Her Idea by Rilla Alexander – an interview

In celebration of the launch of ‘Her Idea’ by Rilla Alexander, we interview Rilla about her alter-ego, how she deals with writers block and the ultimate collaboration.

Her Idea, addresses the whole concept of procrastination and how we move on from one idea to the next, never truly finishing any of them. Ring any bells? It certainly does with us!

PBB: We hear Sozi is your alter-ego, so can we assume that you too procrastinate?

Her Idea CoverRA: It’s true! I love thinking up new ideas and there is nothing I like more than making books. And yet ever since I can remember I have left a trail of unfinished ideas behind me. Everything sounds and looks so much better until you put pencil to paper. Procrastination is all about avoiding the moment when unlimited potential evaporates and leaves you feeling disappointed.

PBB: ‘Her Idea’ will resonate with many, but what’s the wildest idea you’ve yet to start or see through to the end?
RA: Of course, it is a Sozi idea! I did a stop motion workshop in Prague and had an armature made for Sozi. She has been sitting in a box waiting for me to animate her for so long that I fear when I finally start, the puppet will be fused solid or maybe growing barnacles. I made teeny tiny red pencils for her and scoured the shops buying every red material I could find.
PBB: You’ve produced some fab books, (‘The Best Book in the World’ is a favourite) how do you motivate yourself to finish them and meet deadlines?

0405 Her IdeaRA: Making books for my family was a big part of my childhood. I made toys of the characters and imagined them jumping around in my hand. The excitement I get from thinking about that propels me. It is what gets me going when I am procrastinating or keeps me working when I am disappointed by the results. But I have also learned a lot of techniques for getting things finished, such as breaking everything into small, manageable tasks – and most importantly, only working on one thing at a time.

PBB: We really love your choices of limited colour palette, what medium do you prefer to work in?
RA: My mother colour coded me and my sisters red, yellow and blue (no prizes for guessing which one I was) and I have always been most comfortable with bright, bold colours, restricted palettes and strong compositions. I sketch in pencil and then use a lightbox to paint each colour layer on a different piece of textured paper in black ink.
PBB: We love Sozi’s little world, particularly the characterisation of her ideas, how did you arrive at the final characters?

4243 Her IdeaRA: I originally conceived the ideas as frogs – because they are really slimey and can slip easily out of your hand. I also grew up in Australia where green tree frogswould literally be layered one on top of each other in the hundreds and come out of holes in the walls. I also liked the idea of them leap frogging each other to be the one that gets “done” and the fairy tale connotations of kissing them. But it became apparent that in order to understand that they represent an abstract concept it was better that they didn’t look like any existing animal. They have all those “froggy” attributes though.

PBB: Why the name Sozi?
RA: When I was two I was given a generic plastic doll called Suzy. I immediately renamed her Sozi although everyone pronounced it wrong. Since so many people get my name wrong too, it made us best friends. (Her name rhymes with Ozzy and mine with Gorilla) When I started drawing her many years later she no longer looked at all like the original Sozi but she is so much a part of me that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to name her anything else. It wasn’t until I took Sozi to Paris in exhibition, that I discovered that “Sosie” means double or doppelgänger in French.
PBB: If you could work on an idea with anyone who would it be and why?

0607 Her IdeaRA: Bringing Sozi to life in animation is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I had a glimpse of her moving in the book trailer for The Best Book in the World thanks to my very generous friend Paul Ducco. I dream up so many ideas that are short sequences or moments that would work really well as animation. And well, as you now know, there is an armature sitting there waiting. So it would definitely be an animator.

PBB: How do you deal with ‘writer’s block’?
RA: When I don’t know exactly where a story is going I will write down a lot of questions. “What if she makes a big machine and it finishes all her ideas for her?” “What if she just realises this whole thing was a bad idea and she really should be doing something else?” Simply the act of writing something down usually will get me going again. When I was working on “The Best Book in the World” I reversed the entire order of the story I had written so far, just so I could really see what I was really struggling with. If none of those techniques work, I solve a lot of problems by walking my dog.
If you would like to get your hands on a copy of Her Idea (and who wouldn’t?) we’re giving away two copies. To be in with a chance of winning just follow and RT @pbooksblogger with what you procrastinate over. A winner will be picked at random on Monday 26th Jan. UK entrants only.
Our huge thanks to Rilla for taking the time out to answer our questions and to Flying Eye Books for setting it up and providing two copies of ‘Her Idea’ for our giveaway.
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