Interview with Author Lisa Congdon
So I wanted to bring in Lisa Congdon and do a little interview here. Lisa is a long time author that I have worked with on many, many books together. She is a illustrator, and artist, a writer, a blogger and speaker and it happens, a beloved CreativeLive instructor as well. And so I wanted to bring here in here via Skype to talk a little bit about her experience working with a publisher as a visual creator and author. So welcome Lisa.
Thank you for having me. It's great to be here.
Hi, it's nice to see your face, hello.
Okay so I'm gonna dive right in. My first question for you is when did you first know that you wanted to be an author?
Well I became a working artist later in life and I came from outside of the art world. And so I'm totally self taught. So when I first started doing illustration, I think I imagined that one day I might illustrate somebody else's book. Right? Like everybody who starts out in illustration maybe dreams of that. It wasn't until I ...
began working in the world of illustration. First illustrating books for other people which eventually happened. And some stationery which was actually for Chronicle Books. That it ever occurred to me that it would be possible. I remember once in my early days, I was visiting the Chronicle Books office to meet with my art director, Kristen, who you also work with quite a bit. And she said to me, oh I can imagine someday making a book with your art. And I remember being very flattered. And also kind of flabbergasted to imagine that that might be possible. But I think that was a seed or at least one of the early seeds. And then sure enough a few years later, I was in the middle of a project where I was hand lettering something every day for a year. And you Bridget approached me and you said I think this could be a book. I'd incidentally two years earlier made a book in a very small run with a small publisher in Canada. But this book, which ended up becoming Whatever You Are, Be a Good One was my first book with a larger publishing house. So it eventually happened. But it took a number of years.
So at this point, you and I, have of course worked together on a lot of books. And we tend to develop projects really collaboratively at this point. But I'd love if you could speak a little bit about what you can tell us about the solo aspect of how you come up with book ideas.
Yeah, I'm religious about writing down my ideas. I carry a notebook with me at all times that has pretty much every aspect of my life recorded in it including ideas. And actually I talk about that notebook in one of my CreativeLive classes. I have in the past sat down and literally brainstormed all of the ideas for books and other projects too that I have. And that kind of brainstorming and ideation that's very intentional, is a really important part of my creative process and is something that I encourage other creative people to do as well. Because you never know what in your sort of brainstorm of weird ideas might end up being a good idea for a book. That said, and I think this happens for most people. Sometimes ideas for books just come to me in the middle of the night, or in the shower. Or when I'm swimming laps, or riding my bike, or whatever. Or when I'm sort of perusing something on the internet. And once I have the idea then there's this process of sort of flushing it out a bit. Because just because something sounds like an interesting topic doesn't mean it will translate into a book that people will want to read or look at. And I'm sure that's something that you're probably talking about. So then I really try to think about what will this book cover on this topic? Who's my audience? What do I want to say? Sometimes the ideas that I thought were good actually fall flat when I start trying to flush them out. And that's something that eventually, Bridget, you and I will do together like one of us will say oh, maybe this will be an interesting book but then once we start digging in to it we realize there isn't enough there, there. Or maybe we realize that another person has already written that book. So that second step in the process is really important.
Do you feel any differently about the writing part of your authorship and the art making part of your authorship?
Yes, however, I really, I really am lucky in that I love doing both of them. I was talking the other day to an artist who makes books. Actually somebody you work with Bridget. But who doesn't do any of the writing herself. So we were friends, and we were chatting on the phone a few months back. She was like no way do I take on the writing. It's not what I like to do. It's not something I'm good at or whatever. So you don't have to do both. But I like to do both so much. But I do feel and think about them differently. Mostly because they use different parts of my brain. And also require different things of me and my environment. So when I write, I have to literally shut myself in a room and be really quiet. And get into a place of having very little distraction. That's probably because writing requires more presence and more focus and more concentration than making art does for me. Art on the other hand, I can do with distractions. I can literally draw in front of the TV. Or like with, a podcast going on in the background. Or in a loud airport even. It's much more intuitive to me because it's something I just do more often. So I'm more fluent in it than I am in writing. But I really do enjoy them both and I think that's part of why I've been able to make so many books. Because both of them sort of come naturally to me and then also are things that I enjoy doing. And that's important, because writing a book is a lot of hard work. So enjoying the process is important.
What do you think are the best and worst parts of being an author?
I think that working on big book projects can be tough. Books are really time consuming. For example right now I'm illustrating a kids book on the periodic table of elements. And in total it will take me three years to finish because it's so hefty. And so no matter if you're the illustrator or the author or both. Both of those things require getting on a schedule and sticking to it. And that part is hard and it requires a lot of discipline. I'm a super organized person and I'm really good at managing my time and that is still the hardest part for me. Sometimes it feels like you'll never finish. But that's really what makes, that's really what makes your book come together. That's what makes it worth it. You know like all of the illustrations and the layout are really I think the most fun for me. When you get to the phase where you're ideating with the art director and the book designer. And figuring out how the book's actually going to look and feel at the end. And I think as an artist that's the most satisfying part for me. Making a beautiful book. But all of the sort of discipline required leading up to that is definitely the hardest part I think for anybody probably.
Can you tell us how it is to hold your finished book in your hands for the first time? (laughing) I have published seven books now. But I remember the first few times I cried a little bit. It's very exciting. And it's probably less exciting for me now than it was in the beginning. Your first book is always the most exciting. One of the things that every author will tell you is that most of the time your book has been finished for sometimes almost a year by the time you actually get a hard copy of it in your hands. So you kind of forget about it for a while 'cause you've moved onto other projects, potentially even other books. And then it arrives and you're like, oh my God yes, this thing. And it's actually a book. I mean previous to that you're looking at it on a computer screen. You get these sort of printouts for color checks and stuff but it's not the same as holding the real thing. It's really amazing and it even smells good. (laughing) And the colors are so vibrant, it's really exciting.
Last question for you. What's the number one way that you promote your books to your fans?
Well I am lucky, I have a large Instagram following. So that's been super helpful to me in terms of selling books and promoting books. I talk about my book a lot and the process of making it. You don't want to give away too much but you want to get people excited about it. And then you know, of course talk about it once it's published and I think in conjunction with that I love doing book events. They're a super fun way to connect with other human, actual you know, human beings in real life about your book and to sign books is a really fun experience. So I like doing both.
Thank you so much for coming and making the time to talk 'cause this has been really helpful.
Thank you, thank you for having me.
Lisa, thank you so much. Really great information and just want to let the internet know out there. You know Lisa as Bridget mentioned is one of our CreativeLive instructors here. Her class is so awesome. Become a working artist. Work flow, time management and productivity for creatives. You know you need this class, right? You know you need it, it's wonderful. And then one of my favorites is working successfully with clients for illustrators and designers. So if you're thinking about working with someone like an artist or a designer, and illustrator on a book, that would be a great class to catch before you jump into the world of publishing. So thank you Lisa and Bridget, I'm going to throw it back to you.
All right, thanks Lisa, bye.
Thank you, bye.