Sometimes we choose our path in life, and other times, our path chooses us. Such was the case with author illustrator Kelly Collier, the talented mind behind two Vooks favorites, A Horse Named Steve and Team Steve. While Kelly originally intended to pursue animation, a slight detour on that journey led her straight to where she is today—and how lucky we all are for that! We caught up with this artist to chat about her humorous illustration style, what inspired her first Vooks title, and more.
Tell us a little bit about your background. What were you like as a kid?
I grew up in a small town until I was about nine. It was the 80s and our TV only had three channels, so my siblings and I spent a lot of time outside playing and exploring and drawing. My sister and I are twins and we were pretty shy as kids, but my brother is the definition of an extrovert! He loved to entertain us and especially to make us laugh! He was a huge influence on my sister and me. I think that’s why I love to write and draw in a humorous style.
What led you into the world of children’s books? Did you always want to be an author illustrator?
My first love was animation. When I graduated from high school I wanted to work for Disney, so I went to a college that was well known for its animation program. But I didn’t get accepted right away; instead I got into an “Arts Fundamentals” program, which is a one-year program that helps you develop your drawing skills and, if you do well, you are prioritized when you apply for one of their bigger programs. At the time, the top three programs were animation, illustration, and graphic design. It was during that “Arts Fundamental” year that I fell in love with the world of children's books and illustration!
Where do you find inspiration for your writing and art?
I’m really inspired by quirky art and funny books. The weirder the better!
Your books, A Horse Named Steve and its sequel, Team Steve, are Vooks favorites. What inspired A Horse Named Steve and Steve the character? Did the writing or the art come first?
The art came first! I had doodled Steve on the back of an insert from a West Elm picture frame. Then I decided he needed something gold and so I drew a shiny gold horn on his head. Then I thought it would be funny if it wasn’t actually a horn but it was tied to his head. The idea for a story came to me a few days later. My first draft wasn’t great but I got lucky when an amazing editor at Kids Can Press came across my submission and helped me develop it and bring out the humour.
It was so exciting! I was so thrilled when I heard Rainn would be Steve. I couldn’t think of a more perfect voice. The casting of Rainn just affirmed to me that Vooks totally got Steve. He’s perfect. And the animation is amazing—the way the animators brought my wonky drawings to life is incredible!
Books can have such a profound impact on children, teaching them lessons and exposing them to ideas and concepts that stick with them for a lifetime. What do you hope little readers take away from your stories?
I think Steve is a great character because he is flawed but has a good heart. I hope that Steve teaches kids to always be their authentic self, that sometimes things don’t work out how we hope but that there is always a bright side, and most importantly to laugh!
What advice would you give to young kids who want to pursue a big dream?
Always remember some things take time. If there is something you really want to achieve, keep pursuing it, even if you fail over and over again. You’ll learn much more from failures anyway.
Lastly, what’s your favorite way to enjoy a book?
With a coffee, in my living room, with a dog curled up somewhere near by.