Monday, May 22, 2023

Q&A with Landis Blair




Landis Blair is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book The Night Tent. His other books include The Envious Siblings and Other Morbid Nursery Rhymes. He lives in Chicago.


Q: What inspired you to create The Night Tent, and how did you create your character Watson?

A: The idea for The Night Tent grew out of my memories as a child lying in bed being unable to sleep. I would do whatever I could to try and distract myself from my fears and frequently that distraction was provided by crawling in and out of the tent I created with my covers, playing whatever imaginary games I could come up with.


Watson, therefore, became an easy extension of my own memories, though he is far more successful at the game of distraction than I ever was.

Q: Did you work on the illustrations first or the text first--or both simultaneously?

A: I primarily worked on the text first; however, during the editing process I did several preliminary sketches and test illustrations to try and figure out the visual feeling of the book. 

Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “Dynamic pen-and-ink crosshatchings against a palette of deep navy blues and dusk-colored purples suffuse Watson’s story with an appropriately mellow bedtime feel, never becoming too dark or bleak. Tone is Blair’s strength, and kids will enjoy following Watson’s twisty paths with their fingers.” What do you think of that description?

A: I am both flattered and relieved by that description since I typically work in black and white. It took me many failed and frustrating attempts to get the colour right and even then I ended up having to lighten all of the colours right before submitting the final illustrations.


As such, I felt rather anxious sending the book off while I worried how the colours would print.

Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started working on it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: Yes, I pretty much knew how the book was going to end when I started insofar as nearly any bedtime book ends with sleep. However, along the way there were definitely large changes made to the story and surprises that emerged.


I think this is one of the most rewarding aspects of creating a story. When you let go you realize that the story starts telling itself and you can sit there and enjoy it like anyone else.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am working on illustrating a black and white story that I wrote and which will initially be released in France later this year. The story is about an old man about to die who goes out in the snow and whimsically interacts with a large group of birds. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: In The Night Tent, Watson carries around a little stuffed cat. While I did not have a stuffed cat as a boy, I have hidden in Watson’s room my own childhood stuffed animal which I carried around and slept with for many years.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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