"Q&A With Shane Evans"
Book: I Love You More Than...
Author: Shane Evans
Shane Evans is a creative force. He comfortably wears titles that include artist, author, illustrator, musician, songwriter, and founder of Dream Studio, a community art space in Kansas City, Missouri, where he resides.
He has more than 30 books to his credit as an illustrator, including Olu's Dream, which he also authored. Many of the books have been featured in the media such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, Reading Rainbow, and Late Night with David Letterman. Five of his books for publication in 2010 included "Chocolate Me" with actor Taye Diggs, "My Brother Charlie" with actor Holly Robinson Peete, and "Black Jack," with Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Charles Smith.
His portfolio includes the "Shanna Show" (now a Disney animated short along with the spinoff "Shane's Kindergarten Countdown"). In addition, he has exhibited, lectured, and developed art programs for youth in Burkina Faso, Botswana, Brazil, China, France, Japan, Lesotho, and across the United States.
1. What makes the love story in “I Love You More Than…” so special?
The word/emotion “Love” and the vast meaning that it represents to each person and the range of effects that it allows each reader, viewer, and listener to experience.
Also, the collaboration between Taye (Diggs) and I has been honed over the years as family into a project that we knew from the start would make a huge impact, not only on our families but also on many other families as well.
2. When creating your books what usually comes first, the illustrations or the written words?
They come when they come. There is no first. If I read a text first then that might be what I respond to first although each piece of art works on their own. So they come at the same time. Once the art is created, many other stories come from just looking at the page.
A good example is 'Underground'... the images and words popped up at the same time and I refined as I went forward in the story.
3. How important is it to you to create content for children of color?
Impossible to quantify its importance and or impact, as I do not see “color” as anyone else does. If you are “a color” and you pick up a book and do not see the story then likely you have missed my purpose for creating a story.
'Chocolate Me! 'is a great example of when you look deeper than the surface you will know it’s true meaning to you no matter what the “color” of its surface.
4. What was your writing process like for this book?
Lengthy and patient. One that required openness and a sense of change at all walks of the process.
5. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
The inspiration of love and prayer.
6. What event in history do you think would make for an interesting and exciting children’s book?
The “now” all stories come from this place. Also, the aftermath of “war” any war in history, even though this is a sad topic for many, what happens after this must be a process so dramatic that story prevails in triumph for the so-called victors and victims, ultimately there is no “win”.
7. Representation matters. Have you seen an increase in the number of main characters of color in children’s books from when you first started out?
Yes, and this matters little if this representation is not true. A 1,000 characters with the wrong voice no matter what color does not make the same impact as one strong voice that is heard no matter the race.
8. How key was it for you to plant the idea of “self-love” into your books “Chocolate Me” and “Mixed Me”?
Importance does not matter yet again. We created what we created because this is what we had to say. We can say now it’s important because we know at least one person, family, teacher, classroom, school, institution, etc. wants and needs to talk about its subject matter in order to bring a deeper topic to light.
That’s the effect of importance as it relates to those projects. The story existed and exist no matter if we created the book. We just found the grace and patience to make it a reality in book form.
9. What are a few children’s books that made you want to start to write your own?
No particular book, likely everyone that I picked up from ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ to ‘Whistle For Willie’ to my social studies textbook in 7th grade to ‘Native Son’ in college to the 'Bible' at church or the 'Koran' that sits in my studio, they all have inspired me again and again.
10. You often talk about heavy and multilayered concepts in your books such as race and parental relationships. What is your secret for simplifying the concepts so it’s digestible for young children while also staying true to the seriousness of the topics?
What is “heavy” to someone may simply be “what it is” for others. It’s perspective. Where someone calls it 'struggle' another may call it 'love'. The so-called secret is how I position myself.
11. When you are writing your stories, how much attention do you give to the fact that parents will be reading with or to their child? When discussing concepts such as race, how much are you consciously speaking directly to the parents?
I am only creating for one purpose usually. How people embrace it often none of us who write/illustrate know the impact and those who publish may have some understanding of metrics, but there is no measure.
The attention that I may put into something is what some might call "experience" and even that is a wide range. As a parent to a young adult, this word has meaning just the same as when my child was a “little one”. The beauty of these books we make is that most parents let us know they, “wish they had these books when they were children,” ironically now they do.
12. How has your background in play and screenwriting transferred into your ability to write a children’s book?
By helping to move a story and allowing the pace to become varied from page to page and giving life to each “scene” so that each page becomes important to what is before and after.
13. How did your literary partnership with Taye Diggs come to be?
From our first meeting at age 15 at school of the arts in Rochester NY, we have been family/friends ever since. All the work beyond that is our so-called “legend”.
14. Do you plan on writing any more books in the future?
Places To Find More From This Author:
Facebook: Shane Evans
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