What I mean to ask is, are there certain morals or specific underlying messages embedded within your stories that readers from one country take away, that others may not?
PD: I read your book Firebird and thought it was beautifully written and illustrated. Did you collaborate with Catherine Hyde on the illustrations? Tell me about the creative process it took to bring this story to life.
SP: Catherine is a great friend of mine now but I didn’t meet her until we started promoting Firebird. We both had done work for Templar, the British publisher before, and the sales director there had the idea of doing a new version of Firebird to coincide with the anniversary of the ballet. They sent me a scan of the spread with the sleeping princess and asked me if I’d want to write the text. I took one look at it and said yes. It was so different from everything I’d seen in children’s books before.
I then wrote the story and let Catherine get on with it. She has such a clear vision of what she wants to achieve in her books that I wouldn’t want to trespass on that. I was sent color proofs and would have pointed out factual errors had there been any, but Catherine being a stickler for detail, everything was spot on. We also had a fantastic editorial theme headed by Libby Hamilton who is an author in her own right. And the designer, Janie Louise Hunt really pushed the envelope and laid the spreads out in an innovative way. Children love the fact that you only get to see the firebird properly at the end of the story and then he’s gold in his wings. It’s the only book I’ve done where kids I read it to reach out to stroke the pages.
Picture books are very much a collaborative art form and I find that talented artists always bring new facets to the story that enrich it so much.
PD: Has there been any point in your career when you thought that maybe being a children’s book author was not for you? Did you ever consider any other career or has your heart always been set on writing?
SP: I’ve always wanted to be a writer and never considered doing anything else on a permanent basis. I had to change country and nationality for my dream. I had to leave my family behind and start a new life. So I invested a lot in my dream and chickening out was not an option. I did odd jobs along the way, of course. I’ve been a chef, a lavatory attendant, a teaching assistant at summer camps and even a postman…until I was bitten by a pregnant Alsatian. I have a tattoo on my left ankle to hide the scar.
PD: Lastly, what advice can you give to someone who is considering a career as an author of children’s literature?
SP: Believe in yourself and never, ever, give up your dream. Write what you want and what turns you on, not what’s fashionable and what the blogs say publishers are looking for. By the time word gets out about the latest trend, or the prediction of the next one, it’s too late for the beginner. There’ll be a gazillion other authors, many of them further up the food chain than you, gunning for the same spot. And keep on writing. Think writing. Live writing. I know a lot of writers and they breathe stories. Sure, a few of them – and that includes me – have a few problems sorting out real life from story plot, but that comes with the territory. Writing is hard, don’t get me wrong, and getting published is even harder. Getting established is trickier still, especially in this age of non-existent publicity budgets. But if you have the will and the guts to stick with it, you might just get there.
You can check out Mr. Pitorra’s website here and learn so much more about his books and his work with children! Thank you for the wonderful and thoughtful interview!