ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT by Steve Light - Giveaway!

Somebody finally did it - somebody finally wrote a book with flying pigs in it! In fact, Steve Light's new book, ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT, is about all sorts of flying contraptions.
     As a kid who dreamed of being a bird, running across the back yard flapping her arms like crazy trying to get off the ground, I can so relate to this story! Zephyr loves airplanes, and sometimes her passion gets a little out of control.
     Boys and girls with both love this story which hints at the beginnings of flight with one brave main character, reminiscent of a young Amelia Earhart, on a grand adventure. Today, I have the pleasure of asking Steve about his latest book...

Q. Congratulations on yet another sweet book, Steve! What was the inspiration behind ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT?
A. Zephyr actually started by me drawing flying machines. I had just finished a book and wanted to do something that did not have a story! That was just fun to draw. So I started drawing flying machines. Ridiculous contraptions that would never really fly. I showed my Art Director and Editor the drawings one day and they both said “This has got to be your next book!”

Q. I love how Zephyr is always blowing bubbles - even in the most stressful moments. It's as if she takes it all with style and a sense of "Don't worry, I got this." What was your reasoning behind this?
A. It is like when you are scared walking home from school in the winter when it gets dark real early and you start whistling like you are not scared. I think Zephyr is a very confident little girl but blowing a bubble when there is a little stress helps her feel more confident.

Q. And her name - Zephyr! And the flying pigs! How did these come to be?
A. Zephyr came from reading everything I could on flying machines and wind and updrafts and lift and the word Zephyr was just so cool I had to use it. Little Zephyr is actually named after her Grandfather Zephyr Springsmith which is a name I love writing and the flying machine drawings I mentioned earlier are actually signed Zephyr Springsmith because they are HIS inventions. I was drawing a sketchbook of flying pigs also at that time and so when I felt I needed a place for Zephyr to fly to, I decided it had to be a place with flying pigs!

Q. I'm so intrigued by your illustration method. Looking at the breadth of your titles, like PUSS IN BOOTS, THE SHOEMAKER EXTRAORDINAIRE, and TRUCKS GO, I'm especially interested in how you achieve that sense of wild freedom in your artwork. It's something I'm working at myself right now. Can you give us a peek behind the curtain as to how you achieve this?
A. Puss in Boots and Shoemaker were my first books and done in collage because that is how I thought children’s books were illustrated. I was just following my two hero’s Eric Carle and Lio Lionni. I try not to spend too much time on an illustration. I try not to “noodle” it too much—I do not like when illustrations are overworked. I always say “Do it, then turn the page” My latest books are drawn with pen and ink. Drawing is my passion. I draw everyday and carry a sketchbook everywhere. I mostly draw with fountain pens and wanted these books to be about line and marks. My most recent work “CITY DRAGON” out from Candlewick 2014 was sketched as small 2 inch by 4 inch thumbnails and then I went right to the finished ink drawings with out full size pencils. I drew directly with fountain pen for the finished art, with out penciling it first. These are large very complicated city scenes—I LOVED every minute of it!! This was very freeing and kept the artwork very fresh.

Q. Your style in ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT appears more line-driven than some of your previous titles. I love the quality of your line work. How do you achieve that, and what is your philosophy behind this obvious evolution in your artistic voice?
A. My philosophy is drawing and finding the right graphic for that story that I am trying to tell. CHRISTMAS GIANT is more of a controlled line. Almost carved out of wood like an old Christmas toy or Currier and Ives print. Zephyr is much looser and full of energy but also scratchy and old like the old flying machines. These were all drawn with fountain pens. Fountain pens are an obsession of mine. I collect old ones, some 80-100 years old and fix them up so I can use them. I have about 50-60 in my collection ALL of which I use to draw and illustrate with. Some I have custom made nibs to make a certain kind of line. There is an amazing man Richard Binder that does custom nib work for me and some of his nibs are just a dream to draw with. He is now teaching me how to make those nibs myself, which is a lot of fun. The funny thing is TRAINS AND TRUCKS GO were drawn with a stick dipped in ink! So I don’t need a fancy fountain pen to make art with, but they are lots of fun to work on and with and I enjoy collecting them and having various ones that draw all very different. I really like picking the pen that best fits the graphic of the story I want to tell.

Q. My readers love hearing the break-in stories. How did you first get into creating children's books? What was your path to publication?
A. I was illustrating very adult things for Absolut Vodka and Sony Films because that is what I thought I was supposed to do. Then I started teaching 4-5 yr olds and reading them stories and telling them stories and thought why not illustrate my own stories. After showing EVERY publisher in NYC—sometimes 2 or 3 times—someone suggested I show a great illustrator Richard McGuire my work. Richard McGuire knew the new Art Director Howard Reeves at Abrams publishing who was starting their children’s book division and I showed Him my work and we did The Shoemaker Extraordinaire and Puss and Boots and some other work before I ended up at Candlewick working with Joan Powers and Kristen Nobles who are amazing to work with and really understand me as an artist. I also do books with Chronicle and Powerhouse. Sharyn Rosart works there and really gives me free reign to create cool, fun books.

Q. Finally, are you doing anything special to celebrate the release of ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT? And what are you working on next?
A. I celebrate EVERYDAY that I am able to draw, tell stories and teach children. City Dragon is coming out in 2014. DIGGERS GO a follow up to TRAINS AND TRUCKS GO is coming out in 2013 and “Down the Rabbit Hole” an accordion fold book about a rabbit family looking for a new home should be out in 2013 if the cost of production does not get in the way. I am so blessed to draw and tell stories that get made into these magical things we call books!

Q. Thanks so much Steve!

One lucky commenter will win a free copy of ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT. Must live in the continental US to win. Review and winner's copy provided by the publisher.
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MotherReader said...

"I celebrate EVERYDAY that I am able to draw, tell stories and teach children."

One of the best sentiments I've ever read about writing and art. Thanks for sharing the insightful interview!

PragmaticMom said...

I loved Zephyr Takes Flight too! I covered it here: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2013/01/best-books-for-girls/

Eric VanRaepenbusch said...

We are big fans of Steve Light! Great interview Elizabeth!

Eric VanRaepenbusch said...

Oh forgot to comment on the question you asked in the Rafflecopter...I would use Zephyr Takes Flight to celebrate Steve's birthday on my blog in March!

Sarah Albee said...

Cool interview, thanks for sharing!

apple blossom said...

This sounds like a fun book to read. I'd share it with my nephews and nieces thanks

Geo Librarian said...

This looks like it would be a fun book to share with my students about the power of a passion.

Nicki said...

Sounds like another fun book to share with kids at storytime!