Kelly Collier is the author and illustrator of A Horse Named Steve, the feature book in our May 2017 Picture Book Box (and Team Steve, the feature book in our September 2018 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 or the September 2018 Picture Book Box containing Team Steve is available here.