Ashley Spires is the author of The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, a charming story of friendship, courage and overcoming your fears. It is the feature book in our July 2017 Picture Book Box. Ashley is from our corner of the world - Ladner, B.C., Canada. It’s petty impressive what Ashley has accomplished in the six years since her first book, Small Saul was published. Four picture books, five graphic novels (Binky the Space Cat series), a long list of awards and honours, plus a number of books she has illustrated for other authors.
MARMALADE BOOKS (MB): Do you ever have more than one book idea in your head at time?
Ashley Spires (AS): Always! For the past few years I'm always working on 2-3 books at a time though they are usually at different stages. I'll be writing the first draft for one while I'm roughing out the illustrations for another and then finishing up final art on the third. I try to pace myself, but it all inevitably bottlenecks and I don't sleep for a month!
MB: As an author/illustrator, do the pictures or the story come to you first?
AS: It really depends on the story. With Small Saul it all started with a doodle, but with The Most Magnificent Thing it started with my own feelings of frustration. I think half my books start with a picture and half with a story idea.
MB: You’ve written and illustrated picture, graphic and non-fiction books for kids. Are there any other types of books you would be interested in creating?
AS: I'd love to try a middle grade illustrated chapter book. I've illustrated one for another author, but I've never tried to write one myself. You can do so much with humour in that format!
MB: Your books are very encouraging and inspirational to kids. Did you have a teacher or someone else that inspired you as a child?
AS: The mother of one of my closest friends was a children's librarian. She is the one who introduced me to Roald Dahl and Barbara Reid to name a few. Even when I was too old for picture books she would share books with amazing illustrations in them to inspire my artwork. I think she knew I should be making books long before I did!
MB: You grew up with pets and your parents owned a pet food store in Tsawwassen, B.C. You’ve described yourself as a “crazy cat lady.” I’ve been seeing many pictures recently of some adorable kittens on your Instagram account. What is your current cat count? What is the most number of pets that you have had a one time? (No judgement, I'm animal crazy myself!)
AS: Well growing up we definitely had a lot of pets. People used to dump their cats around my Dad's business and he brought everyone home. Most of my childhood we had at least 8 cats and a dog. Nowadays I have three cats and a dog, though I do like to foster orphaned kittens for my local shelter. I have had seven cats and dog in my house for the last five weeks but my foster kittens all went to their forever homes yesterday. And I'm already itching for the next litter...
My thanks to Ashley for this interview and giving us a glimpse into her amazing world. Pat Oldroyd