Many publishers forbid their authors and illustrators to work closely with one another because often the author’s preconceived notions of what things should look like conflict with the illustrator’s ideas. And the publisher doesn’t want that hassle.
However, the publisher that I’m working for, Sono Nis Press, welcomes this type of collaboration. And I love it! Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon is the fourth book where I’ve been able to work with the author to produce illustrations.
I thought you all might like to meet my friend and colleague, Karen Autio, the author of our book whom I have known for 18 years. She has stuck it out with me and my crazy requests for models and/or people to take pictures of me doing various crazy things. (ie. taking pictures of me dancing in the snow in a silk housecoat for another book. Maybe I’ll show it to you someday…)
Here is a picture of Karen and I in the Wild Horse Canyon in 2014.
Karen, you have been very busy! Can you tell us about your other books?
My trilogy of historical novels for young readers focuses on Canadian history that hasn’t had much attention, along with issues of family, friends, and faith. Second Watch deals with the Canadian Pacific Empress of Ireland steamship’s role in immigration and its shipwreck in 1914—Canada’s Titanic. Life purpose and the impact of tuberculosis on a farming family make up the core of Saara’s Passage. Sabotage in Canada during the First World War is the central theme of Sabotage. My newest book is an illustrated chapter book called Kah-Lan the Adventurous Sea Otter, set on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC.
How long have you worked on Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon?
I’ve lived in the Okanagan (in British Columbia’s Southern Interior) for 20 years, and most of that time I’ve been intrigued by Wild Horse Canyon and its history as a place to trap wild horses. I so wanted to get to Wild Horse Canyon (in Okanagan Mountain Park) to explore it, but I thought the hike in from Kelowna was onerous, and I didn’t have access to a boat to take me across Okanagan Lake for the shorter hike* in from Commando Bay (* see my answer to the third question). In 2006, my curiosity got me researching the canyon, and the more I learned about it and the area, the more fascinated I became with the history. By 2013, when my third historical novel was about to be published, I couldn’t resist writing the outline and then text of this picture book, which was then accepted for publication by Sono Nis Press in January 2014.
What were your thoughts on working so closely with a friend and colleague?
I remember when I first mentioned this story idea to Loraine (before it was accepted for publication) and asked if she’d be available to illustrate it, she said, “No, my schedule is too full.” I was incredibly disappointed. So you can imagine my delight a year later when my publisher agreed with my recommendation of Loraine as illustrator and offered her the contract, and she accepted. She is the perfect artist for this project, with her lifelong knowledge of the Okanagan, intimate experience with horses, and realistic art style based on detailed research. Loraine stated at the beginning of this project, “I can’t think of a better partner to work with,” and neither can I.
Now, if we were horses, Loraine would be a fancy warmblood and I’d be a trustworthy cob (we confirmed this via an online quiz!). She’s full of spunk and energy, a true extrovert, while I’m more quiet, contemplative, you know, an introvert. At times I’m reining her in and at other times she’s spurring me on out of my comfort zone. We complement one another in so many ways. Knowing each other so well, we’re free to honestly critique each other’s work, which has strengthened both the text and illustrations.
What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the project?
Two challenging aspects immediately come to mind. First, wrangling the historical details, especially when resources were non-existent, were scarce, or disagreed. Second, and here’s where I address the * in my first answer. Getting into Wild Horse Canyon to actually see the setting of the book was incredibly challenging! In September 2014 we finally met someone who was willing to take us by boat to Commando Bay! (Just below the canyon) However, the promised short hike to Wild Horse Canyon had us detouring through a smaller overgrown canyon, needing to bushwhack over fallen and burned trees, through prickly bushes, and climbing rocks and sliding on loose ones.
But we made it!
A year later we met a hiker who guided us to Wild Horse Canyon on foot from the end of Lakeshore Road in Kelowna—not as onerous a hike as expected, but still a full day’s adventure.
The most rewarding? Again, I have two answers. First was experiencing the incredible, awesome Wild Horse Canyon twice, with its breathtaking sheer granite west wall and the peace of its secluded location. Second was the initial feedback on the story, that people got what I was aiming to convey about the history of place, a journey through time.
What do you hope readers will get out of the book?
I hope readers (and those being read to) will enjoy connecting to history. May they be so fascinated by the changes over time in one place that they’re inspired to explore the range of history of their own neighbourhood.
I have been told, and have experienced, that in order to keep a friendship healthy, you shouldn’t live, work, or travel with friends. Karen and I have committed all of the above taboos, and will do even more as we tour together to schools and libraries this fall. I am looking forward to finally sharing this huge project with kids and adults alike – with my buddy Karen!
I’m taking a stab in the dark, but I’m assuming most of our readers are creative. I hope you also have a friend with whom you can share many types of creative activities.