This month I have BOTH an author and artist spotlight combo. Welcome Carmela Dutra!
I am super excited to welcome a wonderful artist that not only specializes in photography and illustration but also writes her own children’s books. Talented California Bay Area professional wedding and family portrait photographer, Carmela also wrote and illustrated The Adventures of Lorenzo the Bear, a children’s book series focusing on the bonds of friendship. Let’s have a chat with author and illustrator Carmela and get a sneak peek into her busy creative world!
Carmela, what are you favorite tools as an illustrator?
Color pencils and charcoal these are my mediums of choice specifically prisma color and Stadler. I also paint from watercolor to acrylic and oil, as well as pinstriping, traditional with squirrel hair brushes.
Describe how the development and creative process starts for you with a new children’s book (story first? illustrations? combo?)
A combo is really good way to describe my creative process. It can be something as simple as an idea comes to mind and I run with it. Then other times I see an image and that branches to another image in my mind. Really, it comes down to whatever comes into my head first; if it’s a sentence or idea, I write it down and then my story will start to flow from it. If it’s an idea for an illustration, then I’ll start sketching its and see where it takes me. For example the Lorenzo series traditionally I write the story first, keeping illustrations in mind. But my second series little Katie, is usually illustrations first and then the story.
How did your publisher, Pegasus Pony, find you and start the process for publishing your book (s)?
They found me through a family friend. My husband sent off my books to other publishing houses but I never had any intention of my work going public, this was something I did for my niece and nephew as a gift. A friend of mine read them, contacted her daughter who worked there at the time, she called me, and that’s how I started working with them.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Time. The amount of time it would take surprised me. Because I do writing and illustrating the work it’s doubled, and since I do all of my illustrations by hand in essence it becomes tripled. And the editing that goes into writing, more than I expected. What I already thought was well written, well… I was wrong.
Do you hear from your fans and readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do! I received and drawn pictures of Lorenzo, letters, and cards. Not to mention messages on Facebook, and Twitter. The most is directly from the kids in the classrooms when i visit. Illustrations when is the the next Lorenzo book coming out? The vintage style of my illustrations are where the comments are. Since they are each draw by hand, they have an old-fashioned feel to them; which I am often told is refreshing in a computer-generated world.
What part of your art and writing process captivates and drives you directionally when you are bringing a children’s picture book to life?
It’s definitely the illustrations! It doesn’t matter how well written a story is, the illustrations are what bring it to life.
How do you divide your time between your creative art and social media for marketing and PR / or what lessons have you learned to make this process make sense and run day to day more smoothly?
Social media is a monster that can never be fully tamed. Balance is the key, and this is something I still struggle. I can spend an entire day just on social media with nothing to show for it. But over time I learned tricks such as utilizing apps, and setting up posts in advance.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Oh where to start! Life is full of criticism! I’ve been told my stories are pointless with no real aim, to the market being too flooded for me to really get noticed. But with every closed door comes a window, and I’ve had more windows opened than doors closed. I would have to say that the best compliment has come from one of the reviews I received from readers favorite and I would like to share it with you all of you
“Carmela Dutra’s children’s adventure book, The Adventures of Lorenzo the Bear at Jellyfish Cove, is a delight! Dutra combines an exciting and fun adventure tale with some of the most inspired illustrations I’ve seen in some time. Her drawings are deceptively simplistic until you start to examine her use of perspective, scale and coloring. My eyes danced as they followed along the hilly trail that leads Lorenzo to Lucy, and I loved looking at the expressions of the birds who help Lorenzo rescue his friend. Then there’s the fearsome pirate, Lord Boris the Red-Butted Baboon, whose grim and scowling face is just marvelous. Every page of The Adventures of Lorenzo the Bear: Encounter at Jellyfish Cove is filled with story and eye-popping art. As I read it, I sat with a huge smile on my face — and I’m still smiling. This a kid’s book to get excited about, and it is most highly recommended.”
How did the idea of Lorenzo the Bear first come to you? and is there a theme or part of the story that feels most “connected” to YOU?
That’s really two fold answer. My niece and nephew each wanted me to create them something, one wanted pictures another wanted stories. So I figured I would put them together and create a children’s story. But what what I write about? And I was thinking about my childhood, and this little stuffed bear that my father gave me that I named to Lorenzo. I was afraid of the dark and my father told me that this bear would protect me. I named him the brave bear Lorenzo, and as long as I had him I was always able to sleep at night with the aid of trusty nightlight mind you. From there Lorenz just grew, into something bigger and more than I ever expected! All kinds of children have fallen in love with him, everything I’ve ever done is for the kids. And even though I’m grown up now and Lorenzo lives with my niece, it’s like I still have a part of him with me. Writing the stories about him, and drawing pictures it’s like him and I are still together against the darkness of night.
How do you market your book and how much of this role revolves around your publisher and how much is yours to do (combo?) What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
My publishing house does do some marketing, but as with all authors of the bulk of it falls to us. My publishing house I have a partnership, we work together in harmony. I have regular phone calls with one of the editors who is specially in charge of marketing. I do other things on my own, utilizing social media to drive people to my platform which is my website where you can learn more about myself, and my books, and purchase signed copies directly from me.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers & illustrators like yourself that do BOTH in the childrens picture book publishing industry?
It’s scary, overwhelming for sure, and yet loads of fun! It can be hard to face rejection, I faced them before getting published. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, we’re gonna last longer. So never give up and just keep pushing, doing what you love even if only on the side. Then later you can look back without regrets, and without wondering what might have been.
Where can fans find your books and sweet bear Lorenzo?
The first place to go to is www.lorenzothebear.com there you’ll find up-to-date information about events and signings, as well as purchasing signed book copies!