Thursday, February 26, 2009

Author Interview: Elisa Kleven

Yesterday I reviewed a sweet picture book, A Carousel Tale, by Elisa Kleven.  Today, I have the honor and privilege of sitting down with the author/illustrator for an interview.  Allow me to introduce you to Elisa Kleven! 

Write For A Reader (WFAR):  Please start by sharing a little about yourself.

Elisa Kleven (EK):  I am an author-illustrator of picture books and the mother of a seventeen year old daughter and a twelve year old son. I've been happily married to my husband Paul for almost 25 (yikes!) years; we live in the San Francisco Area; and, in addition to my family, and my work, I love spending time in nature, and with my friends.

WFAR:  When did you know that you wanted to be an author and illustrator?

EK:  When I was a child I loved to paint and draw and create tiny, make believe characters and stories, and when this passion refused to go away as I grew up , I realized that I had better pay attention to it and try to become an author and an illustrator. (for views of the little worlds I created as a child please see my web site;

WFAR:  What else have you written and/or illustrated besides this picture book?

EK:  I have written and/or illustrated almost thirty picture books to date.  Some of my favorites are THE LION AND THE LITTLE RED BIRD, SUN BREAD, THE PUDDLE PAIL, THE PAPER PRINCESS, and ABUELA, by Arthur Dorros.

WFAR:  What was the inspiration for A Carousel Tale?

EK:  It's hard to narrow down the exact source of inspiration, but I have always enjoyed transforming materials into new shapes , much as Ernst transforms the tail into a bird. And I have a memory of my grandmother, who was a sculptor, holding up a long necked yellow squash at the dinner table and imagining that it was a swan.

WFAR:  Was there a reason for making the main character a blue crocodile?

EK:  Ernst the blue crocodile appears in a few of my other books, such as ERNST, THE PUDDLE PAIL and THE WISHING BALL. I suppose he is my alter ego, an artistic younger sibling who refuses to let go of his dreams. Also, I love crocodiles' expressive jaggedy smiles, which can look happy and sad at the same time, much like life itself.

WFAR:  Did you take art classes as a child or college student, or does drawing come natural for you?

EK:  I wish I had drawn MORE as a child, and though my mother encouraged me to, I preferred to while away the hours making three dimensional objects: clay people, wooden carousel animals, apple dolls and bread sculptures and tapestries.  Drawing doesn't come as naturally to me as sculpting, but I try to practice and I admire great craftsmanship.  I was lucky to be surrounded by art as a child.  My grandmother, as I said, was a sculptor, and I used to find it fascinating to watch her take a lump of clay and turn it into an old woman, or a kangaroo, or a little boy.  My mother also worked her own magic with art .  She was a printmaker and an etcher, who would assemble bits and pieces of broken down cars and machines and turn them into amazing creatures. (I am sure that my mom and grandmother also influenced my creation of A CAROUSEL TALE.)

WFAR:  What is your favorite piece or book that you have written and/or illustrated?

EK:  I am not sure; I put a lot of energy into all of them. Maybe THE PAPER PRINCESS, though. I like her fragile but enduring paper self. 

WFAR:  What do you like to do when you are not writing or illustrating?

EK:  I love to read, and to be around my family ,animals, trees, and water. I also like exploring neighborhoods and cities.

WFAR:  Would you ever let one of your books be illustrated by someone else?  Why or why not?

EK:  Yes, as long as it was an illustrator whose work I like, I think that would be interesting. I would enjoy seeing how another creator might interpret or expand upon my story.

WFAR:  Do you have writing or illustrating mentors?

EK:  Well, I mentioned my mom and grandmother (both of whom are, alas, long gone.) And I have many inspiring friends who are also illustrators/authors, and whose various styles and approaches inspire me.

WFAR:  Would you describe your writing/illustrating atmosphere to the readers?  Where do you work, when, music, snacks, etc?

EK:  I work in my garage, which my husband and his father , a carpenter, transformed into a comfortable work space with a skylight and windows. I listen to music when I'm illustrating (classical and rock/blues/folk, usually), and sometimes NPR. I am a frequent snacker (chocolate and veggies are my two favorite food groups) and a coffee drinker!

WFAR:   What are some of your favorites? Author, illustrator, book, color, etc.

EK:  Favorite authors are Shakespeare and E.B. White; favorite illustrator - so many many I love, but maybe Garth Williams; favorite color - almost all, except for slime green.

WFAR:  What do you think about having your book reviewed by book bloggers?

EK:  I appreciate their interest!

WFAR:  Anything else that you want readers to know?

EK:  For more about me, myself, and I, readers can see my web site, which has links to other interviews I've done for other terrific web sites and bloggers.

WFAR:  Thank you for allowing me to interview you!

EK:  Thanks so much for your thoughtful and fun questions.

Don't forget to check out Elisa Kleven's website.


bermudaonion said...

It's so nice to read of someone who has a passion for what they're doing. Great interview.

Smash said...

Great interview!

I gave you an award on my blog. :o) Take a look here:

Staci said...

I wish I could draw!! Excellent interview!!

Fiona said...

I just popped in from Book Chook .... We LOVE LOVE LOVE The Lion and the Little Red Bird. It is falling to pieces because we read it so often!

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