Issue 15 is out now! And we’re thrilled to feature an interview with Peter Carnavas—author-illustrator of many fabulous picture books such as The Important Things, The Great Expedition, The Children Who Loved Books, and many more. We had far too many questions (and answers) to squeeze everything into the magazine’s pages, so we are very pleased to share the full interview with you here on Soup Blog.
Where do you live?
I live in a beautiful little town called Mapleton, which is in the mountainous part of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. I’m surrounded by trees and some very talkative birds.
Where do you get your ideas?
I start writing stories about things that I care about. Sometimes this happens after reading another book, reading the newspaper or watching a good movie. The best stories seem to jump in your head when you least expect it.
What made you become a writer-illustrator?
My wife! After I had made some picture books for my family, she encouraged me to take writing and illustrating more seriously and send something to a publisher.
Was it easy to get your first book published?
I was lucky enough to get my first book accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. It did take a lot of work to put the book together before I sent it. I made a lot of mistakes before I was happy enough to send it away.
Does the story influence your choice of materials for the artwork?
I usually use watercolours with an ink outline because that is what I’m comfortable using. The story definitely influences a lot of other choices I make when illustrating, particularly the style of the characters and the colours. Some of my stories have quite serious themes so I like to balance this out by using warm colours and making the pictures a bit light and whimsical.
When you work on your books, which comes first—the artwork or the story text?
I always write the story first with the pictures swimming around my head. When the story is finished, I spend a lot of time working on the storyboard (sort of like a comic-strip version of the book) and doing pencil sketches. Finally I’ll trace the pictures and paint them.
Are you working on a book at the moment?
I’ve just finished a book of mine called The Children Who Loved Books, which is about a family that discovers they cannot live without books. I’m also illustrating a novel at the moment.
Do you have any advice for young writers and artists?
Just keep writing and illustrating. Read as much as you can and spend a lot of time looking at your favourite illustrations. It’s always good to find other people who are interested in books, too, so you have someone else to share your interest. This might be a friend from school, or perhaps someone in your family or a librarian.
What do you like to do when you are not writing or illustrating?
I love spending time with my two daughters. I like walking my dog, fishing and tramping through rainforests. I also spend a lot of time playing music. I have lots of instruments that are bursting out of the cupboard, demanding to be played.
Is your work influenced by another writer and/or illustrator in particular?
I am a big fan of many picture book artists. Some of my favourites are Libby Gleeson, Freya Blackwood, Bob Graham, Stephen Michael King, Quentin Blake, Nick Bland and Oliver Jeffers. Plus many more!