The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Laura Clement (part 1)
Today, I am extremely fortunate to have my friend, critique partner, and debut author Laura Clement stop by to talk to us on the eve of her book birthday. Egg releases tomorrow - Tuesday, April 11, 2017.
Happy Book Birthday, Laura (a day early)
Maria, I want to thank you for this interview. It is always a joy spending time with you, sharing works in progress in our critique group, but this feels special and I am excited to answer your questions. I really hope they are helpful or at least interesting.
Laura, thank you so much for coming to visit with me.
ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)
LAURA: I write every chance I get. There are exceptions- I do love a good PBS special, and getting sun time here in Seattle, is a must- a good long walk on those days. I know it’s crazy but everyone needs a little down time, right? My other distraction is an active 6, almost 7-year-old who fills my days.
I do my best to set writing time aside every day. Now that my daughter is in school, I have about 3 hours a day, maybe 3 to 4 days a week for writing activities. I wish I could say I spend all that time writing, but I don’t.
There’s always research to do. Agents to query. And editing. Editing. Editing. My goal any given month is to rough draft out 2 new concepts. Put at least one dummy together and send out at least 3 submissions. AND edit 2 works in progress.
I have been writing forever. I started with poetry as a child, won some awards and got published. I think I gravitated to poetry and photography quickest because I see the world in vignettes of emotion, beauty, sadness etc. I like that they are not full stories, just pure moments. These days it’s all about sewing together those vignettes and building actual stories.
The best challenge? Picture Books. There is such joy in discovering the right voice for a piece/character. Then, making it stronger, bring it full circle in under 500 words.
Where did the idea for Egg come from?
(Laughs), Egg started when a line popped into my head- “Egg was destined for greatness.” I couldn’t let it go or, it couldn’t let me go. It bounced around in my imagination for a while. Egg then took herself down different paths, eventually settling on the one that is about to be published.
What can you tell us about the journey of Egg from inception to hatching (😊) What was the most challenging part?
Other than the handful of rejections? (chuckles)
Finding the voice of the character was the easy part. But the middle of the plot was a muddle for a while. And the end was missing a final pop. That finally solidified when I discovered Egg needed a new name after her adventure.
I knew from the start that Egg was destined for greatness, that she would save the farm, that she would find strength within herself. But the snake, the evil, the darkness that forces Egg to rise above, THAT took some time to get just right.
I guess on some level none of us want to deal with the evil, the shadow in our lives, or even our stories so I was resistant to that portion of the story.
ME: Only a handful? So much luckier then many who gathered 20 to 100 rejections on one story. Well, I might be biased, as a critique partner, but I believe that you succeeded in giving the snake his comeuppance. And creating a really fun dragon adventure.
What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (either as a child or now as a writer.)
Right now, my daughter. Her world is so different from mine. Her beginning and struggles. How she processes things. What she sees. How she sees the world. Everything she has been through, all are so different from my life. And because of her journey, I truly want to help the world be better for her- on a personal level - as well as on a global and emotional one. To do that, I rely on other inspirations - the natural world, music, and art.
The writers who inspire me are - Raymond Carver, Sherman Alexie, Neil Gaiman, Jane Langton, Mo Willems, Suzy Le, and Deborah Freedman, to name just a few. There are so many talented writers out there.
As a child, the natural world. Growing up in Fairbanks Alaska, with all its beautiful extremes inspired me, body, mind, and soul. As I got older, the worlds of Anne McCaffery took me places beyond my own imagination and grew in me a lifelong love for dragons, strong women, and grand adventures.
ME: The incomparable Anne McCaffrey has been an inspiration and provided worlds for escape to many, including myself. She is one of my heroes.
What was the most interesting thing you experienced/discovered as your book went from acquisition through to publication?
How much I loved working with my illustrator. I was worried about this because, giving up control seemed terrifying.
But, working with Sunny Choi has been pure magic. I am not sure, given that this is my first book, that our experience is normal, but I loved it. Sunny and I were on the same wavelength the whole time. She helped me really realize Egg as a character full of color and shape and sass.
And the best part, I think we are going to work together on my next project, Q. She and I already have the same image in our minds about the cover.
ME: I think you were indeed lucky. Most authors I have talked with had limited, if any, contact with their illustrator. Glad it was a great experience. Good luck on the next project.
Is there anything about writing or illustrating you know now that you wished you had known when you started?
I have been working hard the last couple years on making good page turns. But, until you have the art and the actual pages in your hands, it’s not always possible to see the best “perfect page turn.” Even moments before the pages went off to print we, Callie, Sunny, and I, were fine tuning some of the page’s text to really capitalize on the best page turn.
I guess, no matter how finished you think you have something, it is never really finished. I would say, be open to this. Accept it and just enjoy it. Because, especially if you are the writer. You only have half of the story you need to make the adventure and discovery worth reading. I am often very envious of Author/illustrators.
ME: Good to know. Guess it's true, nothing is ever perfect.
With only days remaining for you as a pre-published author, is there anything you can tell us what you found most helpful in your journey to publication?
There are couple things that really helped me. My publisher’s open door policy. She has been available to me, any time and any day. If I have a question, I feel like I can ask it. If I am concerned about something, I can address it. This was one of the benefits of going with a smaller publisher, and I think it was a good choice for me. I have no idea what it would have been like otherwise.
The other thing that has been most helpful again, has been Sunny. Feeling like I really have someone who is with me, on my team, to make this the best book it can be on a fundamental level of art and word. This has really been a blessing and joy.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
I have my need to fly and be free moments - totally a heron.
I have majestic larger than me moments - a polar bear.
And I have my "let’s get fiery" moments - a badger.
Then, my playful moments - a otter.
The problem is that my favorite doesn’t exist. Yes, it would be a Dragon. Every aspect above, all in one.
ME: I love this answer Laura. Great way to approach the question.
Thank you Laura for sharing with us information about yourself and your beautiful debut book, Egg.
If you enjoyed this interview, please stop by May 1st for part 2.
To find out more about Laura Clement, or get in touch with her: