The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of A is for Australia
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in New Jersey and grew up in a small town outside of New York City. From my bedroom window, I could see the famous skyscraper skyline. As a child I spent weekends exploring museums and galleries. I had many pets including snakes, a monkey and a camel.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve, I wanted to be an artist. I explored New York’s Greenwich Village with my snakes entwined around my arm. I loved watching the painters wearing their black berets and the poets reciting verse with the audience snapping their fingers in approval.
At eighteen, I moved to California and lived in a beach house in Malibu while studying Ethnographic Film at UCLA. My aim was to make films about ‘primitive’ tribes before they were swamped by western culture.
At thirty, I was living on a small Caribbean island. I realized I could share stories about people from around the world with words and art. I began painting the lush scenery, flora and fauna, and the colonial architecture of the island. I approached numerous publishers before one accepted my first book – The Little Island
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At eighteen I believed in fate and now I believe we can influence our destiny.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Rousseau and Matisse. Gauguin’s island sojourn, Matisse’s intricate patterns, colour and composition and Rousseau’s primitives. Looking back, I feel blessed that I had access to seeing their originals in person:
Gauguin: The Seed of the Areoi
Matisse: The Goldfish
Rousseau: The Gypsy
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to visual artists, why did you choose to illustrate books?
I continue to create large-scale oil paintings based on my travels for exhibitions, but when I realised I could share stories about people from around the world with art, I was inspired to write and illustrate books for children.
6. Please tell us about your latest published work…
When I came to Australia over twenty-five years ago, I fell instantly in love with the country and way of life. I found the Australian light and landscape a brand-new challenge. What inspired me most was the freshness of the scenery, the unusual flora and fauna and colour – the red ochre of the earth and the uniquely blue sky. The love of our country is what ultimately drove me to create A is fore Australia – A fantastic tour.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after viewing your work?
A is for Australia is a celebration of Australian places and culture. I hope people can explore and discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world. Perhaps become intrigued to visit some of the places in the book.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of art and why?
Children and their art as a whole, they just do it! They’re brave and they don’t doubt their talent.
My main ambition is to inspire people to paint, read, think and dream.
10. What advice do you give aspiring illustrators?
First of all build up a portfolio showing a diversity of style and subject matter. Include animals, children, and anything else you love to draw. Send out sample postcards and A4 tear sheets to publishers, editors and art directors. Update the images and resend at least once or twice a year. Research what’s appropriate for their publishing lists. Join organizations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It’s the best way to keep your finger on the children’s book publishing pulse.
Frané, thank you for playing.
by Frané Lessac
A factastic tour of Australia from A to Z with award-wining author and illustrator Frane Lessac.
What is the Fremantle Doctor? Where is Qui Qui? And why are some islands named after days of the week? You’ll uncover these exciting facts when you explore the A to Z of Australia – from Bondi to Kakadu and all the way to Taronga Zoo. Discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world!
About the Author
Frané Lessac is an author and illustrator of international renown, having over forty children’s books published throughout the world. She was born in the USA and lived on the Caribbean island of Montserrat and London before moving to Australia. Frane has contributed her distinctive paintings to many critically acclaimed children’s picture books, including My Little Island, a Reading Rainbow feature book. Also, On the Same Day in March was named a Top Ten Science Books by ALA Booklist.