AUTHOR: Michele Bledsoe and Richard Bledsoe
BOOK TITLE: The Secret Kingdom
GENRE: Illustrated Children’s Book
PUBLISHER: Outskirts Press
Please tell us about yourself.
My husband Richard and I are both artists. I have been exhibiting my paintings and drawings in art galleries for almost 20 years. I’ve always loved to draw, and when my father bought me an easel one Christmas, I started to paint.
I’ve been making art since I was a child, and never stopped.
Please tell us your latest news.
Richard and I both had paintings on display at the Arizona Museum for Youth, as part of their “Dream On” exhibit. At the end of August, we held a reading/book signing of “The Secret Kingdom” at the Museum, and did an art project with the children in attendance. We had a great time.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? I’m a full-time artist. I spend most of my time painting. This is the first book I’ve written. Once I decided to make “The Secret Kingdom”, I worked the book every day until it was completed. It was a non-stop creative frenzy!
When and why did you begin writing? I was inspired to become an artist by the beautifully illustrated children’s books I grew up with. I hope to inspire a new generation of young artists to share my lifetime love of creating pictures.
When people saw my art in galleries, they often told me I should write a children’s book. I always said I’d love to, but I wasn’t a writer. When the idea came of using my paintings to create a children’s book, I got so excited I completed six poems before I remembered that I couldn’t write! I felt like I’ve been working this book my entire life, and every painting I made was a page for the book I was meant to write.
What inspired you to write your first book? It has always been my dream to create my own children’s book. I love children’s books, I still read them.
The illustrations in “The Secret Kingdom” are some of the paintings I’ve created over the last twenty years. The pictures came first – the art inspired the poetry. My husband and I wrote the poems by staring at each painting and letting them inspire us. It was a great experience.
What are your current projects?
I just completed the illustrations for “Lemon Bee and Other Peculiar Tales,” a soon to be released book of short stories by author Patricia Lynn Dompieri. I did a painting for the cover art, and provided almost thirty pen and ink drawings for some really unusual stories.
What do you plan for the future?
We will continue to set up readings and book signings to meet and encourage young artists to follow their dreams. In the meantime, I will to paint the pages of my next illustrated book, which I’ve already started working on.
Please give me a brief synopsis of your book.
“The Secret Kingdom” is a collection of paintings and poetry celebrating the world of dreams.
What gave you the idea for this particular book?
I was talking to my sister on the phone one day about possibly writing a children’s book. I figured it would take a couple of years to create the paintings needed to illustrate a story. She pointed out I was surrounded by the pages of children’s book already. I was sitting in my art studio, and I looked around at the walls covered with my artwork. I said I didn’t have a story, and she answered that I could write poems to go with the images. I started working on it as soon as I got off the phone with her.
Why did you decide to co-author this work?
Richard and I have been happily married for 10 years. I wanted “The Secret Kingdom” to be something we did together.
How did you meet your writing partner?
I met my husband Richard the first time I exhibited my paintings in public. I’d been painting just for myself for 10 years before it ever occurred to me to show my work in galleries. Richard is an artist, he got his degree in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University, and was very active in the arts community. He saw my paintings and insisted on meeting me. One thing led to another, and we were married two years later.
What is the process for jointly writing a book?
I chose the paintings I wanted to use for the pages of “The Secret Kingdom”. Every day, I would select one painting for Richard to think about, and one painting for myself. We would then write a poem inspired by the painting, and share them with each other that evening. It was a wonderful experience. We kept doing this page by page until we were done.
Richard was used to writing poetry and reading at spoken word performance events, so at first he was creating long, elaborate intellectual poems. It took him a little while to find the right rhythm for a children’s book.
What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?
The Harry Potter series. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read these books, it’s a great story. They are very well written.
What books have most influenced your life?
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Where the Wild Things Are