Magic 8 Q&A

Why children's author Ashley Spires takes naps on the floor when she gets stuck

The bestselling author of picture books like The Most Magnificent Thing takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
Ashley Spires is the author and illustrator of several junior graphic novels and picture books. (Kids Can Press)

B.C. author and illustrator Ashley Spires is known for whimsical picture books like The Most Magnificent ThingSmall Saul and Over-scheduled AndrewIn 2011, Spires received the Silver Birch Express Award for her junior graphic novel Binky The Space Cat.

Below, Spires takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A, answering eight randomly selected questions from eight writers.

1. Susan Juby asks, "What was the most memorable, good or bad, reader comment you ever received? How did you respond?"

During a question period on a school visit one student said to me, "I thought you'd be blonde." I'd been speaking for over 40 minutes before she asked this, so she must have been really disappointed to be thinking about it so long. Naturally, I apologized for being a brunette.

2. Amy Stuart asks, "What's your most unusual writing ritual?"

Whenever I'm stuck, I lay down on my studio floor and close my eyes. I almost always end up napping, but before I do, I find that place where the brain is not quite asleep but not quite awake. I can usually find inspiration there. It's a great place to hang out when you have creative problems to solve.

3. Rio Youers asks, "Describe your dream writing space."

One wall would have floor-to-ceiling windows. I need to look outside when I'm writing. As for when I'm illustrating, I like a tidy bright space (even though my current studio is almost never tidy) and a TV for any Netflix needs I may have during the final art process.

4. Adeena Karsick asks, "Is there a game or a toy from your childhood, that now that you look back on it, has influenced your writing in unexpected yet powerful ways?"

I'm not sure about my writing, but my illustration work was hugely influenced by my dollhouse. I couldn't figure out why my go-to style in my illustrations was always an ornate home when I grew up among my Mom's modern design. It turns out that my big Victorian dollhouse had left me with an insatiable desire to draw fancy, detailed homes.

5. Benjamin Hertwig asks, "Marilynne Robinson said that one of her favourite end-of-day writing snacks is a fried egg sandwich. What food fuels your creativity?"

CHOCOLATE. The first two drawers in my desk started out as a place for drawing supplies but have now been completely taken over by my chocolate and candy stash. Favourites include Cadbury Mini Eggs and anything by Purdy's.

6. Eliza Robertson asks, "What music do you associate with your work?"

Upbeat movie soundtracks can often get me in the right state of mind for a project. Fantastic Mr. Fox and Up come to mind. Something that's peppy and includes some ukulele.

7. Hoa Nguyen asks, "What is your writing area or desk like? Please share a description."

My studio is upstairs, but I do my best writing when I take my laptop down to the kitchen table. It faces some big windows overlooking the backyard and is less cluttered than my drawing studio. Plus, the table downstairs has more room for the cats to stretch out on when they are "helping" me.

8. Susin Nielsen asks, "How did your dreams of being a published author square with the realities of being a published author?"

I think I pictured a life of creative solitude, moving from one project to the next. I had no idea that the promotional side of publishing required cultivating public speaking skills, or that generally you have numerous projects on the go and they almost always overlap. I didn't expect that it would be such a struggle to find a balance between days in and days out of my studio. Not that I'm complaining — too much work is the best problem to have!

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