Lauren Isabelle Pierre is a children’s writer, self-taught illustrator, and aspiring comic artist. She began self-publishing her picture books at the age of 15. At the ripe old age of 18, she has a lifetime ahead of her to grow and share.
Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Lauren. I have to say, you slipped under my radar. As a rule, I don’t review books written by such young people. I reviewed your book, Tip and Lulu A Tale of Two Friends in March, 2017 not knowing how young you were when you wrote it. Why did you decide to start publishing so soon?
Lauren Isabelle Pierre: Haha, yeah, sorry about that. I had wanted to be inconspicuous about my age in the past, but eventually I came to realize that the whole novelty of me being a young writer was people KNOWING how old I was. I’m glad it worked out though; your review is one of my favourites! To answer your question, I’ve actually been trying to get published since I was maybe 10 years old? It all started back when I was seven or eight when my dad showed me a news article about an 11 year old girl who wrote a novel about dolphins and published it through Lulu.com. That was the spark that eventually ignited my “passion dynamite” for being a published author, if you will. I had a lot of good starts, but usually lost interest. Several years later, when I was 14, my dad approached me with yet another article about a New York native writing YA romance/sci-fi… at 13! She was printing through CreateSpace. That was the push that eventually led me to write/illustrate my first children’s book.
Ferrante: You write from a Christian viewpoint but, at least this book, lends itself well to non-Christian readers as well. I liked the message that kindness is its own reward. Are you consciously making your books available to a wide audience?
Pierre: Absolutely! As they sang in VeggieTales (which I was recently surprised to find out is enjoyed by both Christians and non-Christians alike), “God’s Word is for everyone”. I know that the term “Christian” can turn a lot of people off and get them thinking, “This is just another book about God and all that preachy stuff, I’ll pass,” so I go out of my way to make my stories accessible to a wide readership, all while teaching the values I believe in. That isn’t to say I’m afraid of sharing my faith (my first faith-based children’s book is set to be released next month); but I know how people can be when you “push them.”
Ferrante: I agree. Respecting the beliefs of your readers is important. Although my books are written from a Buddhist viewpoint, there is only one Buddhist word in one of my picture books. (The AMIDA Tree)
Your other two books, Ollie the Opossum: A Tale of Loving Yourself and The Panda that Learned to Ignore use animals as the central characters. Why do you use anthropomorphized animals instead of humans?
Pierre: Well, The Panda that Learned to Ignore was written by my brother Samuel, and his reason for using animals in it was because his favourite animal is the panda. My reason for using anthropomorphic animals characters is so readers focus less on what the characters look like (black, white, etc.) and more on what they’ve done or overcame; I want them to focus on the lesson of the story and internal emotions of the character. Also, they’re a lot of fun to draw and are capable of maintaining plot elements that *normal* human characters can’t (like fly, scale up trees with ease, pick up a scent from far distances, etc.). I think I’ve grown up enough as a writer to start telling stories with a human cast… but we’ll see if there are any more “furry” characters in need of getting their stories told living in my imagination. There will always be a place in my heart for each of them.
Ferrante: You’re self-taught. You’re fortunate enough to be living in a time where the internet provides free instruction on writing and illustrating? What drew you to Mark Crilley’s website? Are there any other sites you would recommend for emerging illustrators?
Pierre: I found Mark Crilley while browsing the Kid’s section of our former cable provider’s pay-per-view channel when I was 11, I think? There were some free how-to-draw videos by him, and I used to wait for when the service put new videos up. Eventually I learned that he was a published comic-creator with a youtube channel, and our “relationship” took off. He “mentored” me for several years until I made a style change from Japanese manga to western animation-styled art.
There are several social networks where artists can be found and followed, like tumblr, twitter, instagram, and deviantART (though I’m personally not a fan of that site due to its name and content that is allowed there). If you’re ready, get an account on one or more of these sites and start sharing your art. I don’t advise getting an account too early in your growth; my parents prevented me from doing so, and I’m glad they did (but don’t tell them I said that). People online can be cruel, and the pressure of being surrounded by artists who are more experienced then you are may hurt your growth as an artist. People also have different opinions on what is considered “art”, so what might be inappropriate to you, will be beautiful to someone else. What I like to do is bookmark the tumblr, twitter, and/or portfolio website of artists I like and “follow” them that way. It’s less distracting, and you get to decide who you want to see, as opposed to getting suggestions from a social media feed.
Ferrante: Do you participate in peer critiques? Do you test your manuscripts on children? Where do you get feedback on your work before publishing?
Pierre: My go-to feedback person is my mom, second are my siblings. Though I’d love to be able to critique with other young authors, the majority of my “peers” that are writers are most likely writing YA novels, so I’d be the odd one out, easy! For the most part, I read up on a lot of resource articles on the best ways to write for children, common mistakes new writers make, and other insightful pieces and pray I’m doing it right. You can imagine my ecstasy when I get a nice review.
Ferrante: Yes, I can. Do you plan on pursuing any formal education in writing or illustrating? What is next for you?
Pierre: As much as I’d love to go to an acclaimed art school and study Illustration and/or Character Design, a $50k tuition for 4 years to study something I’ve proven I can learn on my own would most likely be a very unwise investment (though the Ringling Art Institute in Sarasota, FL is calling to me), especially if it takes a while for my highly-specialized career choice to take off. I’m thinking I might study education or another field I’m interested in at a less-expensive local school and do freelance illustrating/write books on the side, or get a major and art minor and use the major as a backup if my art career doesn’t work out immediately. But this is all speculation. Only time will tell.
IFerrante: I’ve heard how expensive post-secondary education is in the United States. That’s unfortunate but you seem to be finding your own way just fine.
Ferrante: If you could dance, sing, and act perfectly in a Broadway production, which one would you choose?
Pierre: The Lion King, period. It’s one of my favourite Disney movies, and I love the soundtrack. I’m a little short, but I think I’d make a good Adult Nala or Rafiki (who is female in the Broadway version for some reason). I’d also say Annie… but I think I’m too old for that!
Ferrante: If you could make a fantasy character such as a dragon, a fairy, a mermaid, a wizard, or an elf become real, which one would you choose?
Pierre: I’m torn between choosing a fairy or an elf. I think having a trusty sidekick like Tinkerbell would be fun. But there’s an all-ages webcomic I read called Harpy Gee, about a magic-less elf (named Harpy) who learned to rely on her physical skills to protect herself in a world crawling with monsters. So if she were the elf, I think we’d get along. She could teach me how to kick butt, lol.
Ferrante: Under what circumstances do you say, “this only happens to me!”
Pierre: When I mess up a sketch on paper and look for the “Ctrl + Z” keys on my desk. (Actually, this happens to a lot of digital artists, haha.)
Ferrante: Ah, yes. The blessed “undo.”
Thank you for participating in this interview. Good luck with your career. You’ve certainly got a great start.