To tie in with my recent review of Max the Brave, I wanted to get to know more about this fearless feline and ask the author/illustrator behind the book, Ed Vere all about his brave antics.
Ed Vere studied fine art at Camberwell College of Art and has been writing and illustrating children's books since 1999. He is published in both England and the US. Ed is also a painter, working from his studio in East London and is represented by galleries in London and Los Angeles. After a year and a half living in Barcelona, Ed now lives and works in London.
BWB: What inspired Max the Brave?
EV: I rarely have a plan, I just draw until I find a new character who insists on having a story. Max started off as an impossibly sweet kitten… as a joke for myself really, I always try to stay away from anything saccharine. But I thought that it could be fun to work with a character who was seen as impossibly sweet. And Max is so sweet that people like dressing him up in ribbons… which of course he hates... Seeing himself as a fearless, adventuring, mouse-chasing kitten. I wanted to make Max a combination of curious, feisty and tenacious… but as he’s very young he’s also gullible and doesn’t know much about the world yet. Mouse chasing isn’t easy if you don’t know what a mouse looks like (and there’s a mendacious mouse about).
BWB: Are you a cat or dog person?
EV: I grew up with a dog and four cats. So I’m a cat and dog person… But leaning more in the dog direction.
BWB: Will we see Max again?
EV: We will. I just finished 'Max at Night' which will be published next Spring. It’s way past Max’s bedtime… he is VERY tired. Before he goes to bed he just wants to say goodnight to the moon. But where is the moon? Adventure ensues as he hunts for the moon.
And I’m just starting a third Max book… which is highly classified information at the moment!
BWB: What's the bravest thing you've done?
EV: Well, there was that time I dragged a defenceless kitten from a burning building…
I used to absolutely hate the idea of speaking in public… so probably when my publisher asked me to speak for 5 minutes about ‘inspiration' in front of 120 people at a book event I wasn’t overjoyed. Those 120 people were all the movers and shakers of the children’s book world, so I was incredibly aware that this might be my first… and if it all went wrong… my very last talk as a picture book maker. I gave a distinctly average talk.
It was an amazingly horrible feeling beforehand… and then an amazingly good one afterwards.
BWB: I love the different coloured spreads in Max the Brave. Was there a reason for this?
EV: I love colour… that’s the main reason. I wanted to make a book that was graphically full of colour but visually pared back, so Max could be at the centre. Max is drawn very simply, black with yellow eyes and a blue nose… I wanted to use the flat colour fields to draw all the attention to him, so the expression is the focus rather than background information. I also use the colour to amplify the mood I want a scene to have.
BWB: You have created a whole cast of memorable picture book characters over your career so far. Who is your favourite to draw?
EV: I genuinely love drawing them all. I still draw Mr Big quite a lot because he features in series of concerts, sometimes with the Neil Cowley Trio (who are an amazing jazz group), and sometimes with The Britten Sinfonia (a brilliant classical group). We tell his story through music and live drawing. It’s great fun to be a part of… especially as the potential for disaster when you’re drawing live is ever present.
BWB: Are there any authors you'd love to work with?
EV: I love writing my own stories… If there were any unpublished Roald Dahl stories, that would be heaven sent… but I think Quentin Blake might just get the call before I do! Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson both have amazing minds… it would be interesting to see where I could take their words.
BWB: What's your favourite picture book at the moment?
EV: There are a few. But of the last few years I think Jon Klassen is brilliant. Incredibly concise, beautiful art and very funny. Both 'hat' books are stunning in every way… most of unkind of him to make the rest of us look so average!
Thanks, Ed for such an insighful interview! Can't wait to see what Max does next!