KN: Where did you come up with the idea for THE LION'S SHARE?
MM: I was having a birthday party a few years ago and we were having cake. Everyone had a piece. When we were done, there was still a big slice left over, but no one wanted to take the last piece. So someone – I don’t remember who, but it might have been me – cut it in half and took half. Someone else cut the remaining piece in half. Someone else cut that piece in half. It was really funny, and the cake kept getting smaller and smaller. I thought: there’s got to be an idea for a book in here somewhere.
KN: So halving the cake came from real life. Did your party guests proceed to offer to bake you numerous cakes, too?
MM: The idea of doubling the cakes was strictly from the book, I'm afraid. The idea was to set up a kind of symmetry between the halving and the doubling in the story.
(I really wish everyone had volunteered to make more cake. I love cake.)
KN: How long did it take you to write the first draft?
MM: It's tough to say. Since I illustrate my books too, I'm often tweaking the text as I'm working on the illustrations. The first finished draft - the one I submitted to the publisher - took a couple months and many, many rewrites.
KN: Describe your revision process.
MM: I write a draft, get away from it for a day or so, give it another look and realize it stinks. I repeat this for a few weeks. Finally, when I feel like it's not too bad, I show it to some trusted friends and get their feedback. They always notice gaps and inconsistencies that I missed, so I go back and do some more drafts, then show it around again.
When it finally hits a point that I'm satisfied, and my friends are too, then I'll send it in to my publisher. If they like it, there are always more revisions that they'd like to see, and I rewrite the text a few times more.
KN: Why did you choose an ant to be the heroine?
MM: Mostly because of her size. She's the end of the line. The animals start with the largest (the elephant) and get smaller as each slice of cake gets smaller. What I really wanted was for each animal to be about half the size of the one before, but that just wasn’t possible in each case.
KN: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
MM: I have lots more information about how I wrote and illustrated the book on my website, and I encourage you all to stop by and check it out. I have some sample projects, an explanation of the math behind the book and how it affected the design, demonstrations of how I drew the pictures, and lots more.
It’s all at www.mattmcelligott.com. Hope to see you there!
KN: Thanks Matt!