One of the books we've included in our picture book club boxes is Papillon: The Very Fluffy Kitty, by author and illustrator Anna Kang. We loved reading about Papillon, and we’re excited to share an interview with Anna.
Anna is an illustrator, author, and product designer based in New York City. Originally from Korea, she came to the United States with her family in 1990. She has studied at Moore College of Art and Design and Rhode Island School of Design (as did another illustrator we recently featured, Jen Corace). After working in a few design jobs, she struck out as a freelance designer 10 years ago. Her work has included designing home decor, jewelry, and even holiday displays for stores all over NYC. Papillon: The Very Fluffy Kitty is Anna’s debut children’s book.
Bookroo: Papillon is such a fun and creative story. Where did you get the idea?
Anna: We learn so much from our pets. My cat, the real Papillon, is not fluffy at all but well, very fat. Whenever people made mean comments about her weight, she just gracefully walked away and went about her business. Of course, she didn't understand, but to me, she seemed wonderfully weightless, as if no opinion or judgement could weigh her down. Wouldn't it be great to live weightlessly? I wrote a story about this life-loving, funny weightless cat, hoping it could bring a smile to many animal lovers out there.
Bookroo: You’ve said that creating Papillon was a long time side project. How does it feel to see it printed as a physical, finished book?
Anna: Amazing! I had the story idea for a very long time but I didn’t know how to go about publishing a book. Then I had this moment in my life where I wanted to challenge myself to do something new. So I quit my job and gave myself one year to get this book done. It wasn’t easy but everything happened very fast after that. I received many rejection emails but I didn’t take them seriously because I really believed that people would enjoy Papillon. A fortunate chain of events lead me to the right people and they helped me get this book published. I feel very grateful.
Bookroo: What was the most difficult part of making your goal of creating this book about Papillon a reality?
Anna: I didn’t know anything about creating a children’s book, so I learned everything by doing this book. While working with editors, I revised the story at least 10 times. I just didn’t understand the basic structure of a children’s book. It was frustrating. When I think back, I feel like I had a crash course on children’s book for dummies! It was tough but a priceless experience.
Bookroo: How do you go about developing a story for a children’s book?
Anna: I love investigating my own emotions and thoughts, silly or serious. It’s an organic and long process but these thoughts turn into stories eventually. Developing a story is fun. It’s kind of like a puzzle. I have to figure out all the components and put them together to see if they all fit. And I get to use cute animals and characters too!
Bookroo: Do you create illustrations as you go along, or do you finish the story and then work on illustrations?
Anna: I do an outline of a story, then I work on sketches right away. It’s easier for me to figure things out visually. I make sure all my sketches fit and flow nicely. Then I go over each page and add text or leave it blank for the illustration to tell the story. It’s a balancing act that I've learned to enjoy.
Bookroo: What does a regular day look like for you?
Anna: I love working at night. So quiet and peaceful. I can concentrate better. I usually work until 2- 3 am and wake up around 10am. I run all my errands during the day and start working around 4-5 pm. I have to admit though, I love going to 24hr grocery stores around midnight--no line to wait in.
Once, I read a book about morning people and how they are more productive and successful. So I tried. I got up at 6am and worked. But then I had to take a nap for 2 hours around noon. I couldn’t fall asleep that night so I stayed up until 3am. So that didn’t work. Yes, my regular day happens mostly at night.
Bookroo: What interests and hobbies do you enjoy?
Anna: My boyfriend and I love seeing new places so we travel a lot. People are surprised that I don’t bring a sketchbook. I don’t draw leisurely. For me, the most fun part of traveling is experiencing. I just don’t want to miss out on anything while drawing a cool building or something. That’s what a camera is for. I can draw at home.
I know it sounds really bad but I love watching TV. It’s a great source of inspiration for me. Interesting images or conversations always trigger my train of thoughts/imaginations. So when I can’t think, I watch TV.
Bookroo: We know The Very Fluffy Kitty, Papillon is a three-book series. Can you tell us more about the series? Do you have any other books currently in the works?
The second Papillon book was just released last October: Papillon Goes to the Vet. Right now, I’m illustrating two books, Celebrate You, written by Sherri Duskey Rinker, and Squirrel Family Tree, written by Beth Ferry. They will be out next year or early 2019. Also, I’m writing and illustrating a book titled, My Big Bad Monster. This will be out in 2019.
(All images in this interview courtesy of Anna Kang.)