We had the pleasure of interviewing author and illustrator Cathleen Daniels all about her creative journey. Be sure to check out her website to learn more about her work.
1. As a storyteller what is the most important part of your writing process?
My mantra is write, show, edit, repeat. Getting feedback from other writers, especially writers in my genre is the most important thing for me. Being part of a critique group and staying open to different perspectives is crucial in helping me improve my stories.
2. As an illustrator what inspires you?
Looking at other peoples art! I love Instagram because I can follow a variety of illustrators and artists and look at new work other people are doing. I also have an extensive picture book and graphic novel collection.
3. What inspired you to become an author and an illustrator?
It was a natural progression from what I spent my childhood doing – drawing, painting, reading, and writing. I loved all things fantasy. After studying graphic design and advertising in college I showed my portfolio to an artist rep in NYC. I did freelance work in the ’90s doing oil paintings for book covers, computer game covers, and trading cards. Then after I got married I taught commercial art in high school for many years and illustration took a back seat. When I had my daughter I dove into picture books, discovered SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) started writing my own stories.
4. What have been some struggles you’ve faced so far in your career?
Balance between making money to pay the bills, finding time for my projects and my family. It’s always a juggling act. Many things fall by the wayside. My garden is more like a jungle, my car never gets washed and laundry never seems to make it from basket to drawer!
5. What is your biggest success story?
I have had success as a fantasy illustrator when I was younger, especially with trading cards for Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and the like, under my maiden name Cathleen Thole. These days, immersed in the Kid Lit field, I have been getting illustration work mostly for middle-grade covers and inside black and whites. However, my biggest success is the validation of landing a literary agent, LizaRoyce.com. They are currently shopping my picture book dummies to publishers. A dummy is a mock-up of the story with each page sketched out and two illustrations in final color.
6. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors and illustrators?
Surround yourself with like-minded people and show your work. Join a critique group. If you can’t find one, start one! Go to Cons and trade shows and show your work there. Join organizations that support the industry you are interested in and go to their events to meet people and network. If you are writing/illustrating picture books; comics & graphic novels for kids & teens; writing middle-grade or YA, then SCBWI.org is a great organization for you. I was the NJ Regional Advisor for three years hosting conventions and workshops that connected authors and illustrators with professionals in the industry. Each state has a chapter and internationally too. Volunteering at these events is also a great way of net working. Submit your work to illustration reps and/or literary agents. manuscriptwishlist.com is a great site to look for agents. Be online with your work in social media and a website or blog. Marketing yourself is a big part of the job and you have to do it even when you get an agent.
7. What are your plans for 2022?
Hopefully a picture book deal! I am currently doing research for a non-fiction picture book and I have a fantasy middle grade novel halfway written that I need to finish. I am also eager to start an Etsy shop for prints and cards and stickers of my work. It’s all swirling around in my head.
8. Do you have a personal favorite book you’ve worked on?
I loved doing the covers and inside black and white illustrations for a middle-grade series, ‘Evolution Revolution’ by Charlotte Bennardo which won a few awards. It’s about a squirrel that declares war against construction machines that arrive to cut down his woods. I also really like the middle-grade fantasy I just finished illustrating for the educational market, ‘Dragons of Wellington’. It’s about a king’s pet dragon going missing and the adventures of the prince and the castle cook’s daughter as they solve the mystery.
9. Last note, where can everyone find you on social media?
Facebook: Cathleen Thole Daniels & Cathleen Daniels Studio
10. Where can they support your books?
As an illustrator for middle-grade books you can find me on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
11. And is there anything else you would like to promote?
I have a shop on society6.com you can find me under CathleenDaniels
About Cathleen Daniels
Cathleen Thole-Daniels earned a BA in Art Therapy from College of NJ, professional certification in advertising art & graphic design at NY Center for Media Arts and graduate studies in digital graphics at NYU. A publishing illustrator since 1990, she started out in the fantasy market painting book covers, computer game covers and super hero trading cards. Her past clients include Simon & Schuster, Barnes & Noble, PlayStation, Sega Genesis, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Image Comics (Wild Storm), Legend Entertainment and Topps Trading Card Co. Cathleen has also been a New Jersey art teacher for many years.
She discovered her love of children’s books one rainy day in the back corner of a neighborhood book store. She fell head first into a beautiful picture book and never came out! Cathleen went on to join the Society of Childrens Book Writers & Illustrators and became the New Jersey Regional Advisor for SCBWI from 2015 – 2018.
To date she illustrates and writes her own picture books and illustrates middle grade novels. She works digitally in ProCreate, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. She also works in watercolor, color pencil, pastel, acrylic and oil. When she is not working on books, Cathleen teaches at the Arts Council of Princeton and hangs out with her family and two very silly black cats.
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Tatiana Stec is the Co-Founder and Creative director at All Ages of Geek. You can follow her on Twitter @Tatiana_Stec