'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Author/Illustrator Interview: Alison Lester

Alison Lester with Megan's daughter,
Abbey, at a library visit in July 2010.

Alison Lester, picture book author and illustrator extraordinaire, joins us as part of a special Behind the Books feature. We're thrilled to have Alison on Kids Book Review, and we know you'll love this glimpse into the life of the creator of so many beloved children's books.

Tell us a little about you: what's your background, your story? I was born in Foster, Victoria. I grew up on a farm overlooking the sea and first rode a horse as a baby in my father’s arms. I still live in the country and ride my horse Woollyfoot, whenever I can.

How long have you been writing? I started writing after my first baby was born in 1979.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? The first story I can remember writing is The Secret of St Clare’s, when I was ten years old. I still have it.

What inspired you to write and illustrate for children? I started illustrating first, did that for about 5 years then started to get frustrated with the texts I was working on. One day I was moaning to my editor and she said I should write my own stories.

What would be your perfect day? At home; Get up early, go for a run, feed the horses, help the dogs catch a rat in the hayshed, breakfast, work and get a good pic or bit of writing done, have lunch with Eddy when he comes home, go for a horse ride, have all my kids home and cook a big meal that night.

How did you make your start in writing and illustrating for children?

What other genres have you written in? I have written some novels for young adults and also some newspaper stories.

Why do you write and illustrate? I love telling stories and I am good at it. I like making the whole book, i.e. doing the words and the pictures.

Have you experienced any blocks or obstacles on your book-writing journey? The year that three people close to me died I couldn’t work at all.

What’s a typical writing day? Ha ha, usually doing no work at all. I try to sit at my desk everyday and write or draw but I waste a huge amount of time emailing, riding my horse, gardening and generally goofing off.

What advice would you have for others on writing or illustrating children’s stories? Write something you know about, don’t be too sentimental, DON’T make it rhyme, be prepared to do thirty drafts, don’t be too sensitive to criticism or too stubborn either.

What were your five favourite books as a child? Tiger in the Bush, My Friend Flicka, the Billabong books, the 007 books, and How to Draw Horses by Walter T Foster.

What else do you like to do, other than write books? I like running, horse riding, sewing, gardening, travelling, bush walking, swimming in the sea, parties, dancing, music and going to the movies.

On holiday: have fruit for breakfast, laze on the beach and read a really good book all day, with swims whenever I get too hot.

What five words best sum you up? Happy, busy, obsessive, caring and playful.

What’s next for Alison Lester?
Same stuff, I think. More books, more visits to remote indigenous communities, travel, farming, waiting for my kids to come home and have babies. I’m working on a picture book about Macquarie Island with Coral Tulloch, a story about a small girl who goes to Antarctica. It's called Salty Subowski Goes South. Also an ABC of Australian animals and a baby book called Kissed by the Moon.

Visit Alison Lester's website for more
I rang Oxford University Press and asked the Children’s Editor if they had a book I could illustrate.