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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Carolina Rabei

I get the privilege to introduce you all to a relatively new, upcoming author/illustrator "from across the pond," Carolina Rabei.

Carolina loved drawing “ever since she was very small." She's spent eight years studying Fine Art, attaining a BA in Graphic Design in Moldova, and then achieving a distinction in Children’s Book Illustration at the prestigious Cambridge School of Art in 2015. She's illustrated a four book series for author Walter De La Mare.

Her second book, as the author/illustrator, The Book Without a Story, released February 7th.

Welcome Carolina,

ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write/illustrate? How long have you been writing/illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate?)

CAROLINA: I am a Cambridge based illustrator, and I am lucky to work from the comfort of my home most days. Recently, most of my time has been spent writing and illustrating my own picture books, although I’ve also been collaborating with other authors, creating illustrations to go with their words. And I have also been creating some advertising illustrations for a scientific company. But books for children are definitely the most exciting things for me to work on!

It shows. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

A bit embarrassing but I can’t swim ( yet ) !

I like the "yet," you still have time to learn. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

The books I grew up with were mostly Romanian fairy tales. But I can remember being fascinated by a book of African Folktales, they seemed very original and creative.

Also I remember listening to my brother’s made-up bedtime stories which inspired me a lot as a child!

I think one of my favourites now is The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs.

I love that story, too! What is your favorite medium to work with? Your least favorite or hardest?

I love printmaking techniques (screen printing, linocut….), but these can be very time-consuming, and I’m not the most patient person. So, most of my work is done digitally.

Interesting. Maybe one day you'll "get" to do a PB with a printmaking technique. Do you prefer being the author/illustrator or the illustrator of a book? Why?

I think being both the author and illustrator gives the most flexibility and freedom to design all aspects of the story myself. Sometimes the illustrations can substitute the text, so for example the story can be progressed visually without necessarily needing to write any words. But, I also enjoy illustrating texts written by other people, particularly when the text allows me the freedom to be creative.

(*Notice the caveat of the writer allowing the illustrator freedom for creativity.*)

What did you enjoy most about being the author/illustrator? Just perhaps the illustrator?

In The Book without a Story, my recent picture book, I really enjoyed creating all the books as characters, giving them names and their own personality. In terms of illustrations, most of the scenes are set inside a library, which created a challenge, to make the spreads diverse and captivating.

In my Walter De La Mare picture books I illustrated lots of landscapes, which I am more comfortable with I think. But I think having a bit of a challenge and diversity is also good for one’s progress.

So, which comes first when you create a book as the author/illustrator, the writing or the illustrations?

I would say both. When I have a new idea for a story, I try to write it down in a few sentences as a rough plot outline. And at this stage I normally sketch some ideas of how certain spreads might look. But then I refine the plot and flesh out the characters. When I have an idea of what is happening in each spread I finalize the text.

I do envy your ability to be the artist as well. Where did you get the inspiration for The Book Without a Story?

My first idea was about a pet in a pet shop that is waiting eagerly to be picked by a human and be given a home. Then I thought, how about if instead of a pet, it’s actually a book that no one ever takes home to read. How would that book feel?

What a great twist to the premise! If you could share one thing with your younger self and/or kids today what would that be?

I am very pleased that as a child I was encouraged to do what I loved mostly - drawing. That is what I would encourage to other children, keep doing more of what you love!

What/who was your greatest inspiration as a child? What/who is your greatest source of inspiration now as a writer and/or as an illustrator?

Growing up with an older brother was fun times for me, he was my main inspiration I think. I loved his drawings and doodles. He also used to make up a stories about little things like the food on my plate when I wasn’t in the mood for eating.

Now, besides the inspiration I take from other artists and illustrators I find children very inspiring. The way they communicate among themselves, play, or the funny things they say/ask is a great source of inspiration.

Gotta love those siblings! Many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in The Book Without a Story? Could you share one or more with us?

Jake, the main child character of the story looks a lot like my nephew Bogdan - to whom I dedicated the book. I also have a little guinea pig in the book that is a hint to my previous authored picture book Crunch!

How fun for Bogdan! And what an adorable guinea pig. Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

My next book written and illustrated by me is based on an experience from my childhood - in which I lost my fox toy! But from that first idea the story has evolved to become something much more magical and adventurous.

Now I'm intrigued. I'll be watching for this one. Is there anything about writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or are glad that you did not know?

As a picture book maker, I realised that it takes months and months to get a project to its final look, and after that there is still usually a minimum of 6 months till it’s actually out in the bookshops. So from that first idea till you hold the book in your hands, it's a long journey!

Any advice for beginning illustrators or authors?

I suppose it’s a cliché, but the best advice is to never give up on one’s dreams. And working hard and with passion in your job is the key!

It's not cliché, if it's heartfelt! What is your favorite animal? Why? (Or the one your most enamored with at the moment.)

I love guinea pigs, they are adorable pets. But lately I am leaning towards considering a dog for a pet, a companion for me at home and a reason to go out more and walk!

Thank you, Carolina for stopping by and sharing with us. It was truly wonderful to chat with you.

Be sure to stop by on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF Post on The Book Without A Story.

To find out more about Carolina Rabei, or get in touch with her:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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