Creator Corner: I, Sea author Suzanne Sutherland and illustrator Ashley Barron
Welcome to Creator Corner! Each month we interview the creators of one of our recent books. This month, we interviewed I, Sea author Suzanne Sutherland and illustrator Ashley Barron.
Owlkids Books: Suzanne, when did you know that you wanted to be an author?
Suzanne Sutherland: I’ve always loved telling stories, but the first time I could see myself as an author was in high school when I started publishing zines. My friends and I would spend long hours hunched over the photocopier in our school library, making stacks of homemade magazines to trade with other writers.
OKB: Ashley, when did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?
Ashely Barron: I’ve wanted to be an artist since grade two. I know this because that same year my class was asked to fill out a questionnaire for the school yearbook, and under future career, I wrote “dentist” even though I secretly wanted to say “artist”. I was a shy kid and was afraid that if I wrote “artist”, my classmates might question me about it… or worse, poke fun at the idea! My plan worked, though. Nobody asked me about dentistry.
OKB: Suzanne, what are your favorite things to write about?
SS: I like to say that I write stories that sparkle. I’m inspired by unique characters finding new ways to make their best qualities shine.
OKB: What inspired you to write this book?
SS: My family took a dolphin-watching trip a few years ago in Mexico. We saw spinner dolphins (and even swam with them!) as well as sea turtles and humpback whales—it was absolutely incredible. Heading back to the beach, I was struck by just how alive the ocean was and soon had the words “I, Sea” in my head. When we made it back to land, I wrote the first draft of the book then and there.
OKB: Ashley, which spread did you most enjoy illustrating and why?
AB: I had a lot of fun illustrating the actual sea in this book. The process was incredibly calming and meditative, as if I were patching together a wavy blue quilt. But I also loved making our little blue crab friend. In the “Eye see…” spread, he’s blissfully licking a giant yellow sucker with his tiny red crab tongue, and it makes me laugh every time I see it.
OKB: Which spread was the most challenging to illustrate and why?
AB: The very last page was a challenge, but a fun one. My task was to come up with objects in the child’s bath time environment that might’ve inspired this quirky, imaginative tale. I was careful not to make those connections too literal, though, which is why the crab in the tub is red and not blue like the crab in the story. After all, to imagine something is to stretch reality and make it your own.
OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
SS: I hope, I, Sea inspires readers to use their imaginations and to play, especially with their words!
AB: I second Suzanne’s answer.
OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?
AB: I worked as a lifeguard and a swimming instructor throughout my teen years and into my late twenties. If you think about it, that’s a lot of time spent looking down at chlorinated pool water. I would’ve much preferred looking out onto a vast lake or ocean.
SS: It may not come as much of a surprise, but I’m a big word nerd. Every morning, I start the day by solving the New York Times crossword puzzle—although I sometimes need a hint or two! I’m currently on a seven-month streak!