October 25, 2011

Interview with Children's Author/Illustrator Peter Carnavas

When did you first know you wanted to be an author/illustrator?

I’ve been writing stories and drawing pictures for as long as I can remember but I think my interest in picture books really began when I was studying to become a teacher. As part of an assignment, I came across An Ordinary Day by Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder and I was fascinated that a picture book could be so deep, so wondrous, so original. After a few years of teaching and reading many picture books, it just made sense that I should attempt one of my own, given my interest in writing and drawing.

How many children's books have you written and illustrated?

I have written and illustrated five picture books, with two more on the way – Mr Darcy, written by Alex Field, and another of one my own stories, The Children Who Loved Books.

What is your writing and educational background?

I initially studied Media Studies at university, which mainly entailed watching movies and talking about them afterwards. It was an enjoyable degree that opened my eyes to some interesting films, though it was a bit of a struggle getting through the 8am screenings of 1940s European films that had running times of around 14 hours. I then studied primary school teaching and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not as many films in that degree but it did lead to a job, a wife and an obsession with picture books.

Congratulations on the release of your gorgeous picture book series 'Little Treasures'. 
Can you tell us about them?

The Little Treasures are beautiful little reproductions of my first four books, Jessica’s Box, Sarah’s Heavy Heart, The Important Things and Last Tree in the City. Each mini book comes with its own envelope which enables you to send the book as a gift. New Frontier has done an amazing job putting these together.

Was the new 'mini size' format published with a particular age group in mind?

The small format is perfect for little hands but, as always, I like to think my books will appeal to people of all ages. The size, along with the envelope, really turns them into gift books.

I really love how each book touches on a theme such as, love, the environment, family and self worth. How important are these subjects to you?

I can’t help writing about things that are important to me. Each of these stories began as an idea that moved me in some way, whether it was from something I had experienced myself or something I had read about. For example, The Important Things was inspired by a newspaper article but it soon began to cover territory that had always appealed to me: the stories lurking in secondhand stores, the importance of small things in our homes, as well as the theme of emotional respect and how people deal with the same situation in different ways. 

What do you want children to get out of Little Treasures?

I’d love children to discover the layers of meaning I try to embed in the stories, not just the aforementioned themes but the subtexts in the illustrations. All of the characters are quiet, independent children who find solutions to their dilemmas through clever thinking or cooperation and I hope young readers can be inspired by that in some small way.

Do you plan your picture books? If so, how?

My ideas begin as feelings or themes and I spend a long time simply thinking about it all before I write or draw anything. By the time I put the text together, most of the structure has already formed and I just push and prod the words into shape over a few hours. I then storyboard the illustrations and spend a long time doing roughs. This is when a lot of changes are made and a lot of the decisions are made. I then paint the final illustrations, usually rushing to meet the deadline.

Where do you like to write and illustrate?

I have a room at home called The Drawing Room and this is where I do everything. I don’t tend to write or draw outside very often as I like to work a lot at night in the company of old records.

What's your secret to presenting to children?

I feel comfortable presenting to children, having been a teacher, though I wouldn’t claim to be an expert yet. I really want children to leave my workshops with something meaningful, whether it’s through stories or their own illustrations they produce during the session. Of course, they need to have a good time, so entertainment and humour is part of it as well. A good balance between fun and instruction is important.

      What's Next?

Mr Darcy, written by Alex Field and illustrated by me, is being launched in November. It’s a very cute take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, featuring a rather proud and polite duck as the title character, complete with top hat and bow tie. I’m also putting the finishing touches on my next story, The Children Who Loved Books, which will be released in May. It’s about the way in which books bring us together, physically and emotionally.

Join Peter Carnavas on his Little Treasures blog tour at the following blogs:

24th October Be A Fun Mum 

25th October Books For Little Hands

31st October Reading Upside Down

2nd November  Squiggle Mum

 3rd November Life In A Pink Fibro

 4th November  The Book Chook

 7th November  Kids Book Review

8th November My Little Bookcase


Jackie@My Little Bookcase said...

Thanks for this great interview.

I love that Peter writes with layers of meaning. His books really help children to verbalise their quiet but reflective thoughts.

Unknown said...

Hi Jackie,
I agree. Peter's picture books are beautifully layered with thought and emotion.

Jessica's Box describes my daughter to a tea. It is the only picture book that I know that accurately depicts the emptiness that children can feel when they feel like they don't belong.

All of Peter's 'Little Treasures' books display remarkable reflective qualities.

There's no need to explain why my daughter loves them.

Jackie@My Little Bookcase said...

Have you read 'I'm Here' by Peter H Reynolds?

My understanding is that it's meant to depict a child with Autism, but I believe it is indicative of all children when they're feeling like they don't belong to a friendship group.

I've just liked you on facebook too, so hopefully that invites me to visit your awesome articles more regularly.

Unknown said...

Thanks Jackie for your kind words. I look forward to reading your post on Friday about 'Little Treasures' and keeping up with all of your writing gems.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I love the way the books fit the important themes for kids. This was a great interview for learning more about creating picture books.
Wagging Tales

Unknown said...

Thanks Charmaine. It's great to hear from you.

The Little Treasures series are fabulous books for schools, libraries, and home because they cover all of the important themes through carefully crafted stories.

I love the photo of Peter's drawing room. How cool is it getting a sneak peak into the authors and illustrators we admire?

Karen Tyrrell said...

Congratulations on this awesome interview with Peter. Great insightful questioning. I learned so much about his writng and illustrating processes and his motivation. Well done!

Unknown said...

Thanks Karen for your comment.

Peter has provided us with a marvellous glimpse into his world of picture book creations.