Bookroo Interview With Cale Atkinson
There’s lots of love in the air this time of month. And what better way to celebrate than with candy hearts, chocolates, flowers, and, don’t forget, Bookroo boxes! We’ve stayed busy here at Bookroo HQ between delivering our Valentines and getting February’s Bookroo boxes ready. February Bookroo boxes should now be arriving to a mailbox or doorstep near you!
We are thrilled to feature To the Sea in this month’s Bookroo picture book boxes. To the Sea is the creation of the talented Cale Atkinson, who works not only as an illustrator and writer but also as an animator. Cale currently resides in Kelowna, Canada. He claims to love tea more than sleep, which makes sense when you realize how many projects and clients he’s dealing with on a regular basis. With creative storytelling and engaging illustrations, Cale’s work has earned awards like Buzzfeed 17 Most Beautiful Books 2015, Ontario Library Association Best Bets Top 10 2015, and CBC Children’s Choice Award Finalist 2016. Cale recently spent a month in Portugal, and you can see his incredible Lisbon-inspired art on his Twitter account where he regularly updates his followers as to his coming adventures and works. (The interview has been edited for clarity.)
Bookroo: To The Sea is an inspiring story of friendship. Why did you create this story?
Cale: There have been many moments growing up where I’ve felt alone and unseen, almost invisible in my surroundings. I think most of us have those moments some time or another. I wanted to write a story which captured that feeling, and then showed how everything can change once you meet a friend (or whale!) that sees you for who you are. Having a true friend is a mighty special thing and can turn any rainy day to sunny skies. I wanted to create To The Sea to tell everyone out there, “You are not invisible, I see you!”
Bookroo: How have you come up with your most successful story ideas?
Cale: Nearly all my ideas come out of times when I’m drawing or sketching for fun. When I’m getting lost in my own drawings I never know what ideas may arise or where the pencil will lead me. Before I know it, I’m drawing a big whale on a rainy day or a small puzzle piece on the search for his fit.
Bookroo: Have you always wanted to write your own stories as well as illustrate?
Cale: For as long as I can remember I’ve loved telling stories through drawing. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been doing it, be it through stories, comic books or comic strips. I’ve always merged the writing and illustrating to be able to create my stories, whether in a single sketch or full book.
Bookroo: Do you find inspiration for characters in children that you know in real life?
Cale: I really take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. From people I see on a walk, to friends or neighbors I grew up with, everything collects in the stove pot that is my brain and simmers until an idea requires the inspiration to bubble over.
Bookroo: How do you know what a character needs to look like? Does the author always have an idea for that?
Cale: If I’m illustrating a book for another Author they may have some notes/ideas on the character’s appearance. Overall, I try and get an understanding what the character is all about from the book itself. What’s her/his personality? Is she/he loud? Quiet? Messy or tidy? All those little details help in how I end up drawing them.
Bookroo: What does a typical workday look like for you?
Cale: I usually start the day checking and responding to messages/emails. Next I write out a list, thinking of what things need to get done for the day and getting it all out of my head onto paper. Once I have my list, the day can vary depending what’s on the go. Most of the time I’m busily drawing and painting at my computer. Otherwise I may be down at a coffee shop trying to get some writing done on a new story or sketch out ideas.
Bookroo: How do you think your recent trip to Portugal will shape your future work?
Cale: I think traveling and seeing/experiencing different parts of the world is a wonderful way to bring new inspiration into your work. We’ll see if any future books have a European flair to them! Portugal has so much beauty in its cities! The amazing tiles on buildings, bright colours, plants growing everywhere! I hope I get to put everything I’m taking in out here into a future project :)
Bookroo: When you’re creating a new story, do you aim for a story that’s relatable or unique?
Cale: I honestly hope for both. I try to come up with stories that have some unique quality/perspective to them, while also hoping they contain a feeling that can connect and be relatable to the reader (no matter the age). I usually start with an idea that grabs me, and then spend the rest of the time working hard to create the feeling/emotion that I hope carries through.
Bookroo: How do you suggest readers (parents and children alike) get the most out of your books?
Cale: I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong way, and hope that anyway a reader decides to take in my books, they find enjoyment or a connection. If anything I would suggest to not rush through them, take your time, take in the details, and though there may not be many words, I hope they sense a larger story beyond them.
Bookroo: Are there ideas or motifs in your art that you think people might generally miss?
Cale: I have a habit of including tiny/hidden details in many of my books. If you ever decide to look a little closer, you may spot something you hadn’t noticed on a first read. :)
Bookroo: You always seem to be doing something exciting. What’s some of your upcoming work that our community of book lovers should be looking out for?
Cale: I am SUPER EXCITED to say I have two books coming out in 2018 that I both wrote and illustrated. Off & Away will be released on June 5th, a story of Jo’s great adventure overcoming her fears. Sir Simon: Super Scarer will hit shelves on September 4th. Simon lets you in on the scoop of what being a ghost is all about, while at the same time learning what being a friend is all about. Aside from those I’m busily writing away, hoping to bring more stories out into the world.
Thank you so much for the interview, and thanks to everyone for reading my stories. It means the world to me, and I can only hope they find some meaning with you.
We really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Cale and his work as an author and illustrator. You can learn more about him and see more of his work on his website. And please let us know what you enjoyed from the interview in the comments below!
(All images in this interview courtesy of Cale Atkinson.)