Peter Carnavas - Interview (February 2018)
What five words best describe you?
Quiet. Content. Bearded. Balding. Daydreamer.
How did you get started in this industry?
I was a primary school teacher in a lovely small town called Clermont, in central Queensland, home to a few thousand people. Many small things gave me the idea that I might be able to make picture books:
I spent way too much time reading them to my classes. I made a few books for my nieces and nephew, and my wife told me they were actually okay. I looked at some of Quentin Blake’s illustrations and thought, ‘It can’t be that hard’. (It was, and still is). I was itching to do something creative that was separate from my job.
So I stumbled across a picture book course by Dr Virginia Lowe, stumbled my way through it, and sent a dummy of Jessica’s Box to New Frontier Publishing. They liked it, and I suddenly had half a toenail in the industry.
Is there any part of the creative process you don't like?
I never feel like I have enough time, even when I do. I therefore get quite stressed when I’m finishing off illustrations, and think of all the ways they might be better, if only I had more time. I should probably spend less time watching cricket and patting my dog. That might give me more time.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to catch the eye of a publisher?
I’ve never claimed to have many secrets about this sort of thing but I think it’s important to be honest, and to pursue the style and the stories you are most passionate about. Write the story you want to write, not the story you think a publisher might like.
Are you a plotter or a panster? (Plotter =Plotting out your manuscript before you write it. / Panster = Putting pen to paper and plotting as you go along)
I’m definitely a Pantser. I’ve never planned anything, not even this career. If I’m writing a picture book, I’ll scribble an idea down, then think about it for a long time, and eventually write it in one sitting. I don’t think of it as planning but letting the story take shape in my head over a period of time. If I’m writing a novel, I’ll scribble down pages of ideas, dialogue, characters, drawings, but again, not necessarily planning. I tend to start with a feeling, and try to write my way towards it. This means I will write a lot of words that get cut later on but it’s necessary for me to write them in the first place, otherwise I’d never get to the words I want to keep. I hope that makes sense.
What excites you about the future of children's books?
Every time I walk into a bookshop, I see something new, something I would never have dreamed of finding in a book. That’s what excites me - the fact that so many creative people are constantly finding new ways to tell stories with words and pictures. The well seems very full at the moment.
What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said to you during one of your presentations/talks?
I have a few:
One girl wondered aloud that if her mum was the same age as me, why didn’t she have a beard, too?
Another young girl listened to my entire presentation - The Peter Carnavas Show - and then asked me if I was Bob Graham.
Another beardy one, and my favourite: ‘Do you scratch your beautiful beard when you’re thinking of ideas?’
What's next from Peter Carnavas?
I have illustrated another funny picture book by Damon Young (our fifth in the Ninja Nanna series), which will be released in April. I feel like this is our best yet, but don’t tell the other books I said that.
I’m also writing and illustrating my own picture book about a quiet girl living in a noisy world. I’ve been intending to illustrate it with my left hand but at this stage, it might be a team effort by both hands. Then again, if I feel like I don’t have enough time, I’ll leave it to the right as usual. This one will be released later in 2018.