Q: How did you come up with the idea for A New Kind of Wild?
A: A New Kind of Wild was inspired by my dad, who moved from Puerto Rico to New York when he was a kid. He left everything he loved and moved to a place so different it was like a whole new world.
That was the thread of inspiration that I played with for A New Kind of Wild.
Q: Did you work on the text first or the illustrations, or both simultaneously?
A: I worked on the text first. I might be a bit of an outlier amongst author/illustrators but I like to have my text figured out before I move on to the pictures. I need to get the words just right before I switch.
I do tend to do a bit of editing when I get to the pictures, but that’s mostly realizing that this or that isn’t needed because I can show it in the pictures.
Q: How did you first get interested in creating children's books?
A: I’ve always loved children’s books but like so many people I forgot about that love until I had kids of my own.
Reading books to my son reminded me how much I loved children’s books – how poetic something so short could be, how each page was a work of art – and I wanted to make them too.
I hadn’t written anything in a very long time when I started thinking about making my own books so it has been a long process to figure out how to write again.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: This story about home, what it feels like to leave it and what it takes to find it again. It’s also about friendship and understanding and seeing things through someone else’s eyes.
So I hope kids take away some of that, but mostly I hope kids take away the idea that there is magic in the unlikely places and situations they just have to be willing to try to look.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just finished illustrating my third picture book, Mi Casa is My Home written by Laurenne Sala, which will be published by Candlewick next year and now I am currently mucking about in my notebook trying to figure out a couple stories that have been bouncing around in my head, but that is slow going because it’s a lot harder to write with kiddos constantly invading your office, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything so I’m just plodding along.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: If people want to keep up with what I’m up to, I am fairly active on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/zarprey/) posting sketches, paintings and other bits and bobs and I have a fairly consistent monthly newsletter where I share little peeks into my studio and other things that interest me. (http://zaralikestodraw.com/newsletter/)
--Interview with Deborah Kalb