Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Indian author and illustrator, Jey Manokaran

I’m pleased to be hosting Jey today on my blog. Jey is an author and illustrator from India that I met at a Highlights Foundation writer’s conference. She has eight picture books published by Scholastic and has illustrated three books for U.S.-based writers, as well as 3 articles to be published by Highlights. She has won a UNESCO award for illustrating.

Although she has written fiction, she prefers to write non-fiction based on Indian culture.

Jey writes fun stories for kids, draws portraits of tribals, climbs hills, and loves to be outdoors with friends and animals. She believes her sense of humor to be a great asset in connecting with kids.

Katie: Welcome, Jey, to my blog today. Please tell us about your easy reader book, “Wake up Lazybones!” How did you get the idea to write for the 4-6 year old age group?

Jey: I wanted to use the Warli folk art style for illustrating it, and my idea to place the book in a village setting took off from there. There needed to be plenty of action for this kind of style and some humor too. I love animals, and a big fat lazy buffalo pitted against a scrawny, noisy cock seemed ideal.

Katie: Do you write mostly stories based on folk tales? If so, why.

Jey: Oh no. This has nothing to do with folk tales. Its a totally original story. Its the illustrations which are folk art.

Katie: Have you “always” been a writer and illustrator?

Jey: No. I began as an illustrator, but have always enjoyed both. I have a degree in art and one in English Literature as well. This prepared me to be creative in both fields.

Katie: How have you been able to balance writing with illustrating?

Jey: Sometimes is awfully tough. In the market, some editors prefer to see you as either or. You do the writing and pass it on.. or you illustrate it, and that's it.

Katie: In a publishing world where the publisher usually chooses the illustrator, how did you become your own illustator?

Jey: I did have to market myself quite strongly...since I have a UNESCO award for illustrating, that talent was easier to sell in the beginning. Once I showed them I was capable of both, I did pull in a few more orders.

Katie: What special hurdles did you have to jump being an Indian author?

Jey: I found that the best way to get published with Highlights or to be taken seriouly by an American publisher is to be true to myself. I am an Indian and that's what I write about - India. If I can give my ideas a fresh slant, editors will take a closer look at it.

Katie: When you finished some of your books, how did you manage to get Scholatistic interested?

Jey: The top management at Scholastic was previously the Head of the National Book Trust which had also published some of my books that seem to be popular. And how did I get through to National Book Trust? - that too was an uphill task which took plenty of perseverence.

Katie: What is the hardest part of melding story with illustration?

Jey: I have clear pictures in my head when I write. The tough part is to say less and allow the pictures to do more of the talking. The wordcount for picturebooks has to be so low.

Katie: You say you have a passion for creating learning materials. How does this translate into your books?

Jey: I love environmental topics and for Scholastic I had a sidebar of information given in the end to support the story.

Katie: What advice would you give to an author who also wants to illustrate their own works?

Jey: Take lessons in illustrating, attend relevant workshops and be totally professional in both writing and illustrating. Its tough work - a book takes double the time to complete when you're doing both writing and illustrating, so you do need patience too. If you're not good enough to compete with the best in the market, you can learn photography instead. I do both, and it certainly helps.

Katie: Thanks for being my guest today, Jey. Jey’s works can be ordered through


Hywela Lyn said...

What an interesting interview, Katie and Jey. As an animal lover myself, Jey, I found the concept of your story fascinating and can see how it would be popular with youngsters, and I love the illustration!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent interview, Kate. And I'm so thrilled to learn about Jey's work. I've always been awed by such talent. My brother is an artist. It is such a powerful gift. And to be able to put it to words, wow, impressive.

Unknown said...

Thanks a zillion Hywela and Joylene. It does take a whole lot of commitment to be able to get published as both writer and illustrator. But once it does happen, there's no looking back! You get quite addicted to doing your own thing!