Interview by the Young Adulting Editors
Ashley is the author and illustrator of many books, including the best selling The Most Magnificent Thing and the Binky The Space Cat series. She is a drinker of tea, eater of candy, and lover of cats. When she is not making books, she enjoys yoga, jogging, and fostering orphan kittens for her local shelter. Ashley lives just outside Vancouver, British Columbia with her dog and far too many felines.
As both the author and illustrator of many of your books, when you are starting a new picture book or graphic novel project, do you usually work on your illustrations or writing first?
It totally depends on the project. With something like Small Saul it all started with a doodle in my sketchbook, whereas The Most Magnificent Thing started as an emotional experience that I then built into a narrative allegory. Sometimes I’ll even just get a character personality in my head, as with Burt The Beetle Doesn’t Bite, and the story and visuals only come after I really know the character well.
I think, when it comes to creating stories, you have to stay open to ideas in any form and be willing to develop them however they decide.
Some of your works have been recently adapted to the screen: The Most Magnificent Thing, and your Binky series. What has it been like to see your work made for the screen? Was it a collaborative process, and how did you have to adapt your story to the new form?
It was always a dream of mine to be an animator, so to see my worlds finally land on the screen was an absolute dream.
The process varied between my two projects that were adapted, but both were very collaborative—the Agent Binky TV series based on my Binky The Space Cat graphic novels was particularly so. I was giving input on the world as they built it. They were so respectful of the source material that the changes they made to fit the story to the television format felt pulled from my head. And I am now working beyond a consulting capacity, as I am now writing episodes for the second season!
What are some of the differences between creating picture books versus graphic novels?
For me the biggest difference is with pacing of the story telling.
Picture books rely on a very succinct story and don’t leave a lot of room for visual tangents. In a picture book you pick a curated selection of moments to share with the reader to tell the narrative, whereas the graphic novel format allows for a lot of between-the-lines action and visual jokes. And, of course, you can flesh out a story so much more with a graphic novel because you have length on your side. In practical terms though, it means graphic novels take much longer to make!
What inspires you about creating children’s books? What were some of your favourite children’s books growing up?
I absolutely love that kid’s books allow for anything your imagination can come up with. And I also love the idea of making children laugh. My favourite books growing up were Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and The Twits. Both were comedy gold that I would read over and over again, with cartoony drawings; I thought to myself, I want to make books like this.
Can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I’m working on a number of things! Currently I’m creating my first middle grade graphic novel titled “Goth Unicorn” and I’m working on a sequel to The Most Magnificent Thing. And, of course, the second season of Agent Binky. It’s busy times but, thankfully, I really love my job.
Our reviews of Ashley Spires’ books: