SNHU Talks Illustration, Inspiration and Writing with Denise Ortakales

by Alycia King

denise.ortakales_1368750198_93You have illustrated many books. How did writing your own children’s book come about?
It was literally a homework assignment for a Writing for Children course. The assignment was to take a legend or folktale and make it your own. Being from N.H., I naturally chose a legend about the Old Man of the Mountain. Intending to do illustrations for it someday, I stuffed it in a drawer to return to it when I had time. When the Old Man fell, I pulled it out and submitted it sans illustrations. Sleeping Bear Press called one month later.

What was it like working with on a publication as an author, rather than as an illustrator?
It was definitely different. I wanted to change things in the illustrator’s sketches. I sent comments regarding the illustrations, thinking that as an illustrator they would take my comments into consideration. After all, I wasn’t like other authors. I had an art degree! I was wrong.

With three novels currently in the works, how do you balance your work on each?
It’s easy to switch between the two contemporary novels, but the third is a historical novel and it’s hard to return to that time and place if you leave. The contemporaries, and illustration, will have to wait until I’m done the historical.

What’s one thing about writing you wish you would have known when you first started?
How much fun it is! Finishing that first draft of 50,000 words is such a rush.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for you writing and art?
Everywhere—at the mall, listening to the news, eavesdropping, reading other novels and picture books. You never know when you’ll be inspired.

What is your favorite illustrated book?
Just one? “The Fortune Teller” by Trina Schart Hyman and “Carmine” by Melissa Sweet.