Author-Illustrator Interview: Wallace Edwards on The EXtinct Files: My Science Project

Wallace Edwards on Wallace Edwards: “born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1957; graduated Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, Ontario 1980; worked as freelance illustrator for magazines and books and a variety of clients for 25 years; work primarily in watercolour and pencil; paintings hang in private and public collections in Canada and abroad; love doing children’s books.” Note: scroll agency page for more information.

What made you decide to create books for young readers?

I have drawn all my life and loved books when I was little. I thought children would be an excellent audience for picture books because they look so carefully at things.

What training–formal or informal–did you elect? As a writer? As an illustrator?

Informal training–I love to draw and have done so since I was able to hold a pencil. Formal training–four years at Ontario College of Art and Design, graduated in 1980.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

My first book, Alphabeasts, published in 2002 by Kids Can Press, was an independent project done for personal entertainment in my spare time. An art director I knew recommended an agent, who was willing to promote the book and this is how it found a home at Kids Can.

Congratulations on the publication of The EXtinct Files: My Science Project (Kids Can, 2006)! What was your initial inspiration for this book?

Thank you for your kind congratulations. I had a collection of dinosaur paintings which inspired the story. In addition, I was fortunate to have a very good editor and designer at Kids Can, so we worked together well to shape the book.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The EXtinct Files took about a year from inception to publication. However, some of the paintings were done beforehand. There was a lot of ‘back and forth’ with the publisher refining the manuscript, and a lot of time spent sitting in a room at the old drawing board.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

The main challenge was in finding a story which fit the images and which could appeal to kids. Psychologically, when the creation of a book is in midstream, you are always walking around with a feeling that something needs to be done. It’s sort of like you are in the middle of remembering the book, and yet you don’t know what you have forgotten because you haven’t remembered it yet!

What advice do you have for beginning writer-illustrators?

Never give up. Don’t become discouraged. Just put things away and come back when you are refreshed. If one path fails, try another. Do the things you like to do. Find the subject matter which interests you the most, and then enjoy the sense of discovery in the creation.

How about those building a career?

There is no set map for building a career as we are all unique and the world changes fast. Just work hard and try to see the areas you would like to work in and approach them. Do the best you can do and always be honest.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I am presently working on a fifth book with Kids Can Press, which (without giving too much away) might involve a circus…

Cynsational Notes

Alphabeasts won the 2002 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Book Illustration.