Today, I’m celebrating a book birthday with Ashley Belote and LISTEN UP, LOUELLA. Why yes, I am having cake to celebrate and you should too. Go get some to enjoy while you read our interview. I’m so excited to celebrate this book and Ashley who I’ve gotten to know over the phone, email, and messages. As you can imagine she’s delightful and so is LISTEN UP, LOUELLA. Today she shares some insights into growing up surrounded by books, some picture book wisdom, and a giveaway! One lucky winner (US Only) will win a copy of LISTEN UP, LOUELLA, so don’t forget to comment on the post to enter the giveaway.
What were you like at the age of your target audience?
Thank you so much for having me on the blog! My target audience is between the ages of 4 and 8, and when I was that age, I was a lot like I am now, haha. I spent my days drawing every chance I got, playing outside around the farm I grew up on, and baking cinnamon rolls with my grandmother figure, whom I called Aunt Al. I grew up as an only child in rural West Virginia and loved my childhood. Both of my parents are creative, so art was always encouraged. My family owned an independent publishing company (my mom still manages it!), so I was surrounded by books my entire life. I loved making up funny stories, and my goal was to make my mom laugh. Every time I drew something and gave it to her, she would scan it, print it out, and then combine all the drawings into a stapled book for me. She is my main inspiration, and it’s because of her hard work and guidance that I’m passionate about this industry. In second grade, my teacher presented us with a project to write and illustrate our own story. We finished our books, and my mom volunteered to print a few copies of each and then had them spiral bound. We had a mock book signing that our parents attended, and the newspaper came to cover the event! Below is the picture of me they used in the article. Seeing my work in a book like that was the moment I knew making books was what I wanted to do.
What inspires you?
Humor inspires me! I love to laugh, and I love making people laugh. I love listening to kids laugh when I read to them. It’s the best! I enjoy watching comedies and binge my favorite sitcoms on repeat. I particularly admire physical comedy. You can tell so much through body language and facial expressions in picture books, so I use a lot of those techniques throughout my illustrations to convey comedy. The world is a tough place sometimes, so if I can create an opportunity for a kid to get lost in a book and leave the real world for 32 pages, then that is a true success.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope readers take away an understanding of how important it is to listen. In the story, Louella misses an important invitation because she doesn’t listen to what is happening around her. I think kids and adults can all fall victim to this. The world is busy, and a lot happens at once. It’s necessary to focus on who or what needs our attention.
Aside from this, I hope readers laugh! I had a lot of fun illustrating this book because there are so many animals. I put in a lot of background activity and infused it with humor every chance I got! I love to hide small details in illustrations, so I hope readers enjoy looking for them in LISTEN UP, LOUELLA!
What’s next for you?
Up next are witches, wombats, and pirate sheep! Haha! WITCH & WOMBAT will be hitting shelves from Random House next year, followed by SHEEPWRECKED in 2024. WITCH & WOMBAT is about a little witch who wants a cat as her sidekick but gets a wombat instead. It’s been so much fun to draw a wombat! I am working on finals for that title at the moment. SHEEPWRECKED is about a group of pirate sheep who become sheepwrecked on a desert island. The farm I grew up on was a sheep farm, so I am probably subconsciously inspired by those experiences. I would love when the lambs were born, so I spent a lot of time looking at sheep throughout my childhood. Having the chance to draw them now is fantastic! I am so grateful for my career. Being able to do what I love is an absolute dream come true 🙂
Here’s how you can find out more about Ashley and her books:
Twitter: @AshleyBelote1 Instagram: @AshleyBeloteIllustration