Can you briefly describe type of illustration work you do?
I work on a mixture of commercial illustration and children’s book illustration. My picture book illustration work is my passion. Each spread can take between 20 and 30 hours to complete, sketched first by hand, scanned and then coloured using a Wacom Intous tablet and Photoshop.
Kuwi’s First Egg was the first book of your own that you’d written and illustrated. How did it come about?
I came up with the idea behind Kuwi’s First Egg when I was surviving the perils of life with a newborn. I felt a little like we were learning to be parents through trial and error. I made mistakes, had to ask for help, and learned so much. Kuwi is me – and any parent who feels a little like they were thrown in at the deep end (and totally clueless) when they became a parent!
I had a two-year old Willow and was pregnant with my third daughter Florence, when I actually put pen to paper to write and storyboard the book. I had been reading very basic and unstimulating books to Willow, aimed at her age group. I wanted to write something I could read to a child of that age, that the parent would enjoy, too. No pages skipped!
Was there a particular reason that you chose a kiwi to be your main character?
I am very passionate about kiwi conservation. My dad has worked at the Department of Conservation for many years and now volunteers at Maungatautari Reserve. We had talked a lot about the father/egg incubation. In the story there is a bit of background that I hope parents might pick up on – why is Kuwi alone? Maybe the father/mate has succumbed to a predator? This also explains why Kuwi doesn’t know what to do with the egg, as it is not in her nature to be the nurturer. I also liked the idea of the main character being a mum. There aren’t many books where the main character is a mother.
The book has been a huge success. Why do you think that is, and how have you coped with it?
The success of the book has taken me totally by surprise. I think that being able to write, illustrate, design and promote the book on my own terms has been a huge advantage. I didn’t have to compromise, it could be my complete vision from beginning to end. In that way, I feel the story and illustration connection is very strong, and the follow-on marketing was fluid. Marketing is very important, and often that is not planned out and executed well.
I own a busy design company with three full-time staff, and I have three daughters who keep me on my toes, so the success of the book has kept me insanely busy. I also decided to embark on the second book in the series shortly after the release of Kuwi’s First Egg, (which is being printed as we speak). I am not sure what the future holds, but I am pretty sure I won’t be slowing down.
What has been the best moment in the book’s life so far?
Kiwis for kiwi is a charity that I approached when I first dreamt up the story. I wanted to check that they would be happy with me donating a portion of each sale to them. Being able to raise enough money to help 15 kiwi birds for one whole year has been the most rewarding thing!
Kuwi’s First Egg debuting at #1 on the New Zealand Bestsellers list (Children’s and Teens) was also a pretty huge buzz.
And the most nerve-wracking?
Waiting for the first copy to arrive back from the printers. I had heard a horror story about a shipment of books arriving and when the author opened the front cover, the entire book had been printed upside down. My heart was in my shoes opening the first book. But they were perfect – phew!
Also, just seeing the sheer volume of books – three huge pallets, and knowing I had to store them! I ordered 5700 books to start with, which was rather presumptuous of me. Thank goodness I did though, as we had to reprint a few short months later.
I understand there is a sequel on the way: can you tell us anything about it?
Another with a bit of a ‘hat tip’ to parents. Think fussy eaters and huhu hummus. Kuwi’s Huhu Hunt is due for release this October.
What will you be talking about at Word Café Raglan?
Illustration – the perils and joy of perfectionism, marketing, and the importance of professionalism and quality in self-publishing.
Kat will be appearing on Word Cafe’s Illustration Panel, alongside Paul Martin and Deborah Hinde on Saturday 15 August 2015, 1.45pm-3.15pm in the Raglan Town Hall, as well as the Self-Publishing Panel vs. Publishing Panel, Sunday 16 August 2015, 11am-12.30pm.