Behind the scenes and between the pages of Any Questions?
At last! I am holding in my hands the fresh-off-the-press copy of my new book, Any Questions? It has been a long time since the seed of the idea for the story started growing, spreading its roots and stretching its branches to the sky.
Five years! A lot of things can happen in five years. Small trees grow, children start to read, grandparents grow old, people stay in one safe place or explore the world while others have no choice. Books are written, songs are sung and new species of animals are discovered.
Five years of exploring a story I wanted to tell. Following paths that got lost in a labyrinth of confusion or petered out into a dead-end. Five years of searching for the true voice or voices, of looking for colors, textures and rhythm, words, puns and rhymes. Creating a cast of characters, from polar bears to pterodactyls, elephants to snails, giants and beasts and dozens and dozens of children brimming with questions.
Five years spent gathering materials, ideas and inspiration to create a story about how to create a story, with words and pictures, based on the wide experience I have had in meeting with children, reading to and with them, drawing and creating stories in schools and librairies and especially answering their endless questions.
I wanted my story to be playful, magical and surprising. I didn't want it to be a book that tells children how to write, but rather to discover that there are many ways of writing and telling stories.
I wanted children (and adults) to realize that they will be moved to be more creative when they are facing the unknown in that uncertain, scary, exciting mindspace between the time you know you have a story to tell, but before you have found a way to tell it.
I hid details and clues throughout the book, sometimes in plain sight, other times more subtly. For example, take a look at the title page, an illustration of an artist's studio...
Pore over the tiny sketches that reveal some of the images that you will discover further on in the book (singing dinosaurs, trees running for their lives, caterpillars, snails, cat's pawprints). With these images you start to understand the creative process, random images that float into your creative radar and weave themselves into the story.
I also invited some of my favorite characters from my other books to take part in Any Questions? I gave them bit parts or cameo roles: Try to find Stella and Sam, Roslyn Rutabaga or Caramba and Portia.
I want this book to have many voices: the Narrator's voice, the Children and Animal voices, the Second Narrator's voice in the story-within-a-story. I also wanted to vary the visual design from black and white storyboards…
to full color spreads with another layer of action behind the scenes, to the visual creative process in The Shy Young Giant story where color and collage progressively invade the images.
I hope you enjoy reading, exploring and sharing Any Questions?
By the way, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. I might just have some answers...