What is with all of the AMAZING Canadian authors out there? Seriously, Canada, you deserve a pat on the back — you’ve got some good ones in you!
Anyway, when I’m looking for a new book at the library, I’m usually surfing through the new books on the online catalog. Since I knew I wanted to read some more graphic novels, I searched through the newest graphic novels and Binky the Space Cat was one of them.
Major, major love for this cat. But more on that later in this post. First off, I have an interview with Ashley, the creator of this loveable cat. I’m excited to have her on the blog today!
1. Why did you become a writer and illustrator? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?
I grew up wanting to be an animator for Disney but after my drawing confidence took some hits in my late teens I went to art school for photography. It was there that I took a book making course with a teacher who encouraged me to make silly drawings and stories. It was like being struck by lightning. Suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life!
2. What is the atmosphere like when you write – completely silent, or do you listen to music? What helps you create?
When I’m writing I need complete silence. I write best in the morning and if I get stuck on something I will lay down and close my eyes and shut out the world. I find the mind is the most open the moments before and after sleep. When it comes to the drawing part, I love devouring TV shows while I paint! I draw best when I’m doing two things at once (drawing and watching TV, or drawing and talking, etc.)
3. Do you find that your illustrations are evolving over time? Or do you try to stick to certain themes and styles when you’re creating?
I sure hope I’m evolving! I think most illustrators would say that they hope each book gets better than the last. Playing with different media will always help one’s style evolve as well. That said, certain things will remain the same with all my drawings I’m sure. That’s the thing about having a visual style- it’s a part of you, like fingerprints, and it will always be present in some way.
4. What book are you reading right now?
I’ve just finished The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (which I cried through, it was so beautiful) and I’ve just started The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips (which I’m laughing through so it’s all balancing out.)
5. I love being a Canadian, especially getting to travel and see the beauty of the country. Do you have any favourite Canadian spots?
I had no idea how much travelling is involved with writing and illustrating! I’m always on a plane it seems. I’ve been to almost every province and I’ve had a few favourites: Port Elgin in Ontario has the most amazing sandy beaches, all of PEI was just stunning and, of course, Vancouver Island. I was in Nanaimo jogging one morning and I watched an Otter and a Seal playing. How can you not love that?
6. When you’re not writing or making illustrations, what do you do in your spare time?
I don’t have as much spare time as I’d like! It’s important, with a creative job like this, to let yourself play with drawing now and again to help get new ideas, so when I have a moment free from drawing for a project, I draw for me. Other than that I jog, bike ride, walk and play with my beloved cats and dog.
7. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors or illustrators?
I think the most important things to do when you are trying to get into this business is to practice, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and, when you get feedback, accept it gracefully. I think two skills are vital in this business: being open to criticism and being willing to work like a mad person.
8. Can you share any details on what you might be working on next? Would you ever consider writing a graphic novel for the older generation? (Although, I have to say that Binky the Space Cat is perfect for ALL ages!)
Aw, thanks! Who doesn’t love a farting cat right? I don’t have anything for an older crowd in the works yet but I am working on three books right now (phew!) I’m doing a book related to my latest picture book about an over-scheduled chickadee. I’m illustrating a picture book for another author, Alison Hughes. And I’m working on a spin-off of Binky staring the head space cat himself, Sergeant Fluffy Vandemere. He’s going to be channeling Die Hard’s John McClane. I’m still trying to figure out a way to sneak in the line, “Yippie-ki-yay Motherfuzzer.”
And now … a conversation with myself about Binky the Space Cat.
Me #1: So, you read a new graphic novel, huh?
Me #2: Yup. A novel about a space cat!
Me #1: A space cat?
Me #2: Yup! His name is Binky and he’s protecting his humans from evil bugs!
Me #1: Evil bugs? Really?
Me #2: Yes! Aren’t all bugs evil? I mean, we’re in Alberta. The mosquito is pretty much our mascot. Anyway, he’s a certified space cat and the bugs are aliens.
Me #1: I’m confused. The bugs are aliens?
Me #2: Aliens! Binky can’t leave his space station due to the fact that it’s outer space outside so he protects his humans inside.
Me #1: But it’s obviously not outer space outside, you know that right?
Me #2: Of course, but Binky doesn’t! Once you step out the door, you must be very well protected or else you could float away! Plus, the lack of oxygen and everything.
Me #1: What age is this story written for? I mean, you know that that’s not true, right?
Me #2: Okay, it might be a book for little kids, but I like to believe it’s a book for everyone. And who doesn’t like cats?
Me #1: You. You don’t like cats. Remember?
Me #2: Okay, maybe I don’t like cats, but I like Binky. You know why?
Me #1: Why?
Me #2: Because Binky is AWESOME. I mean, he’s funny, smart, and full of heart. And he farts.
Me #1: He farts?
Me #2: Yup. I mean, you know it’s a classy book when it involves farting.
Me #1: What are you? 5 years old?
Me #2: At heart, maybe. At any rate, I fell in love with Binky and his cuteness. He loves his humans and just wants to protect them. Sure he’s not smart all the time, but he tries. He’s really everything you could want in a cat.
Me #1: So, are you a cat person now?
Me #2: Only with Binky. Baby steps.
(Just writing this, I thought about a book I read a few years back, The Cat From Outer Space. This is really on another level from that one. Binky is so much easier to connect with and I promise, you’ll fall in love with him, too. When it comes to cats from outer space, he really is tops. AND Ashley is Canadian, so it just shows that we have some great Canadian talent.)
Do you read graphic novels meant for smaller people? Are you embarrassed by it? Because I’m totally not.