Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Ashley Spires

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Ashley Spires

In author/illustrator Ashley Spires' new book, Binky the Space Cat (Kids Can Press), readers meet an adventurous, heroic house cat determined to explore "outer space." Ashley talks with Open Book about heroes, happiness and her devotion to Joss Whedon.

Open Book Toronto:

Tell us about your book, Binky the Space Cat.

Ashley Spires:

Binky is a hero who has yet to fulfill his potential. He is a house cat who believes that everything outside of his house (which he thinks is a space station) is outer space and that bugs are actually aliens. He may be on to something though because F.U.R.S.T. (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) is very real and he does succeed in making a functioning rocket ship so don't call the kitty loony bin just yet....


OBT:

You write and illustrate your books. Which comes first, a drawing or the story?

AS:

Mostly the drawing. When all is said and done, I'm an illustrator first so I tend to enter my stories on a visual level first. Take Binky for instance; I made a drawing for my nephew one Christmas, added his cat in there with a space helmet on, and poof, a space cat was born.


OBT:

What was your first publication?

AS:

The first picture book I illustrated was about the Canadian National Anthem. I was so damn pleased that someone was actually paying me to draw that I didn't get choosy about the subject matter. I had no idea what I was doing and it showed. Needless to say, shortly after that I enrolled in real illustration school where I learned how to act like I know what I am doing.


OBT:

Describe your ideal work environment.

AS:

A cup of tea, comfie pants, a cat on my lap, a tired dog napping nearby, some good music and a rainy day.


OBT:

What is your idea of happiness?

AS:

See above and add anything that contains sugar.


OBT:

Who are your favourite authors?

AS:

In the kid lit. world it's hard to top Roald Dahl. Wicked, clever, and timeless. Nowadays, Oliver Jeffers has a great ear for minimalism and humour that I really respect. As for big people books, I only read novels sporting long haired beefcakes clutching torn-dress clad maidens on the cover. That and anything Oprah says is good.


OBT:

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

AS:

Ready your nerd alarm - I love Buffy. There I said it. I've been devoted to everything that Joss Whedon has created for years starting with Buffy and ending with Dollhouse. I also love Doctor Who. Wow, I am some kind of super geek. No wonder making comics feels so right.


OBT:

What's your next project?

AS:

I'm in the middle of a picture book about a short pirate and then the rest of my year will be devoted to the third Binky instalment. (The second one is due out this fall.) I'll also be spending much of my time teaching my dog to vacuum. The cats have been doing the laundry for years now and it's time he earns his keep.


Ashley Spires grew up in a little town on the coast of B.C. called Tsawwassen with two parents, an older sister, eight cats, a dog and the occasional newt.
For a while she thought that animation was her future, but then photography caught her eye, which led her to bookmaking courses. These classes opened her eyes to the world of illustration and she never looked back. Delighted that there was, in fact, a career that allowed her to remain in her pyjamas, hang out with her cats and be productive at the same time, illustration is the perfect job for her.

Despite the quizzical looks and baffled expressions of loved ones, 2009 saw Ashley make the big move from the coast to the prairies, where she now resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

For more information about Blinky the Space Cat please visit the Kids Can Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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