Author Interview with Cale Atkinson: The Road to Writing... and illustrating!

Happy Halloween!!! 

I have a funtastic treat for you today! No tricks, I promise (maybe 😉)

Today I have the immense pleasure of introducing you to one of my favorite picture bookmakers, Cale Atkinson!


I first came across Cale’s work while browsing B&N for picture books with my daughter. We Found a beautiful book called TO THE SEA and fell in love! Since then we have been overjoyed to find many other equally fantastic picture books by Cale, including EXPLORERS OF THE WILD, another favorite. I knew right away that Cale was an incredibly talented illustrator and storyteller, so I just had to interview him to learn more about what led him to pursue his passion for books.

*Readers, answer the question at the end of the interview and you could win a copy of Cale's latest pictures book, WHERE OLIVER FITS!*

So without further ado, the interview!

Carissa: Okay, so I would just like to say that I LOVE your picture book TO THE SEA. When my daughter and I saw it for the first time in Barnes & Noble, we knew that we just HAD to have that book. We read it first of course, but that just made us want the book even more! So we bought it, and it has become a favorite amongst the bedtime books :)

Cale: I couldn't be happier knowing you and your daughter enjoy TO THE SEA!! Really means the world hearing those things, knowing the book/story connected! 😊 Thanks for sharing that!

Carissa: Of course! It’s such a beautiful book. I love the message, but I also love the illustrations and the limited color palette. It doesn’t hurt that blue and orange is my favorite color combination, and, no, that has nothing to do with the Broncos :)

Okay, on to the first question! I know from reading the fantastic Giuseppe Castellano’s blog that you started out in animation so I would like to explore the path that led you to animation and, of course, how animation led you to writing and illustrating picture books?

Cale: Whewf! That is a big first question to try and answer! I'll try to answer it without too much of a ramble…. I love rambling!

So ever since I was a kid, I've been big into exploring all the different areas of illustration and stories. I can't say I was ever set on "I'm just going to animate" or "I'm just going to do books.” I've always wanted to create in all aspects and never questioned myself in terms of narrowing it down. Somehow really early on I developed a ridiculous drive and ambition to become an artist (also include the words stubborn and naive), and from that point, there was no question or alternative in my mind that I would be doing something outside the creative road... I was really stubborn. 

Carissa: That’s wonderful! As a kid, I wanted to be a writer and artist, but I didn’t think it was an actual career path, you know?

Cale: I don't really know when I realized it could be a career or something I could do for a living vs. just enjoying it as things I loved to watch and read. I think I just started making things quite young and decided in my mind that I was a professional, including selling my own photocopied comics in elementary school. I remember always being swept away by any books of an artist or cartoonist talking about his process or tools. I couldn't help but delve into the dream of imagining myself doing what they do and being as good as them. While I excitedly threw myself at the world of art and animation, I don't think I really learned the proper career path routes until much later.

When I was a kid, I made comics, comics strips, picture books. And while I did them for fun, I was also really excited to send them out into the world in an attempt to get them published. I would send my comic strips everrrrrywhere, and I mean everywhere. I would send them to every big newspaper including New York Times and Chicago Tribune, every syndicate and every magazine including New Yorker, National Enquirer and even Playboy haha. I still have a nice binder of rejection letters that I've kept.

Carissa: That is seriously such a fantastic story! I wish I had the gumption to go after my dreams in such a way, especially as a kid. It wasn’t until I was much older that I was able to admit to myself that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and even so, it still took me another eight years to get to the point where I could send my stuff out. So kudos to you!

Cale: My first venture into picture books was actually doing the illustrations for a story my Dad wrote! Sadly I can't find my copy though! From there I went after writing and illustrating my own book, titled Philip the Fish :)

I also always loved animation. I didn't get a chance to practice doing it too much as a kid, but it was always like magic to me and something I knew I would explore and do later on.

Carissa: Animation is magical! (hint: you can find the answer to the bonus question on Cale's website!) I can remember thinking that as a kid and still find myself thinking it today when I watch certain animated movies. Did you go to school for art or animation?

Cale: I actually never went to a school past high school, and didn't take many art courses there. I did actually come extremely close to going to a film school out in Vancouver, but once being selected for the interview process, I decided against it after feeling uninspired by the cynical sounding professors. Instead, I spent the money on a good camera and went at it myself! I was always proud that in the end I made back the money through random film projects and editing for clients. It was my small detour before heading straight back into art. My education in art came from nonstop practice, researching and reading (from books and the internet), as well as asking any questions I had to professionals through email.
My first job at a studio was doing animation, character designs and background art for video games. I was just excited to be drawing and creating for a living at a studio, but even before that first studio job, I had gone after a lot of different creative avenues. Aside from the comic strips, I also got into film, worked as a videographer, made my own live-action film that played in some festivals, edited films for some clients, did various design work for clients and even made a bunch of cartoon series pitches and tried pitching them to all the major agents and networks. I sort of always attacked on all fronts, as no one ever told me I couldn't, and no matter how unrealistic it was, I still went after it 100%.

  Carissa: That is the way to do it! I love the idea of attacking from all fronts!

Cale: So to try and answer the question past that ramble... Ever since I was young, I've loved many avenues of art and storytelling. Neither one really led into the other, though I'm sure they all fed into each other in different aspects. It's more been me trying to go after numerous paths at the same time and seeing where they lead. Even though I'm spending most of my time doing picture books now, I still love animation and hope to make another animated short somewhere down the road. I say if you're excited about different areas then why not go after them all! Almost all of my opportunities started from me playing/exploring personal projects/art and not being afraid to share them.

Carissa: That is wonderful advice! There is definitely something to be said about being willing to put yourself out there. I think a lot of artists are afraid of doing that and it often leads to…well nothing. So it’s refreshing to see an artist whose passion and persistence led them to such great success :)

I saw a picture on your twitter feed that has me very excited. Can you tell us a little about Simon?

Cale: For sure! So Simon is the star of one of my next upcoming written/illustrated children's books! Published through Tundra Books and coming out in 2018.

Simon introduces us (the readers) to what it's like being a ghost. He's haunted all sorts of things, from a forest to a bus stop! Now he's finally getting his own house to haunt! The only bad news is a house means more ghost chores. Don't know what ghost chores are? Well if you've ever heard stairs creaking late at night, a toilet flush or door slam, those things aren't happening by themselves! Ghosts have a strict chore schedule, and Simon wants nothing more than to ditch his ghostly duties and spend time on his favorite hobbies. When new tenants move into the house, it may give Simon the opportunity he's been looking for... but chances are it's not as easy as he hoped.

Carissa: I can’t wait to read this book!!!

Okay, last question…can we see your studio?

Cale: For sure! Keep in mind it doesn't usually look this clean... Just imagine it with more papers and pencils everywhere :)

Carissa: Thank you so much for sharing your road to writing and illustrating with us, Cale!

You can learn more about Cale by visiting his website:

Follow Cale:

Buy his books!

And now my wonderful readers, your bonus question:

What does Cale believe in more than sleep?
(Okay, just one trick! The hint is hidden in the interview!)


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