Please help me welcome the talented author/illustrator, Mark C. Collins, to my blog today. Thank you, Mark, for stopping by.
1. You mentioned on your Amazon Author Page that you started drawing at the age of two. Tells us a little about what you drew and when you knew that you wanted to be an artist/illustrator?
Thanks for having me, Janice! I don’t recall drawing at age two, but my mom saved EVERYTHING I ever drew since age two. I do recall as far back as I can remember (probably age 4 ) that all I ever wanted to be was an artist. I obsessively drew Disney characters at an early age, and by age 14 I painted in oils and acrylics.
2. Are there other artists in your family?
No, but my mom has always been very craft-oriented. She actually started a career in photo (negative) retouching when she first arrived in the USA from Germany in 1961, so I suppose some of her “eye” for detail ended up in me.
3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer too?
I’ve written poetry since my teens, but never actually considered being a writer; though I held writers in high regard, and feel that writing was the highest form of expression. It’s always said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but I’ve always felt that a really good poem can paint a brilliant picture with a few select words. I only considered being a writer about two years ago after writing a few short stories just for the sheer pleasure of it. Then I began a manuscript for a book about a day in the life of a boy – my first children’s book idea.
4. What was your first book? Please share your books with us and a synopsis of each.
My first book was Ben’s Day – simply a rhyming, fun glance at the imaginative activities of a young boy on his first day of summer. Ben’s an only-child, and never encounters other kids in his adventures – instead he takes on the day without TV, cell phone, computer, accompanied only by his dog pal, Fred.The book was initially intended to be a picture book without words (showcasing my illustration talents) presenting each picture as a stand-alone where the visuals would progressively tell the story, and words would be unnecessary. However, my poetic inclination took over, and matching the rhymes to the illustrations gives the book a better pace and rhythm than if it were without text. It took almost two years to finish illustrating once the text was complete!
After a few months, I moved onto my second book, Grandma Stinks!
This book is told in first-person by a little girl named Emma. When Emma’s mother tells her that Grandma is coming to live with Emma and her parents, Emma is so excited! But when Grandma arrives, Emma discovers that Grandma is… well, rather smelly! Emma never lets Grandma know, but she is vocal about it to her parents, and especially to the reader. I never let on the cause of Grandma’s odor. I didn’t feel that was important.
Initially Grandma Stinks! grew out of my desire to write and illustrate a purely irreverent children’s book. My inspiration was gross-out cartoons like Ren & Stimpy, or any of the numerous other children’s books on topics like farting, etc. However, as I got through most of the first draft, it became apparent that I wasn’t interested in purely shock value as I was in entertaining young readers, while incorporating a simple lesson on tolerance and unconditional love.
My third book, Meet the Bugs! was really intended as a “gift” to my young fans who inquired about my next book (which is taking longer than I had hoped). Meet The Bugs! was something I wanted to release in the interim as a free Kindle book, but a parent advised me that many parents only offer “REAL books to their children,” and thus I went the print route as well!
I spent many happy hours as a child seeking out, observing, and interacting with bugs I found in southeastern PA. Meet the Bugs! is a fun, rhyming introduction to 18 common bugs from the region, for very young readers.
I have a sequel planned for later this year, with another 18 new bug characters.
5. You are very talented to be able to write and illustrate your own books. What do you want to accomplish with your books?
Thank you, Janice! I loved reading as a child, and had quite a collection of children’s books – thanks to the importance my mom placed on books. I would lose myself in a single book each night, poring over each page, carefully studying every inch of the illustrations. I liked how books took me away, and how I became the characters therein. This is exactly what I want for young readers of my books. I want them to experience the same magic I felt so long ago (and still do with a good book).
6. What is your favorite genre to write about?
I don’t have any specific preferences. I go wherever inspiration takes me. I have a notebook where I jot down quick ideas and synopses, then later I go back and flesh them out with full stories in first-draft mode.
7. What are you working on now?
Actually I have two books I’m working on. Both are fully written (but still need to get into my editor’s hands), and I’m presently into the arduous task of illustrating them! One book is about the chance meeting of an elf, a dwarf, and a gnome in New York City, and the other book is in the same vein as Grandma Stinks!; only this time it’s a grumpy grandpa!
8. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
My goal is to make a good living making children’s books. Authors like Mercer Mayer, and of course Dr. Seuss come to mind as figures one would like to aspire to emulate in that regard. At the moment it seems like my creativity is at a high level. I have so many ideas, but not enough hours in the day to accomplish them all. LOL.
9. What is your favorite aspect of publishing your books?
The initial writing of a good story is very satisfying. There always seems to come a point in that process where the story finishes itself. I’m at my best when I let it flow, and not pressure myself to make it rhyme, force a scenario, or come up with an important message.
Completing the final illustrations is equally fulfilling.
And finally setting it all up for print is really fun. I like the technical aspect of it, and although I sometimes hit roadblocks at the print-proof stage, solving those problems is very gratifying – especially when I see the final product in clear, brilliant color on the page!
10. Where would you live in the world if you could travel anywhere?
That’s a good question. I’d like to say some place romantic, like Paris or Florence. We’ve been to Turks & Caicos three times between 2001 and 2009. Each time we return home to the states, I feel like I left a part of myself in the Caribbean. I think that’s where I’d choose to live and work, simply – in the sunshine, overlooking the teal water and white shoreline!
11. What do you do in your spare time when you are not writing or illustrating?
When I had more time, I really enjoyed painting large canvas pictures. But the past two years have not afforded the time to do so.
Lately, I enjoy walks with my wife in the afternoons, and long discussions with my brilliant musician son, whose work is also something I enjoy listening to.
I also enjoy weightlifting, which I’m sure sounds like a contrast to the artist’s and writer’s lifestyle! It’s just something I’ve done since my teens, and the weekly personal challenge of me against myself is not only exhilarating, it’s also very meditative.
Thank you, Mark, for stopping by. It was a pleasure to get to know you and your work.
It was my pleasure, Janice. Thank you for allowing me the space on your fine blog!
Thank you readers for dropping in to read this interview with such a talented author/illustrator as Mark C. Collins. Please check out his wonderful books here.
Thanks for reading! Come back again real soon for more interviews and news about books, etc.
Remember: READING GIVES YOU WINGS TO FLY!