And how exciting is it to be able to congratulate an interviewee on signing with an agent the week before the interview?! Congratulations, Colleen, on signing with Isabel Atherton of Creative Authors, Ltd. I am sure you will make beautiful books together!
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[CRC] I am an author/illustrator. I find it easier to write my stories first, then, as I create the dummy book, thewords usually change depending on the illustrations. A perk of wearing both hats.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?
[CRC] I was born in Limestone, Maine in an air force base hospital. But, I’ve lived in New Jersey since the age of two. Let my clarify, South Jersey. If you live here you know that Jersey is really three separate states. When I write my mg or ya novels they are usually set in an area similar to where I live. Suburban, not far from the shore and the Pine Barrens, but also close to Philly.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[CRC] I’ve always had a talent for art. I won a scholarship to Moore College of Art based on my portfolio, and then went on to graduate from Rutgers University with a degree in visual art. After graduating, I worked as a jewelry designer and fine artist—then I had kids. But, I still worked on my art while raising my boys. One of my jobs during that time was designing and painting murals in pediatric offices. I’d bring the little ones with me, set them up on a blanket, give them toys to play with, and get to work. Then more than ten years ago I started writing novels. I got serious about writing and illustrating picture books about three years ago.
[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
[CRC] My preferred medium now is a combination of pencil and digital art. In my earlier work I painted in pastel or oil.
[JM] Do you have any themes or character types that keep recurring in your work?
[CRC] A theme? Well, I seem to have a theme of renewal that runs through my stories. Whether it be reincarnation, or the death of a flower to the growth of its seed.
[JM] You also write Middle Grade and YA, do you ever sketch characters/scenes to help you in this process? And do you illustrate all your middle grade novels?
[CRC] I painted a character sketch for my older middle grade novel called, A Promise Stitched in Time. I was working on making the book mysterious and haunting, and from time to time I’d look at this image for inspiration.
[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?
[CRC] I’m currently working on a few projects to get ready for submission. I’ll give you a sneak peek at one of my projects that I feel especially connected to—and it also led me to my agent, Isabel Atherton of Creative Authors, Ltd. Yay! The story is a heartfelt picture book that deals with love, grief, and the circle of life. See, there’s my theme cropping up again.
As you can see in my third illustration, I start with my scanned pencil drawing and then paint digitally. Of course, this image is still in its rough stages.
My agent will be subbing this story in January if it’s peaked the interest of any editors out there in the blogosphere.
As the seasons of the year pass, so do the seasons of our life.
And it’s hard to understand.
But nothing and nobody is ever lost forever.
[JM] Do you ever experience tension between wanting to write and wanting to illustrate?
[CRC] I like being able to switch hats, whether it is my plaid writer’s cap or my flamboyant, feathered, purple artist hat. Some days inspiration hits me and I’ll write all day, then other days all I want to do is draw.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[CRC] You don’t want to see my workspace, it’s very cluttered but I know where everything is located. I’m usually accompanied by my three dogs while working. I also have a fish tank by my side. Zoning out and staring at the fish swimming about is very relaxing and conducive to creative sparks.
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?
[CRC] I have a few of my older art pieces hanging in the house. This is an oil portrait of an iguana I owned, named T-Rex.
I also painted a zebra—not one of my many pets.
Five Fun Ones to Finish? [JM] What’s your favorite park in the world?
[CRC] My all time favorite park-so far, is in Mexico and called Xel Ha Park. Swimming with manta rays and parrotfish is magical experience!
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[CRC] I own three dogs—a Doberman pinscher named Lady, a mixed breed named Sage, and a miniature dachshund named Luca. Guess who’s the boss of the pack? Yep, the little guy.
[JM] Hah, Luca the boss dog! Fact that most people don’t know about you?
[CRC] Let’s see. Odd things I’ve done. I visited a voodoo priestess in New Orleans, swam with a shark in Mexico, and I agreed to sit in a room with an arctic wolf. Also, I’ve stayed in many haunted houses, and no, I have never seen a ghost-but I still hold out hope. One day I’d like to stay at The Stanley Hotel (where The Shining was filmed.)
[JM] A word you love to say out loud?
[CRC] Fun words. Haberdashery, curmudgeon, and Chincoteague.
Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
[CRC] Snacks? When I’m working I tend to forget about eating and drinking, but if there is chocolate by my side I’ll sample them in between projects. I just discovered Dove’s chocolate covered salted caramels. Yum!
[JM] I also just discovered Trader Joe’s salted chocolate caramels!! Wishing you great success in all your submissions!