In my opinion, books are the best accessory.
Welcome to the amazing, illustrator Liz Million! I’m honored that Liz agreed to an interview. I recently had her visit my school and adored watching her wow my students. They were silent unless laughing or interacting with Liz. Liz taught them about humor, illustrations and life and guided her presentation with visual examples throughout. I’ve rarely seen a guest author who can enchant every grade level with different styles and humor throughout depending on appropriateness. Just appreciated every minute of Liz’s visit! My principals also appreciated the messages she shared and have since framed the many art pieces she created during presentations. The hope is that if students see the art hanging on the walls it will inspire them to go write a story that connects to the picture like Liz suggested during her talk. I have consistent artists in the library working on various projects and they’ve told me many times how much they love the tips that Liz shared!
So… on with the interview with the lovely Liz Million:
Thanks again Liz!
What was your favorite childhood book memory?
I can always look back and instantly picture my Mum or Dad perched on my bed reading with me. I used to love the old traditional tales books that had words as well as pictures woven into the story text so I felt I could contribute when it was my part by saying ‘the gingerbread man’ so I must have been really small! I used to adore Ladybird books but always had a fear of the awful troll that used to pop out with fuelled many a nightmare growing up-I always had a very healthy imagination! I remember visiting my local library from a very young age something now that I instill in my little son, George and of course my love of reading.
Are there any authors or books that you liked as a child that you still read now?
I re-read The Magic Faraway Tree as a university student and it was an unusual experience as it took me back to so many memories that I had forgotten about the wonderful fairytale characters of Moon face and Silky. George, my young son, and I have been reading Roald Dahl’s chapter books before bed, which has been great fun, and I am constantly reading stories from my youth with him as well as some of his choices naturally!
What was a favorite genre you read as a child? How have your tastes changed as an adult?
It was always about the illustrations for me growing up but as I child I suppose you are often supplied with books that people give you and ones that you have not necessarily chosen! I read everything that I was given but I always relished the Beano Annuals and highly illustrated, fun books. My sister had an old copy of Heidi in her wardrobe that she banned me from touching (that’s older sisters for you!) so I used to sneak in to her room and just gaze at the colourful book jacket.
My tastes are, now I realize, are based on situations that interest me or I can emphathise with, strong character based storylines and I seem to be drawn to books set in America or in the past. Nothing like my tastes as a child but the same sort of escapism and wanting to be transported elsewhere for an hour or three!
Do you still have any of your books from when you were a child?
I am guilty of buying soooo many children’s books that I had when I was small like every other parent but nothing beats being in a school book sale and spotting an old tale that you had forgotten about. Memories came flooding back as I re-read Ladybird books such as The Enormous Turnip, Magic Porridge Pot and other such tales! I have a whole section on George’s book case of my beloved and ancient Richard Scarry books!
Are you in a writers group? If so, has it helped you?
No, I’m not in a writers group as I tend to write my picture book stories around an illustrated character plus I’d be too frightened to attend a meeting in case I had to read in front of intelligent well read author type people!
Do you have a key writing tips for kids? Or adults?
I am not in any position to give people advice about writing as my books are aimed at a very young audience however I do believe that anyone can write a children’s story, you just need to have an original idea and to be in the right place at the right time.
Do you have a new book being released in the next year?
I have just finished illustrating a book about an oryx, (type of antelope) for a client in the Middle East that will be coming out soon.
How do you feel about the development and growth of the e-Book industry?
As a Kindle obsessed nut I love it but I’m not sure how to feel as a picture book author/illustrator! I think as long as people are reading it doesn’t matter so much about HOW they read it. I travel a lot so when I was given my Kindle I embraced it and now look back at how I used to fill my case with paperbacks!
I hate the fact I can never remember what I am reading though as I don’t see the physical title every time I pick my kindle up. I do miss the feel of a book sadly…
Did you always plan on a writing career or if not…?
I fell into writing after a publisher asked if I had a story to go with the rabbit characters I had drawn. I always knew I wanted to be an artist or a cartoonist from a very early age thanks to my love of books and annuals and comics. I didn’t even know what it was called to be an ‘illustrator’!
What truly influences you as a writer?
I can’t say that anything actually influences me but small things happen on a daily basis where I think ‘oooh that might make an interesting story’ and I jot it down in picture and word form. I re-read it later and wonder what all that jibberish means, haha.
If you weren’t a writer, what occupation would you be working in?
I always wanted to be a waitress on rollerskates but I am way too clumsy for that job! I wanted to be a children’s tv presenter that hosted an art show as I’m very lively and a bit loud. People could then switch me off when they’d had enough!
Did any teacher or mentor specifically influence you in your career?
I have had many lovely teachers who gave me lots of encouragement for my illustrations and stories at school. Watching Rolf Harris (sad but true!) and Tony Hart with their Art programmes on the TV was a massive influence to me as no one in my family could draw and they weren’t any art clubs in my area. I have a wonderfully supportive family who encouraged me to follow my dreams and do what made me happy which I did!
*Do you have any favorite topping you like on your pizza?
I love anything sweet on a pizza-I once spent an entire week on a Uni trip in Poland eating banana and chicken pizza!!! My favourite is actually chicken and pineapple but do I ever get to eat this pizza? NO. I do not because marriage is all about compromise so I now eat spicy pepperoni with extra meat on it as it’s my husband’s and both stepsons’ favourite. We rarely eat pizza but if I did it would have pineapple on it, nom nom.
Sentences to finish if you don’t mind:
The best advice I’ve received for my profession was….
take everything with a pinch of salt (publishers often talk excitedly about new projects and books when they look through your portfolio but often never go ahead with it! Sad but true and it keeps you grounded and determined)
The habit I never break for my writing practice is…
have a little doze! If I am having trouble thinking of a new story I often lie down for 20 minutes and snooze/meditate and an answer will come. I often get ideas first thing in the morning when I am thinking peacefully with a clear head….before my son George jumps on me, that is!
If someone had told me…
you can’t make everyone like you! You can be the sweetest ripest peach but there will always be someone who doesn’t like peaches. This applies to work and life, not every publisher is going to like your work
Why do people always assume…
that because I am talkative and lively that I must be like this all the time! ‘Are you always this mad?’ is a common comment and the answer is of course not! I sit in my studio drawing/writing on my own all day for often weeks at a time. I’m probably just pleased to see you!
Debbie, you forgot to ask me… can anyone do your job?
Not everyone but you can always try by improving your drawing and creative skills through practice, hard work and perseverance. If you have a few books that you have created and haven’t had them published yet, then please don’t give up on them-the most famous children’s books were rejected a few times before they were ‘discovered’ but DO listen to advice when it comes to changing or improving them.
Want to know more about Liz Million? Want to have the fantastic experience of her visiting your school? Here’s where to go:
Also, Liz is on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/liz_million
Here are a few videos I created from Liz’s visit:
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