader could see. Ducks, doing duckish things, and actually driving the story forward.
So I wrote the manuscript of a book called There Are No Ducks in this Story! But by the time that book was contracted, the first duck book – Duck for a Day – was already getting close to publication. After some discussion, my publisher and I decided it was best not to do two books about ducks so close together, so we decided to go with bears, which work equally well for the purposes of the story. Since I know all this background, I can’t help smiling to myself over the fact that in the end there really are no ducks in this story.
And of course, there are no bears either. Honestly.
As you would know, the choosing of favorites is always an impossible task. But if we keep to the field of picture books, what I can say is that a couple of firm favorites are Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Fiona Robertson’s Wanted: The Perfect Pet. I also love Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat and am a huge fan of all things Shaun Tan.
Related: Meg McKinlay’s website
Interview with Leila Rudge:
|Leila Rudge, illustrator of No Bears|
Congratulations to both Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge for the inclusion of No Bears in the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year 2012 Short List. Twice.
Read my review of No Bears