Heath McKenzie - Interview (July 2018)
What five words best describe you?
dawdling, relaxed, amusing, unfit, bald!
How did you get started in this industry?
During a teaching degree author/illustrator Ann James came and did a visual literacy lecture. I was already well aware I didn’t want to be a teacher AND still anted to do something with drawing one day - so at the end of the sessions I asked how one might become an illustrator! She mentioned she did folio appraisals and so from a positive appraisal she gave me some publishers to visit and slowly things went from there!
Is there any part of the creative process you don't like?
It varies! Often it’s jut getting the ball rolling on final art! So many distractions in life make it tricky to just start! Of course once the ball’s rolling it’s all good! Other times it might be the rough draft phase - I often know what I want to achieve in the long run but also want to get ideas down fairly quickly so struggle with deciding how much I can get away with showing or not showing - in my head I know certain details or aspects will be there in the end but do I need to show them explicitly now?!
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to catch the eye of a publisher?
It may sound obvious but simply getting your work in front of them is key! It took me forever to figure that out but quite simply, if they don’t know you exist, they won’t know to hire you! It’s also very helpful to show the right stuff to the right person - for example, if you want a job at the publisher producing more delicate, sensitive titles - maybe save your images of explosions, monsters and farts for others!
Are you a plotter or a pantser? (Plotter = Plotting out your manuscript before you write it. / Pantser = Putting pen to paper and plotting as you go along)
A bit of both! Generally i’ll just dump everything down at first - there’ll be a lot of ‘and then this happens, or this could happen, and then this might lead to this…’ and so on! And then from there I pick through all that and immediately start rewriting it in a much more readable form!
What excites you about the future of children's books?
Things seem to be going from strength to strength and so much great stuff keeps appearing! So it’s just exciting to see a robust corner of the industry charging forward, so to speak! Across the media there seems to quite frequently be articles acknowledging the awareness and appreciation of the huge importance of reading aloud to children from birth as well. So that just adds fuel to the proverbial fire and creates a demand for good books. I’d say the fears of printed books being in their dying days a few years ago have been well and truly squashed!
What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said to you during one of your presentations/talks?
A young boy once interrupted question time to tell me two things: - 1. I was quite beautiful (lovely, compliment!) and then 2. the cat I had just drawn was a very bad drawing. In fairness, it wasn’t amazing - but still…!
What's next from Heath McKenzie?
Good question! There are numerous things in various states of completion! I’ve a new picture book on the way ‘Zoo House’ with Scholastic, along with my very first brave venture into ‘Where’s Wally’ territory with Tim Cahill - ‘Where’s Timmy!’ Plus, the gradual roll out of a veritable army of Birthday gift books begins later in the year from Lake Press and a few more surprises on the way! Either way - I’m very lucky to be so busy!