Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Mireille Levert

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Ten Questions with Mireille Levert

Tundra Books author and illustrator Mireille Levert's latest book, The Princess Who Had Amost Everything, is a modern-day cautionary tale about over-indulgence. Since 1975, Mireille has illustrated children's books and magazines articles. Her work has been exhibited in Canada and internationally and won numerous awards, including the Governor General's Literary Award for Illustration.

OB:

Tell us about your book, The Princess Who Had Almost Everything.

ML:

I first wrote this book in French because I am French Canadian. The name of the princess in the English version is Alicia but in the original version the name is Alizarine Cramoisie. Alizarine Cramoisie is the funny name of a very beautiful red that I often use for my watercolour paintings. I searched for many years for a character that could have this sophisticated name and finally I found my princess! I am proud because this story is about something very important to me: finding happiness in creativity.

OB:

Which books made a great impression on you when you were a child?

ML:

Every book made a great impression on me! I really was a “cookie book monster”… I liked the words and the images and I really enjoyed sitting between two big shelves of books in the library.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

ML:

When I write the first draft I write freely just to let the ideas come to me. But when I work on rewriting I make changes for my readership. I tried to reach children between the ages of 4 and 8 years old.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

ML:

A beautiful and peaceful room. I need beauty around me. When I am in a place with a lot of light and silence everything become possible. The words start to play in my head and become stories.

OB:

What was your first publication?

ML:

I have illustrated a lot of books, but the first picture book that I both wrote and illustrated was called Rose by Night. Rose is a bit like me when I was a little girl. Each night I would wake up and have to go to the washroom but I was always sure there was a witch under my bed. I had a lot of pleasure drawing witches, vampires, ogres and creating a magic spell.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

ML:

I am reading twelve books at the same time - I am still a cookie book monster. One of them is Diago and Frida by J.M.G. Le Clezio. The book tells the story of two great Mexican painters: Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo.

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

ML:

I can not answer this question with any specific books. I remembered when I was a bookseller and parents would say to me, “my child is a brilliant 5 year old girl, what is the perfect book for her?” There is no such perfect book. I would say that a child should come into a bookshop or library to choose a book that reflects their own personality.

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

ML:

Try to write your entire story in only 5 sentences. If you can do that then you have the story. If not, you have to search again.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

ML:

A small boy who was particularly short told me, with a very sad face, that he was really touched by Eddie Longpants, my book about a very tall boy and childhood intolerance.

OB:

What is your next project?

ML:

Right now, I don’t know what is cooking yet, but I know it will be my best book yet.
I always believe that the better book is the next one; this is why I continue to work.

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