Since I am a huge picture book fan, I am always excited to participate in a blog tour for a favorite author/illustrator. Today, I am excited to have Will Hillenbrand stop by and talk about his new book, Snowman's Story and share with us about his creative process. Thanks Will for stopping by.
SNOWMAN'S STORY has some similar elements to other well-known snowman stories. Was this something that you intentionally decided as you created this story?
I think that what you are referring to as “similar elements” is the visual context of the story’s setting. Snowman’s Story draws from our collective memory/context. This context would obviously include experiences and books that have accumulated in the reader’s life and it is the world where stories begin. Picture books rely on what is familiar and then move to what’s beyond. Another example would be our dream world. My dreams begin with the familiar… things, people and places I know… then move to the unpredictable. In Snowman’s Story the familiar collides with the unfamiliar. In a picture book, that translates into the page turn. The familiar is a kind of a launching pad for the drama that is about to take place. It is a street corner and the street signs there are EVERYDAY ROAD and ADVENTURE AVENUE.
I am a huge fan of wordless picture books. Did you know it was going to be a wordless book or did that just reveal itself as you worked on the story?
I am a huge fan of wordless picture books, too. With Snowman’s Story I started out with a book dummy that included words. With each revision I adjusted the pictures and removed words. At some point during this process I noticed that there were no words left in the book. “Okay,” I thought, “this is the kind of book you want to be.” My editors agreed, and that is what we have- a wordless picture book. It had kind of been in the back of my mind to do a wordless picture book but I did not set out to do that with Snowman’s Story.
Though there is a short video on your website, can you share with readers a little more about your creative process?
I am a big believer in the “process work.” My short videos give my audience snapshots of what the creative process is like for specific books. It is my hope that showing the actual process will allow viewers to become excited enough to make something for themselves.
During school visits I often show off my “magic pencil.” My pencil is tucked away in my jacket pocket. The children are kind of desperate; they want to see the “magic pencil.” What I reveal to them is an ordinary No. 2 pencil. Some of them are a little disappointed but then I remind them that there is no magic in the pencil. The magic is inside of them and if they believe in that magic they can make magic with their drawings and writing. No one has seen the world the way that they have and if they want others to see it they will have to make it happen. Anyone can do nothing; it takes someone special to do something. I believe they are that someone.
Do you work on one book at a time or do you juggle a couple of projects? Do you sketch everything out and then turn it into the actual artwork?
I usually prefer to work on one story at a time when I’m working on the final art of a book. That allows me to give that world my full attention. I always keep a notebook/journal nearby because I often find inspiration in action. By “doing,” the molecules collide and the oxygen for new ideas is fresh.
I use both traditional and nontraditional media in my work. I would like to think that my illustrations reflect both classical and modern traditions. There has never been a medium that I haven’t liked—that includes the mud I played with in the side yard of my house when I was a child.
Do you listen to music when you work?
When I’m writing I prefer not to have music playing but when I am painting I like to listen to classical, folk and indie music.
And finally, can we get a picture of the view from your studio window?
Are there certain authors/illustrators/artists that have influenced your work?
My favorite illustrator is Ernest Shepherd. I have stopped trying to figure out why. I just love his work; it touches me so deeply. The first illustrator/storyteller that I remember from my childhood is Beatrix Potter. My grandmother read The Tale of Peter Rabbit to me and that was that. That book was my welcome mat to the world of children’s books. Now I have met and known so many talented and wonderful picture book people that my list would be longer than Santa’s Christmas list, being too long to share with you here.
Are there any other projects that you are currently working on that you can share with us?
I most recently completed All for a Dime!, the fourth book in the Bear and Mole series and it’s due to be published in fall 2015. On my studio table, I am working on the final art for Bear and Bunny written by Daniel Pinkwater; it’s the companion book to Bear in Love which was published two years ago.
Can you share something that was funny or touching from a school visit or a letter from a student who wrote to you about your work?
No two school visits are ever the same; that is what I love about them. The raw energy of children has a powerful pull on me. We attract each other like the polar opposite sides of a magnet. I always feel so privileged to be able to spend time with my readers. Together we motivate and inspire each other; it is one of the most fantastic feelings I know. As an author, I know I only have two times to make a first impression: the first with my books and the second when we meet. I hope that impression sends my readers into the greater world of books and great literature that is out there waiting for them.
After a day full of school visits I’m so exhausted that I think I fall asleep before my head ever hits the pillow!
Check out the book trailer for Snowman's Story:
About Will Hillenbrand:
Will Hillenbrand has illustrated many beloved picture books, including Kiss the Cow by Phyllis Root; and Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep!, and Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze! by Maureen Wright. He has also written and illustrated a number of picture books, including Down by the Barn, the Bear and Mole series, and Mother Goose Picture Puzzles. Will enjoys visiting schools to talk about the creative process involved in making a picture book. He lives with his wife, Jane, and their son, Ian, in Terrace Park, Ohio. For more information, visit his website
For additional book resources:
Snowman Finds His Story (downloadable game)
Don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour:
Mon, Nov 3 As they Grow Up
Tues, Nov 4 Cracking the Cover
Wed, Nov 5 Geo Librarian
Thurs, Nov 6 5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Nov 7 Momma Drama
Sat, Nov 8 Booking Mama
Mon, Nov 10 Just a Little Creativity
Tues, Nov 11 Kid Lit Frenzy
Wed, Nov 12 Children's Book Review
Thurs, Nov 13 Displaced Yinzer
Two Lions/Amazon is pleased to offer a copy of SNOWMAN’S STORY by Will Hillenbrand to one lucky winner! (U.S. addresses only.)