Mymcbooks's Blog

Keepsake that Educates!

Interview with Author Ginger Neilson

I am a full time children’s book illustrator and author. My home and studio sit at the top of a hill, near the edge of a forest in semi ruralNew Hampshire. There is a magic wand on my desk and a dragon in my basement. Everything else is nearly normal.

I came into this field later in life, after spending a number of years as an elementary school teacher and then as a travel agent. I left my day job to concentrate on children’s book illustrations and I have never been happier. The experiences I have had with children and their parents and my visits to many other countries and cultures has been an added blessing. Over the past 7 years I have been fortunate enough to have been chosen to illustrate a number of delightful children’s books.

When I paint with either traditional media or in the computer my goal is to create enjoyment, excitement, a bit of action or drama, and tell a story within each picture. Trained as a traditional painter, I still continue to create with paint, pen, pencils, but find that the high end painting programs I can use in the computer are a beneficial blend of both.

My small studio seems larger because of the two big windows that look out on the gardens and the forest. InNew England, the weather changes frequently so there is always something interesting going on outside as well as within the studio.

I have enough space to create large works that measure in feet and enough quiet to concentrate on smaller images and children’s book illustrations. My desire to create illustrations that inspire, amuse and entertain keeps me interested in all aspects of children’s books and products.

In addition to the children’s books I have illustrated for the traditional market, I have also created illustrations for the e-book market. I also participate in our local children’s theater camp and paint many of the sets for their productions.

Interview with Ginger Neilson author of Gunther the Underwater Elephant

I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog

What is the last book you read? The last book I read was a children’s picture book:  The Little Mouse-The Red Ripe Strawberry-and the Big Hungry Bear.  The last adult book: The Help.

What were your earliest memories of writing? In grade school we were often asked to write stories or poems. I remember that several of these won contests and one poem was even set to music by our class. I always added illustrations to any poem or story I wrote as a child.

What was your favorite children’s book? One of my favorite books was “One Morning inMaine” and I always loved, “Make Way for Ducklings” both by Robert McCloskey. One of the things about each that made me carry the books around with me was the artwork.  I was hooked on making my OWN pictures for books. Another ‘group’ of my favorites comes from the author/illustrator Graeme Base.

Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural? Like most children, I had a vivid imagination and my writing often was done with pictures.

Are you working on a new book? Happily, I am always working on a new book. The ideas keep coming and when I am not planning a story, I am illustrating one for another author or publisher.  I truly have been given a great opportunity to do what I love every day.

What inspired you to write Gunther the underwater Elephant and how did you come up with each character? The idea came from the name.  I was a first grade teacher for many years. Our assistant principal was a fantastic human being and the teachers and children all admired him. His last name was Gunther and I wanted to use that in a story.  I needed a great character with spunk and I chose an elephant.  The rest was not so easy.  I spent many years starting, stopping, revising, submitting, getting rejections, and finally finishing Gunther’s story. To see it as a book is pure delight.

What is the most difficult part of writing? For me the most difficult is keeping the word count down. Since I concentrate on picture books that I can illustrate I need to constantly go back into the story and cut, cut, cut.  But as I cut I have to find those perfect words that need to stay with the story. For me the most perfect picture book will have no words at all…but that is a challenge.

What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books? I spend time painting, drawing, enjoying my family and the outdoors.

How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Bad reviews are part of the territory.  Just as rejections build character, the bad reviews keep a writer and or illustrator grounded.  I don’t like them, but I do use the information to make my work better.   Rather than suffering from writer’s block, I think one of my main concerns is creating the perfect illustration to go with a passage or character.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book? I hope they will fall in love with Gunther and want to see him in another book. I also hope that children will see that no matter how small you are you can still have BIG ideas!

Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with? I would love to dine with my favorite author/illustrator, Graeme Base.  His books are alive with fantastic stories and illustrations.  I actually have met him and he is gracious, funny, and extremely creative.

