Monday, January 23, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CAROLYN COMAN AND ILLUSTRATOR ROB SHEPPERSON

KN: The concept of a memory bank implies that memories are valuable. Please expand on that idea.

CC: Beyond valuable, memory and dreams are incredibly delicious phenomena, the richest territory in the universe for an author and artist to mine. I felt like I’d fallen into a tub of butter getting to imagine the places and workings of memories and dreams and forgetting and remembering. Entering The Memory Bank was like an extended journey to the back of my brain, where practically all of the good stuff resides.

RS: Wow. This question stumps me. Isn’t reading experiencing memory?


KN: Abandonment is one of human kind's deepest fears. How did you decide that Honey would be abandoned?

CC: Very little is decided consciously, at least in the beginning of creating a story. Ideas and images present themselves, and often come as a surprise. We understood, at some level, that our main characters, Hope and Honey, were up against a tough situation. And we needed something striking to jumpstart the story and get them on the road to the Memory Bank (and Dump). More than anything we played with options. When this notion of abandoned-by-the-side-of-the-road came to us, we knew we knew we had gone a little (too) far, sailed right over the top. We more or less dared ourselves to pull it off.

RS: Children feel abandoned everyday, dontcha think? A mother that we know has such trouble when dropping her daughter off at preschool that she brought an alarm clock. The mother would set the alarm for 1 minute, explaining to her daughter that she had to leave when the bell rang. I wonder what the daughter thinks now (she must be 20) whenever own clock goes off in the morning…
But that doesn’t answer your question does it? We didn’t ‘decide’ as much as follow the story.


KN: Carolyn, please talk about your creative process. Do you use outlines, or other aides? If so, how and when?

CC: The Memory Bank was my first book of true collaboration/co-creation. Rob and I made it together simultaneously, and our creative process developed and unfolded along with the book. We flew by the seat of our pants for the most part, trusted our instincts and didn’t analyze a partnership that was clearly working. The story grew out of an on-going conversation conducted in words and pictures—thousands of emails sent over a period of about 18 months. Sometimes Rob started the conversation with a picture, sometimes I did with a snippet of text or a question. Then we proceeded back and forth, building on anything that caught our fancy, that made us laugh or seemed to have juice. Bit by bit characters emerged, the places and workings of the Bank became clear. Later, editorial help from Stephen Roxburgh and Arthur Levine helped us refine the fundamental narrative drive of the story, the separation and reunion of the two sisters. Probably our main aides were the working dummies we created (with the help of ace Art Director Helen Robinson) so that we could see how the pictures and text were flowing together. Another aide for me was coffee. Rob and I tended to work at night.


KN: Rob, please talk about your creative process. Do you experiment with materials, perspective, and/or other artistic elements?

I didn't experiment so much with materials, as with layout and perspective, with the Memory Bank building dictating where to place the "viewer". Generally, I considered the page a stage and followed the text’s stage directions, although I used quick pencil sketches for the Memory Bank because Carolyn and I were having an avalanche of story. When we were working, there were three in the room: Carolyn, me, and the Bank.


KN: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

CC: Creating this book was the most fun and best time I’ve ever had making a book. I’m forever spoiled by having had simultaneous visual expression in the creation and unfolding of a story.

RS: What Carolyn wrote.

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