When I was a preschooler, my father was a student at the Museum School of Fine Arts. Sometimes he would bring home a book from Boston for my sister and me. We would study the illustrations for hours and ask my mother to read it over and over. Inspired, my sister and I made up stories and drew pictures to go with them. I knew that I wanted to make books then and there and for all time.
In second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Ann Sullivan Talanian, reinforced my decision. She told us that if she came back from lunch and found us sitting at our desks silently, she would read us a chapter from the Boxcar Children. It was an old book locked in an old glass cabinet behind her desk, an element that added to our appreciation. I would peek at the ecstatic faces of my classmates as she read. They were so interested and so happy. This is when I decided that if I could make people feel this way, a career as an author and illustrator would be as worthwhile as a career as a doctor or teacher.
The inspiration for the illustrations in Upsie Downsie, Are You Asleep? came from perusing photographs of ancient houses in Great Britain. The animal characters have the personalities of people I've met over the years. To illustrate the Lucky O’Leprechaun books, I rented old movies and sketched the people I liked. For example, the characters of Grandauntie Bridget, Uncle Patrick O’Brien, and the body of Lucky O’Leprechaun are based on Michaeleen Flynn in The Quiet Man.
When I both write and illustrate a book, I can have the illustrations do a great deal of the work of telling the story. It's absolutely true that a picture is worth a thousand words. It also takes a thousand times longer to illustrate a story than to write it. When one person gets the chance to do both the story and illustrations, the book takes on the personality, individuality, and vision of the creator, and the reader can truly see inside the author's mind.