Trained as a designer, Catherine Foreman’s very first picture book The Cat’s Pyjamas won the 2012 NZ Post Children’s Choice Award. Catherine’s colourful and characterful illustrations appear in Madison Moon and the Hot-Air Balloon, written by Chris Gurney.
Catherine lives near Whangarei with her husband and three young children.
We asked Catherine some questions about herself and her work, and here’s what she said ...
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Whangarei, and have lived in a few different places: Auckland, England and even Peru (but not Timbuktu). Now I live at One Tree Point at the mouth of the Whangarei Harbour.
Where did you go to school? Did you have a nickname?
St Joseph’s Primary and Pompallier College. I also did two years at school in Peru and that is where I received my one and only nickname, ‘Cara de muneca’ which means ‘doll face’. It’s not exactly catchy as nicknames go I don’t think!
What were you like in school? What is the naughtiest thing you did?
I was really well behaved at Primary: quiet, shy and a complete Daydreamer. I did have a very over-active imagination though. I was convinced I could see a cadillac with a skeleton in it underneath the school building and tried to convince my teacher of it. I do think I was on another planet for most of my childhood!
What was your favourite book growing up?
I read a lot of Roald Dahl, as well as The Secret Seven, Trixie Belden and Anne of Green Gables. I recently bought a stack of Trixie Belden books in a second-hand shop and they are still as good as they ever were.
Who is your favourite children’s author?
I have too many favourites, especially picture book writers. However if an alien came down from space and asked who was the best children’s writer ever on our planet, I’d have to choose Roald Dahl.
What is your favourite food/colour/movie?
Chocolate. Green. The Sound of Music.
Who inspired you to illustrate?
I’m my own biggest motivator as I always believed I could be a children’s writer/illustrator. However, people and things inspire me every day. My family, teachers, tutors, children, and of course all the amazing books already out there.
How did you get started? How old were you?
I think I was coming up to 30 when I really started putting the time into it. I started by spending every evening and well into the night writing and working on ideas. Now I’ve started I can’t stop!
Why did you want to be a writer and illustrator?
Because it’s fun and I love the process.
How do you think up ideas?
They materialise out of things that happen in my day, out of thin air, from something my children say, a picture that I’ve drawn, a word, all sorts of ways.
Do you have a special place where you write and illustrate?
I write anywhere, but I have a desk in the garage for illustrating. The worst place for writing is in bed as I just fall asleep mid-sentence.
What is the best thing about being an author and illustrator?
You get to create something completely new out of your own head. The possibilities are endless!
Have you had a funny or embarrassing moment as an author and illustrator?
Not really. But I asked a friend to come and take my ‘author photo’ in my ‘studio’. My studio at the time was our bathroom. So I do have a nice photo of me supposedly sitting at my desk, but what people can’t see is that I’m actually sitting on a toilet!
What do you do when you are not writing and illustrating?
Try to keep up with my three lovely children.
What would you have chosen to be if you were not an author and illustrator?
I always thought it would be cool to have a goat farm. I would have said a vet, but I don’t have the brains for that and I’m also a bit squeamish.
Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?
Beatrix Potter. I’d go back in time and go stay with her on her farm.