SCBWI Bologna 2008 Author-Illustrator Interview: Emmanuel Guibert

Emmanuel Guibert is a talented comic author whose works include The Professor’s Daughter, Sardine in Outer Space, La Guerre d’Alan and Brune. He lives in France with his family. Anita Loughrey interviewed him in November 2007, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

Are you a writer as well as an illustrator, and, if so, which comes first, the images or the words?

EG: Yes, I write and I draw. But writing and drawing don’t race with each other, so no one comes first. They are like Mom and Dad, very different, very close in one’s heart, and impossible to say whom one loves the most (last time I did it, it’s been big trouble).

Do you have favorite medium you work in? If so, did the medium choose you or did you choose it? Can you elaborate?

EG: I draw with anything. And technique is a matter one can only deal with a tool in the hand. I’d rather show you, someday, than heavily write about it.

What are you currently working on?

EG: Alan’s war volume III.

If you were to illustrate yourself, what would you look like? (please feel free to draw yourself — animal, plant, mineral!)

EG: My daughter draws me much better than I do. See below:

What is the hardest thing about being an author and illustrator for you?

EG: Success, fans harassing me at the grocery store.

Did you always want to be an illustrator?

EG: I always wanted to draw.

What were your other career choices, if any?

EG: Do you suggest I should try another job?

Do you have a favorite children’s book that you wish you had written and/or illustrated? Why?

EG: Marcellin Caillou by Sempé and The Giving Tree by Shel Siverstein. I don’t wish I had written them; I just adore them.

How far ahead do you work? Six months, a year? Longer?

EG: My lifetime. I’d rather go back to work than answering this Q&A because there’s a deadline I can’t exceed.

What does your work space look like?

EG: A messy cave.

What’s on your wall over your desk or drawing table?

EG: A window.

How has your childhood influenced your illustrations and writing?

EG: I’ll let you know when my childhood is over.

What was your favorite book as a child or adolescent?

EG: I’ve always had a lot of favorite friends, a lot of favorite colors, a lot of favorite dishes, therefore, a lot of favorite books.

Do you work with the television, radio, or stereo on? In cafés, nursing a half-cup of lukewarm tea, or in isolation?

EG: Yes, all of that at the same time. And even asleep.

Do you have a blog or website to showcase your work, and if so, how often do you blog? Do you get lots of feedback from readers? Has it proved to be useful?

EG: No.

If you could be a character from one of your illustrations, who would you like to be and why?

EG: I’m Ariol. Since I’ve been born, I’m a blue short-sighted donkey.

Is it difficult to illustrate somebody else’s writing? Has it ever caused any problems?

EG: I only work with beloved brothers. A bed of thornless roses.

How did you become a comic book writer-illustrator?

EG: As cooks become cooks. Cooking.

Your books are often historically based, such as The Professor’s Daughter portraying Victorian London, and Brune and ‘La Guerre d’Alan’ depicting Nazi Germany. How much research do you have to do before you start your illustrations?

EG: I have a time machine. But it’s top secret.

Could you talk us through the process of how, after you are presented with a book a publisher would like you to illustrate, you generate your ideas for illustrating that book?

EG: I don’t work commissioned. And when I ask myself how I am going to illustrate the book I’m working on, eventually, it never looks like my plans.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children’s non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers’ Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008’s Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries?