Happy Thursday Critters! Today we have a fabulous interview with debut author and illustrator Mikela Prevost whose book, LET’S HAVE A DOG PARTY! came out in March. I adore this book so much! It’s cute, funny, and oh so charming with a lot of heart— my favorite combination. Here’s a sneak peek for those of you who haven’t read Mikela’s wonderful debut yet…
Kate and Frank are best friends. To celebrate Frank's birthday, Kate throws him a party with all her favorite things: lots of friends, dancing in circles, loud singing, and sparkly confetti everywhere. But best friends don't always have the same taste in parties. Frank prefers quiet, sun-drenched naps on his favorite rug. So he hides. Kate must find a way to bring Frank back to the party--on his own terms.
I’m thrilled to have Mikela with us today, so without further ado…please welcome Mikela Prevost!
Where do you live?
In the Valley of the SUN! Phoenix, Arizona.
When did you know you wanted to write/illustrate picture books?
As a kid, I wasn't terribly good at reading but I always had the pictures in books to help guide me through the story in one way or the other. But by 2nd grade, I had started to grow in my reading abilities and at that point, the Harry Potter books of my day were Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Light in the Attic. I devoured these books, for the brevity of the poems and the child-like pen and ink illustrations.
Silverstein's illustrations seemed so approachable, something that I could do. Drawing came much easier to me than reading, so seeing how a story could be encapsulated in such a brief poem along with an outlandish drawing was so attractive to me. The worlds he created through his poems always had me wondering what else happened beyond that last sentence.
As a writer and illustrator now, I want to try and give young readers that sense of "seen" as Shel Silverstein did for me.
Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?
Signing with a literary agent was the best way for my work to evolve. I attended SCBWI's Winter Conference in 2017 where Rebecca Sherman of Writer's House came across my work. She loved my illustration work and knew that my writing had potential. Over the course of several months, I was writing stories and sending sketches to Rebecca but she really wanted to start my career off on the right foot, so she pushed me to produce my best work. I'm so thankful she did, as I look back and see those earlier stories - I would not want them out in public! When the story idea for Let's Have a Dog Party! came, Rebecca made me feel like I had struck gold! We sent the text, dummy and two finished illustrations out, it went to auction and we found a great home for the story with Joanna Cardenas who (at the time) was the editor for Viking/Penguin.
Can you share a bit about your process?
Writing and illustrating is such a balancing act - having just enough of the best words while allowing the illustrations to do some heavy lifting. I try to write more than I need then weed out what is superfluous to the story.
What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?
I "squeeze the sponge dry" on a topic until I've exhausted every possible story idea. I write out ideas until I reach the end of the page. 95% is garbage worthy, but I will stumble on a gem that makes me so excited, I won't sleep at night.
Anything you can’t live without while you write/draw?
While writing, I listen to a curated instrumental playlist that cues up my brain to stay focused on just that story. While illustrating I binge podcasts and watch/listen to old Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. And I keep the coffee flowin'.
Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?
My illustration friends Molly Idle, for her graceful, luscious line work and joyful colors and Juana Martinez-Neal, who captures the essence of children so innately. Also, her talent with patterns is second to none! An author I aspire to emulate is Jon Agee - his humor is so wry yet it translates to children in the perfect way. My Rhinoceros was my own personal masterclass in writing.
Dream project to work on?
Anything that results in a kid loving a book so much, it falls apart. That, to me, is the true mark of a successful book.
Tell us about your debut book.
With Let's Have a Dog Party! I was sitting in my office, wracking my brain for a good story idea, while my kids and a few neighbor kids were running back and forth by my door chasing our little dog Pepper. She's a good-natured dog that will tolerate anything, but I knew eventually the chaos would reach a crescendo and she would take off running. If I wasn't there to stop this fiasco, I imagined a party breaking out. That's where the idea came from - I liked the idea of the kid characters just deciding out of the blue that "today" was Frank's birthday and using whatever they had on hand to celebrate. Like my kids, I knew a point would come that the characters would realize the poor dog had hit his limit and need to de-escalate the situation.
What’s up next for you?
I can't say just yet - but I can say I'm excited!
And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?
Ghostbusters! And it still is my favorite movie! I saw it in the theater with my Dad, so I'll always have the good memories to associate with the movie.
Huge thank you to Mikela for stopping by Critter Lit today! We can’t wait to see your debut book and all that you do!
MIKELA PREVOST is an author and illustrator currently residing in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and their three kids. Born and raised in Southern California, she received her BFA from the University of Redlands, and an MFA in Illustration from California State University of Fullerton. Writing and illustrating for children has been her life-long pursuit and passion. Her work is driven by the desire to capture the whimsical innocence and unique perspective from which a child sees the world.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Mikela visit her website or follow her on social media:
TO ORDER Mikela’s books, ring up your local bookstore or click here.
Want a chance to win a copy of LET’S HAVE A DOG PARTY?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, June 6th! US addresses only please.