Virtual Blog Tour & Interview with Elisa Kleven

Today author & illustrator, Elisa Kleven stops by as part of her Virtual Blog Tour for Glasswings.

Hi Elisa – Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions. (Thank YOU!!!) I am excited to be a part of your virtual blog tour for Glasswings. It is a beautiful story both in text and illustrations. (thanks again!)

In looking at your website, you have a significant number of books that you have written and illustrated, but also quite a few books that you have illustrated for other writers. Can you share a little about the process you go through when writing and illustrating a book? 

If I'm illustrating my own story, I first need to generate a text of course. I have a pretty circuitous way of writing stories. Beginning with the seed of an idea, which is often based on a visual image or a memory, I start to write down thoughts about the image, which, if I'm lucky, cohere and build and grow together become a story. Often I think of multiple scenarios and possible endings for the same story. Sometimes I get stuck and have to put the text away in my drawer for awhile, where it can rest and "gestate" for awhile. If I'm illustrating another author's text, the process is much more straightforward. I read the story many times to get a feel for the characters, mood and setting, and then I begin sketching pictures which illustrate and, I hope, illuminate salient images from the story.

Do you have particular authors or illustrators that you credit as influencing your work or motivating you to become an author/illustrator? 

So many. The great picture book collage masters , Leo Lionni, Ezra Jack Keats, and Eric Carle have all influenced me. I remember seeing THE SNOWY DAY when I was young and thinking that the way I cut out and recycled scraps of this and that --used wrapping paper, pictures from catalogs, lace and ribbons, etc. to create my handmade dollhouse worlds was (granted, a much less sophisticated) version of Keats' use of collage. The comparison was validating: here was a grownup artist, making beautiful art with the same kinds of materials I loved to play around with.

What prompted you to write a book about glasswing butterflies? Have you always been interested in butterflies?

I have always loved butterflies. They are like otherworldly fairies, and yet so vital to maintaining healthy plants and flowers.  I love this combination of down-to-earth industriousness and exquisite, ethereal beauty, and tried to highlight it in my story.

What was the funniest thing a child has ever asked you in a letter/email/school visit?

"Do you talk to your toys still? " (No, but I talk through my somewhat toy-like book characters.) And, this may not be that funny but I found it moving: "I love the way you draw fairies, crocodiles, dogs, Paper dolls and elephants. Your stories are juicy and descriptive , they give me feelings."

If you could claim credit for another children’s book (as the writer or illustrator) which book would it be? 

THE HUNDRED DRESSES, by Eleanor Estes, TUCK EVERLASTING, by Natalie Babbitt, CHARLOTTE'S WEB, by E.B. White, MR. RABBIT AND THE LOVELY PRESENT, by Charlotte Zolotow and Sendak, and hundreds of others!

Can you share about any new projects that you are working on? 

I'm working on a few different stories right now…one stars a chimp, another a bear, another a baked good, and another my Grandma Eva Art , who was an artist from Ukraine.

Where do you like the write/draw? Do you have any special routines when you are creating? (e.g., listening to music, a special beverage, etc) 

I like to write while sitting on my bed (which is near a big window with a view trees, houses, and San Francisco Bay), or at the computer in our home library. And I like to make art in my studio, which is in my back yard. I can't listen to music when I'm thinking of a story, but I love to listen while I'm making illustrations. In the morning my special beverage is strong coffee, and in the late afternoon, a dainty, ladylike glass of wine (but not till late afternoon, mind you! ☺)

Since it is summer, do you have any favorite road trip or beach books that you can recommend? 

I've been reading EAST OF EDEN and loving it. And I've just started THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE, a fascinating story based on a true story about the Warsaw Zoo during World War Two.

Can you share a picture of your TBR pile?

This is just one of many of such piles.

Don't forget to look for a copy of Glasswings by Elisa Kleven a local indie bookstore or public library.  Click here to purchase a copy on