Home > Writing and Poetry > Wednesday’s Interview with Aidana WillowRaven

Wednesday’s Interview with Aidana WillowRaven

Good morning, everyone. Today we’re switching gears a bit. Aidana WillowRaven occupies a different chair; one for the illustrator’s.

Claudsy: I want to thank you for kindly coming over to share your work and life with us 

Aidana: Thank you for the invite. I am always a little surprised people want to pick my brain.

Claudsy: I’d like to begin by discovering when you began your career and when you learned that you could really make it in the industry. 

Aidana: Professionally, the first children’s book I illustrated was released in 2007, but I went to school (NSU/ODU – fine art major), with being a cover artist and book illustrator as my goal back in 1994. I just didn’t know my work was going to be acceptable by publishers and authors, so I never really attempted to follow my dreams of seeing my work published and on/in books. 

Claudsy: How did you approach publishers regarding your abilities and your work? 

Aidana: I had a brain storm one night. I figured, if I wanted to get publishers and authors to notice me over the throng, I had to run in their circles. In any business, people hire people they feel they know and trust. So I had to get to know them. I stayed up until I had joined 101 Yahoo groups for writers and/or publishers.

Within a month, I had my first book illustration project. I charged entirely too little … lol, got scammed pretty good … lol, but learned a lot with that first experience in the industry. As a result, within 6 months, I had a portfolio of published works that got the attention of legitimate authors and publishers. So it wasn’t a total loss.

Claudsy: That’s quick and dirty. I don’t know anyone else who’s joined that many groups, much less in so short a time. I know that you have some fantastic cover illustrations and text illustrations as well. How difficult is it for you to decide what you’re going to show with your pix and what you’re going to leave to the reader’s imagination?

Aidana: That really depends, not only on the work itself, but what the publisher/author has in mind for the book. After all, I am being paid to work, so I have to do my best to provide what they want. But for the most part, I just ‘feel’ it. As I read, my inner sight shows me what to draw/paint. 

Claudsy: I’ve heard that most publishers don’t encourage contact between the books’ author and the illustrator. Has that been your experience and would you always like to work in conjunction with the author? 

Aidana: Lol. This one can be funny. You’re correct, most PHs don’t allow for contact. There are many reasons for this, but the main one, I suspect, is that it saves time and allows the PH to retain control. After all, they are the ones footing the bill.

Early in my career, I would have always said ‘Yes, I want the author’s input.’ But I have learned through trial and error … lol … that this can often be a hindrance. Not all authors can ‘see’ the same way an artist does (which totally shocked me, since authors are in the business of creating mental visuals with words), and it is often best to let the writer to do their job and the artist do theirs. On occasion, I will still ask for author input if the character is based on a real life person or if I am ‘stuck’, though.

Besides, if an author’s done their job well, the visual is usually already there — in the reading. I don’t need to ask what the character and setting should look like. The story told me.

Claudsy: That’s what I’ve always been taught, too. I believe you also get commissions straight from the author to do either a cover or text illustrations. Is it easier to satisfy the writer when you begin the project with them on board?

Aidana: Again, it depends on the author.. I have actually had to admit defeat a couple of times when I just couldn’t seem to read the author’s mind well enough … lol. It happens. Working together on a book is like any other relationship. The people involved need to be compatible. Other times, they are a joy to work with and they love everything I do … lol. You just have to remember you can’t please everybody.

Claudsy: Your design business seems to be doing very well right now. How difficult is it for you to concentrate on drawing a book when you also have to concern yourself with marketing the business, getting new contracts, etc.? 

Aidana: In the current economic distress, it is tough, but I am doing better than many of my colleagues. And in answer to your question, I easily spend 75% – 80% of my time networking. I am also putting in roughly 14-18 hour days. The work is there, but you have to fight for it and be willing to compromise.

All of that makes it very hard to concentrate, but I don’t have much choice. It messes with my schedules and deadlines when I have to land another project to pay my bills, when I’d rather be drawing … lol. If I had it my way, I’d have an agent find all my jobs for me and all I would do would be draw and paint. That would be wonderful.

Claudsy: No doubt. Do your children follow in your footsteps with the crayons and colored pencils?

Aidana: My oldest daughter is currently in art school, my middle child is more like her dad (more into sports), and my baby illustrates his own stories all the time. He is a major comic book fan. 

Claudsy: If you could have any plum design job, what would it be right now? 

Aidana: Wow. Ummm …

Claudsy: Okay, I get it. All jobs are plum right now. One last question. This is an easy one. What are you working on at the moment and what book have you illustrated that will come out next?

Aidana: I am actually working on seven books right now. I think the next one to be completed will be: Being Jacob: A Day at the Zoo by Suzy Stevenson Koch (through 4RV Publishing).

Claudsy: I want to thank you again, Aidana, for being such a wonderful guest and taking the time to be with us today. A busy schedule doesn’t always allow for such interruptions in an otherwise hectic day.

Short Personal Biography:

 Aidana WillowRaven is a full-time illustrator, running her own design studio. After her training in Fine Arts at Norfolk State & Old Dominion universities, she managed to have a family of two girls and a boy and begin her design business.

Her work ranked 5th in P&E’s Reader’s Poll in the Artist of 2009 category. More info and her work can be viewed at different times from her blog: http://willowraven.weebly.com/blog.html.

Much of Aidana’s work can also be viewed at: Aidana WillowRaven / Art Director for 4RV Publishing.

4RV Publishing website: http://4rvpublishingllc.com/ 

and owner of: WillowRaven Illustration & Design Plus

Book Illustration & Cover Creation

WillowRaven Website: willowraven.illustration@yahoo.com

Email: http://WillowRaven.weebly.com  

Remember to leave your comments for this interview. Tomorrow, as usual, I will take some aspect of this interview for a commentary. I hope all of you will stop by again to read and comment on it.

But, if you can’t make it tomorrow, keep in mind that on Friday our guest will be Aaron Craig, a new writer from Canada.

Have a productive and creative week everyone and feel free to stop by any time to just say hello, and hopefully, learn something new.

A bientot,


Categories: Writing and Poetry
  1. March 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Great interview. : )

  2. March 11, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Very nice interview. I look forward to meeting some time. Best always.

    Michael John McCann
    Mayor of PurpleUmpkin

  3. March 11, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Nice one, Aidana.

  4. March 11, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Hmm … I learned something new about Aidana today, something I never heard or read before.

    Thanks for interviewing her.

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