Illustrator talks to the author.
Illustrator Margarita asks author Dina Elizabeth Slater 8 questions.
1) What inspired you to create Arthur and the magic book ?
My son, Arthur! He has a beautiful spirit, a real thirst for adventure, and big and blossoming imagination. We love books, and I love to write, so this book was destined to happen. The Arthur in the book is inspired by my own Arthur and his joyful energy. Creating this book has been a wonderful experience and one I have shared with my family.
2) What poets/writers have influenced you?
Where to begin; Lewis Carrol, C.S Lewis, L. Frank Baum & Roald Dahl, to name a few. They are masters of story; creating complex characters and colourful worlds that envelop the reader in a most special way. I am fascinated by the weird and wonderful, and there are no better composers than these exceptional authors. Those were the stories of my childhood; nowadays, I am having so much fun exploring the work of Julia Donaldson, who is picture book royalty for a reason. We own all of her books, and her charming stories will forever stay in our happy memories.
3) What is the most difficult aspect of writing for children?
It’s hard to say. Each of my stories has presented me with a new challenge. I suppose the obvious answer would be the rhyme. I love poetry, but writing in rhyme and writing it well, is no walk in the park. Each sentence needs to connect to the last seamlessly while telling the story beautifully. You can’t just think about rhyming words; the story must come first and the rhyme second. It is nerve-wracking from beginning to end. I remember nearing the end of my first draft and getting stuck on one line for two days! That’s another beautiful thing about language. You are constantly surprised. You go from total blank to a river of words. When you finally craft that last line you were stuck on, it can inspire the rest of the book.
4) What is your favourite part of Arthur and the Magic book?
I’m torn between two scenes. The first one is the dragonfly scene, which, for me, sets the pace of the rest of the story. I love the rhythmic structure of this scene, and the alliteration here really communicates the energy. “Its fiery wings began to flap, to flutter, shine, and shimmer.” My second favourite part is where Arthur flies through the night sky with the magic pig. You really feel a sense of freedom, fun and fearlessness in this scene. I love it.
5) Talk to me about the editing process?
The editing process was both amazing and gut-wrenching. I hired a grammatical editor to improve the story from that perspective, but from a content perspective, I self-edited. That was tough. There’s a phrase called ‘killing your darlings'. It’s a great way to describe the challenge of letting go of things you worked so hard on. The original story is around 300 words longer than what is now published, and some lovely parts didn’t make the final cut. Ultimately it was for the overall health of the book and the right decision, but hard all the same. There’s so much that goes into creating a book that I hadn’t thought of before. Everything has to work together in perfect harmony for a book to be born. The word count, the typesetting and design, the print criteria; the list goes on.
6) What is your favorite illustration in the book?
That is a hard question. Words can’t express the love I have for every one of these illustrations. Margarita is one of the most talented people I have ever met, and it's been a privilege to work alongside her on this book. I can’t wait for future projects. My favorite illustration, however, is the image where Arthur opens the book for the first time. When I first saw it, tears immediately filled my eyes. Arthurs expression completely captured my heart. It's the look of wonder, appreciation, love, and thoughtfulness in Arthur's expression. It is truly a beautiful piece, and it represents a glimpse of a new and exciting chapter of life.
7) What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m focusing on enjoying this moment and working on sharing my work with new audiences. I’m embracing the opportunities that come my way and thoroughly enjoying connecting with new people. I hope to spend some time over Christmas doing some writing; before prepping for the release of my next book, 'The Parrot and the Baboon', which will be out next summer.
8) What would your advice be to new authors?
My advice is to make sure you never abandon the style that is authentic to you. There were times I would read a picture book and begin to compare it with my work. You naturally focus on the differences, but it's important to see those differences as opportunities rather than faults and develop your own identity. Be inspired by the work of others, strive for the quality you see but keep your unique soul in the work you do.
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