What author inspires you the most and why? That is a hard question because the two that come to mind are so different.  I always loved reading Dickens. The images he created were so vivid you could almost hear the voices, feel the fabrics and smell the cities.  And I would have to include Graeme Base again because of his imagination, and the fact that he is also an author/illustrator.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.? I am glad you asked that.  I work a full day in my studio, but interruptions are part of life. I use an old teacher’s plan book to plan a working schedule for each book.  Sometimes the books or assignments for artwork overlap but that is not often.  I am very bad at taking breaks, so I need to plan those too *:)

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read? Many children will find books they love at the library. Parents are wise to take children with them to bookstores or libraries where they can see what the children are most likely to pick up. There are so many choices that book reviews are a great help in deciding. Book reviewers have taken the time to point out the best and the worst of books for children.  I pay attention to those when I am choosing books for anyone in my family.

What advice you would give to new writers? Writing is joyful.  It does not matter what the subject or genre is as long as you write something every day.  As an author/illustrator I often write with pictures.  If a new writer is also an illustrator then I would say draw every day as well.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? There is a magic wand on my desk, a dragon in my basement and a tiny elephant in my studio. Everything else is nearly normal.

November 23, 2011 - Posted by | Meet the Author | , , , , ,


  1. Gunther the Elephant sounds like a wonderful book. Please register me for the drawing to receive a copy.

    Comment by Sharon K Owen | November 23, 2011 | Reply

  2. Hi Ginger,
    I just came from your web site and just want to say I think you are so very talented. Any artist that can bring a story to life using pictures is a Hero to me🙂
    Gunthar looks like a great story and your illustrations is what will excite them into reading on. Besides Gunthar of course.🙂
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    Comment by Carol L. | November 23, 2011 | Reply

  3. Hello, I can not wait to find Gunther for my son as Elephants are my favorite animals and so I really would like to share this book without not only my son but also with his classmates. Plus I would like to show the book to my husband as well.

    Comment by Glenda | November 23, 2011 | Reply

  4. I have great nephews who are twins I would like to build them a library of bedtime stories books with great pictures.

    Comment by nylne | November 23, 2011 | Reply

  5. Gunther, what a great name! I too love Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings and One Morning in Maine. These are the kind of books that I hope to share with my own children some day. In the meantime, I try to share great books with the students at my school. It’s a great thing to have a job you love.

    Comment by Heidi Grange | November 24, 2011 | Reply

  6. I love that she encourages kids to have big ideas. Yay!

    lovelydomesticdiva (at) gmail (dot) com

    Comment by domestic diva | November 24, 2011 | Reply

  7. Great interview. I love the way this book sounds. I have not read it yet but am looking forward to it, I have a ton of nieces and nephews all under 5 and would love it.

    Comment by Christina Cessna | November 25, 2011 | Reply

  8. I love Ginger’s sense of humor. My children would love to read about Gunther.

    Comment by Jeryl M. | November 25, 2011 | Reply

  9. Gunther is a book I am really looking forward to. I have a 3 and 5 year old, both girls, who love Elephants! As their daddy, I love a sweet book with a great message. I feel like I know you now that I have read this interview. I want to thank you for sharing this book with children.

    Comment by David Gossett | November 26, 2011 | Reply

  10. I love that you were a teacher and decided to write a sweet book for them.
    vmkids3 at msn dot com

    Comment by Valerie Taylor Mabrey | November 26, 2011 | Reply

  11. Reading about all the work that went into writing and illustrating Gunther makes it all the more appreciated. I can’t wait to share it with my grandkids.

    Say hello to the dragon in your basement from me!

    tmyoung at rochester dot rr dot com

    Comment by Teresa Young | November 26, 2011 | Reply

  12. I feel the same way as the author…when I pick stories for my preschool class room I get drawn in by the illustrations first

    Comment by Stacy | November 26, 2011 | Reply

  13. She is multi-talented! Illustrating and writing! I love to paint but find the computer programs intimidating. It sounds like she has had a very blessed life with many wonderful opportunities(teaching, travelling, etc).

    Comment by stacy h | December 3, 2011 | Reply

  14. How unique, name a character after a principal. Love the idea of gunther

    Comment by Larissa Brunken | December 5, 2011 | Reply

  15. Her life sounds wonderful and creative! I wish I had the talent to illustrate like she does!🙂

    Comment by Kristie | December 5, 2011 | Reply

  16. Writing is indeed very joyful! that’s why I keep it a secret journal.

    Comment by Gloria | December 5, 2011 | Reply

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