Kelly Collier is the author and illustrator of A Horse Named Steve, the feature book in our May 2017 Picture Book Box. You can’t help but fall in love with Steve, a fine horse who thinks he could be finer. A great read aloud with charming illustrations, this book provides a fun way to bring up the subject of self-esteem and acceptance. Kelly is from Toronto, Ontario and this is her first book.
MARMALADE BOOKS (MB): When did you know you wanted to be a writer and an illustrator? Which came first?
KELLY COLLIER (KC): I knew I wanted to be an artist of some kind ever since I was little. I loved drawing and my parents encouraged me and my siblings to draw. I was in high school when I started thinking about drawing as a career. After high school I applied and was accepted to Sheridan College's illustration program and that was where I fell in love with children's books. After graduating I managed to get freelance work illustrating for newspapers and magazines but never managed to get work illustrating picture books. I really never intended to write, I find writing really challenging. I only started because I would get an idea for an image and I really wanted to put text in it and so I would make up stories to go with the illustration.
MB: Was this the first book that you submitted?
KC: No, not the first but this was the first book I had submitted in a REALLY long time. I found myself a few years out of art school feeling discouraged and behind on bills. I was working as a server in a restaurant to make ends meet and I guess I started working at the restaurant more and more and pursuing illustration less and less. I managed to let about 10 years slip by without illustrating a single thing professionally. I was actually looking to go back to school when my sister saw a doodle I had done of Steve and said she thought he would make a great character for a children's book. I remember rolling my eyes, thinking that my dreams of illustrating were long gone. But after thinking about it I thought maybe there was a story to go along with this funny looking horse and it wasn't like I had much to lose. So I submitted it to Kids Can Press and the rest is history.
MB: What was your inspiration for the book?
KC: I think Steve came from a few different places. I had a dog at the time that inspired his goofy look and personality. My brother also has a great sense of humor and I drew from that as well.
MB: What would you like parents to share with their kids when they read them the book?
KC: I think there are a few lessons parents and teachers can pull from this story. I think there is a lot of pressure for kids in today's world with social media to "out shine" each other. I think it's important for kids to grow up appreciating their authentic self. They are exceptional for being who they are without the "likes, tweets, and snap-chat filters"
My thanks to Kelly for this interview and for the chance to get to know her and Steve a little bit better. Pat Oldroyd
* if you wish to purchase the May Picture Book Box which includes A Horse Named Steve, we have a few left on our Shop Now Past Boxes page.