The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Christine Evans
Christine Evans is a children’s author and a British ex-pat living in sunny California with her windsurfing husband, two busy kids, and a lazy Yorkshire Terrier. She has a particular passion for history and nature. She’s written for Highlights, High Five, and ABCMouse.com. Christine is also the webmaster and webinar coordinator for the SF/South region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Her debut picture book, Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True Story of a World-Travelling Bug Hunter, releases tomorrow!
Happy Book Birthday!
Welcome Christine, thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your debut picture book and writing.
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?)
CHRISTINE: As you said in the intro, I’m a Brit and have lived in the Bay Area, about an hour south of San Francisco, for almost eight years. I’ve been writing with serious intent for about four years, but I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember.
I’ve tried getting up early to write but my brain can’t function before at least two cups of coffee so if I’m awake early it’s because I’m going running. I love hitting the trails around the Bay Area as a perfect way to unwind and seek inspiration. I often have to stop and write notes on my phone as I figure out a new approach to a writing problem. I’ve never been good at sitting still for long, so I tend to write in small snippets in-between all the other things on my to-do list. Picture books are my favorite books to write but I’ve also written a chapter book and I am working on a middle grade novel, too.
What did we ever do without smart phones? What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I love collecting things and as a kid I had a massive collection of frogs. I had everything from erasers to Jeremy Fisher collectibles, mugs to plant pots. Once people know what you collect people buy them for every birthday and Christmas, so my collection covered every available space in my bedroom.
This is a very familiar problem. Never let anyone know what you might like to collect! What was your inspiration for Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True Story of a World-Travelling Bug Hunter ?
I have two daughters and I knew I wanted to write about a woman who defied expectations and who would inspire girls to be anything that they want to be. When I came across Evelyn Cheesman, my stomach fluttered and I knew I’d found my subject.
I had never heard of her and I am so glad you wrote her story. She reminds me of Jane Goodall, defying what society thought women should do. You’ve also written two stories about Cornelia for Highlights High Five Magazine. How different was it to write Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist?
So different! My Cornelia stories are retellings of classic tales like The Princess and the Pea, whereas Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist is a true story. Plus, writing for magazines is a different process to picture books. They’re much shorter and need way fewer revisions.
True enough. What was the hardest thing about researching and/or writing Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist?
I got hold of Evelyn Cheesman’s autobiographies and several of her other books so that was a big part of the research process. The hardest thing was deciding what to put in the book, and what to leave out. She went on eight solo trips so there was a lot of material to work with!
It might be tough to choose, but it is a blessing to have too much information. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
Like most British children of my generation I grew up on Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, and Roald Dahl. Matilda was probably one of my favorite books and characters, and still is.
Three very amazing authors. Did you have any input into the illustrations for any of your books? Either at the beginning or in a later review stage? Do you have a favorite spread or image?
I was thrilled when the editor at Innovation Press, Asia Citro, shared Yasmin Imamura’s work with me and asked if I thought she’d be a good fit. And when I saw Yas’s illustrations for Evelyn, they blew me away! And yes, I got to review at the sketch stage as well as later on.
It’s hard to pick a favorite spread but I love the second page which shows a muddy young Evelyn examining bugs. I hope it speaks to all the kids reading who also love to hunt for bugs in the mud.
Text © Christine Evans, 2019 . Image © Yasmin Imamura, 2019.
It spoke to the skinned-knee, crawdad catching younger me. Is there something you want your readers to know about Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist?
Evelyn Cheesman’s story is for everyone who is fascinated by insects, exploring, or women in science. I want everyone to get to know Evelyn and share her inspiring story.
I think you will be successful. What has been the most frustrating aspect or period of time as a children’s writer for you? Any advice for unpublished authors?
I expect many authors answer this question the same way: publishing can be slow! When I tell non-writers how long it takes between signing the contract and holding the finished book they’re amazed. And that’s just one aspect of waiting in publishing. But the waiting is so worth it.
My advice for unpublished writers is to keep going. It is disheartening to put your work out there and get rejected but the people who succeed in publishing are those that don’t give up. I often share the stat that Kate DiCamillo got rejected 473 times. Imagine if she’d given up – we’d have no Winn-Dixie, Edward Tulane, or Raymie Nightingale. Just keep going.
Patience and a tough skin, two important characteristics of an author. Is there anything you’ve learned from your critique buddies?
I have two amazing critique partners (and several other wonderful people who critiqued Evelyn along the way). We met at our regional SCBWI conference in March 2017 and have become close friends as well as writing partners.
The most important thing I’ve learned, other than to keep going, is the value of critiques. They help you see your work through someone else’s eyes. I wouldn’t be where I am now without them. You can read more about our relationship in this article I published on our region’s website: https://sfsouth.scbwi.org/2019/02/12/asilomar-success-story/
Thank you for sharing that. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
My next picture book, Emily's Idea, is coming out in March 2020. And I’m working on a new picture book that is set close to home—but I can’t say anything else about that one yet.
Well we'll just have to keep our eyes peeled. Congrats on Emily's Idea. Is there anything about writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or something you’re glad you didn’t know about in advance?
The waiting! That was definitely something I had no idea about. You have to learn patience quickly when you become a writer.
You can write without patience; you just can't publish as easily without patience. Or perhaps a fairy godmother. What is your favorite animal? Why?
Oh goodness this is the hardest question you’ve asked me! I have a soft spot for owls and alpacas. Whales and hedgehogs. And sun bears and sea otters. Right now, I’m fascinated by insects of course, and butterflies have been my favorite since childhood.
Thank you, Christine for stopping by and sharing with us. It was truly wonderful to chat with you.
Thank you so much, Maria!
Be sure to stop back by on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True Story of a World-Travelling Bug Hunter.
To find out more about Christine Evans, or get in touch with her: