Monday, May 25, 2015

Interview with Anne Sawyer-Aitch, author of 'Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City'


Anne Sawyer-Aitch (pronounced like the letter “H”) is a puppeteer and stilt-walker. When she decided to create her first book, Nalah and the Pink Tiger, she began experimenting with different styles of illustration, and finally discovered a technique that uses her skills as a maker of color shadow puppets. She calls it “Illuminated Illustration”, and it involves cut-away designs, layering, and backlighting. In her capacity as a puppeteer, Anne creates puppet pieces of all kinds: parade floats, giant stilt puppets, and intricate color shadow shows. She is a MN State Arts Board Roster Artist, teaching puppetry all over the state, and has been touring around with her first book & her Nalah and the Pink Tiger show for the last two years. Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City is her second book. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

In my newest book, Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City, the adventures of Nalah continue! One day Nalah finds herself bored and lonesome because all of her imaginary friends have gone away on vacation. But wait – not all. Mad Tooth, the little mouse who lives in her sock drawer, is still busy munching away on her knee-highs. When she finds out why Nalah is sad, she offers to take her down through the sock drawer into a mouse metropolis. The result is a tale of wild dancing, cousins and mice, taffy and a sock monster.

This book was inspired by my little niece, Nalah. She is a very lively girl who is always getting into mischief. She sparked the first story, Nalah and the Pink Tiger. The series has taken on a life of its own since then. 

Tell us about your children's books.

There are the two Nalah books mentioned above. I have illustrated a book for the MN Humanities Commission as well called The Imaginary Day. My next projects include a third Nalah book (Nalah in Piggy Wig Paris) and a book about animals in winter. The latter is something I started developing when I began painting small creaures sleeping: hedgehogs, squirrels, dormice, sleeping. I want to make a little board book for toddlers that parents can read to them at bedtime.

Describe your working environment.

Ha! I’m a puppeteer as well as an author/illustrator, and that means I save everything. I work in all sorts of mediums, from fabric to clay to paint and paper cutting. I’m always re-configuring my dining room table based on the project at hand. 

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?




What are you working on now?

Aside from the books I mentioned before, I’ll be developing some new puppet pieces, including the Spanish version of Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City, and a Mexican folk tale in toy theatre style. 

Where are your books available?


What was your experience in working with an illustrator author?

I illustrated both of my books. I think both in words and in pictures, so I enjoy doing it that way. I use a lot of speech bubbles in my books. Probably because I grew up reading my Mom’s old Donald Duck comics.

What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

Because I’m a professional puppeteer, I have a puppet show that goes with the book. I’ve been performing that at various sites and selling books that way. But also through social media, Amazon, Good Reads, and shops that support local artists. 

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Don’t worry about how you are going to publish it. There are lots of ways to do that. You don’t need anybody else’s permission. Focus on making something you enjoy.

Who are your favorite authors?

In children’s ficiton, I love Maud Hart Lovelace, the D’Aulaires, Wanda Gag, William Steig. Also the Harry Potter books. They are so Dickensian.


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