Q1: This is the first title in a planned ‘kōrero series’ of books. What’s the idea here?
A conversation across craft and discipline between artists in their approach to a shared topic.
Q2: You’ve called them ‘picture books for grownups’. Will they connect those grownup readers with their young reading selves?
Perhaps readers will recognise the charm and appeal of those picture books they read as children. But the idea of the kōrero series is not to replicate a reading experience from childhood. It is to present text and image in new and exciting ways. When I call them ‘picture books for grownups’ I’m simply offering up a familiar point of reference.
Q3: Not only are you the author of this debut book in the series, High Wire, but you will also be the series editor. How do you see your role?
My role is to come up with writer/artist combinations that will hopefully spark off one another. Actually, for me, this curatorial role is definitely the fun part. I propose a topic, but that is meant only as a starting point — it can shift. Ideally if the conversation is dynamic then the topic will shift of its own accord.
Q4: How did you come to work with Euan Macleod on this one?
I have collaborated with Euan before, and we work well together. I have admired his work for years. There has to be a bit of give and take. And just as importantly there has to be a genuine interest from writers and artists in one another’s craft.
Q5: What was the process the two of you developed?
We started off with the working idea of ‘bridges’, and after an exchange of many drawings and text the subject migrated to ‘high wire’ and that transactional space that where art is made; like any tightrope walk, it is precarious. There are no guarantees it will succeed. But in terms of plain old narrative, High Wire is told by a narrator who walks to Australia.
Q6: It must have involved a fair amount of trust and of letting go of writerly control. Was that comfortable for you?
Giving up text is not a loss of control. In fact, it it is the exact opposite. Something is being made. Text is a state of flux, and so are the images. They move and shift around one another until the fit is right. With a picture book it is a bit like making a film. The image is not there to illustrate, nor is the text. They travel their own path but together create a kind third dimension that would not exist unless both were in play.
Q7: What’s the particular delight for writers of working with artists?
Nearly all the writers I know are very curious about other art forms. For as long as I have been writing I’ve been interested in photographs ... and more recently drawings and paint.
Q8: Do you envy them their craft?
Envy is the wrong word. I admire their craft.
Q9: One assumes that working on this story was a welcome break from the long haul of writing a novel. Even so, it must have had its challenges.
Well, yes, there is a more immediate gratification. However the challenge is the same as with any writing or artistic endeavour. Can I do it? Is there sufficient imaginative risk? What is at stake? The possibility of failure constantly shadows (as it should) the undertaking.
Q10: Pleased with it?
Very much so.