Author/Illustrator Talk: Eleanor Davis

It’s Eleanor Davis, author/illustrator of the middle grade graphic novel extraordinaire, The Secret Science Alliance! (Also, the award-winning Stinky!)

Eleanor says,

The Secret Science Alliance is about super-smart Julian, Greta and Ben, three of the coolest kids in the universe! They’re secret scientists and inventors with an underground hideout and inventions galore. Of course, there’s an evil adult scientist, and of course, they have to stop him in his nefarious tracks! It’s a graphic novel (that’s code for comic book), and we tried to pack it with as many awesome pictures and details as was humanly possible!!!”

Eleanor’s Stats:

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Look, she shared a doodle!

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Here are some sketches of our three cats. They are rascally.

More About Eleanor and The Secret Science Alliance

What were you like as a kid?

I was a scrappy, awkward, tom-boy book-worm. I spent a lot of time doing small, fiddly art projects in my room listening to old radio dramas. Actually, this also pretty much describes me right now!

Did you like school? What was your favorite subject? Why?

I liked school a lot. My sister and I went to a small alternative school called Kino where my parents both taught, and kids had a lot of freedom to do and learn what they wanted. I always really enjoyed art, and math.

What’s the grossest or most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you as a kid (um, keeping this PG, of course J)?

Once when I was four years old I was playing around in the mud, and then when my mother gave me a bath she found a worm in my hair!

If you weren’t an author/illustrator, what would you be? Why?

I often fantasize about being a journalist, or in radio. I also often wonder what it would be like to work in at Jim Henson studios, or Aardman studios, making puppets and costumes and sets. I really like working with my hands! But, right now I’m pretty much in love with being a produce manager. I love fruits and vegetables!!!

What’s one thing you’d love to learn to do?

Speak Spanish. I’m really interested in and excited by the growing Latino population in America. But languages are hard!

What’s the coolest place you’ve ever been?

I lived in Kurayoshi, Japan for a year as an exchange student in High School. That was pretty cool! Japan is a really beautiful place, and its complex history and culture and the amazing people I met there made it a life-changing experience.

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How did you get the idea for the Secret Science Alliance?

I just tried to think of the most exciting, adventurous story about the coolest, smartest kids I possibly could. I wanted to make the sort of book I wanted to read when I was 12!

Did you like science and making things when you were a kid? Any crazy inventions in your past?

I’m no science whiz, but I love tinkering and making things. As a kid I built a water timer where a little electric chicken would peep after x hours, a Kleenex box with a secret compartment for hiding snacks, a belt with hooks for things like binoculars, pencils, a pocket knife, and magnifying glass just like Harriet the Spy, as well as innumerable hide-outs, dolls, doll houses, and other projects. As an older person I’ve built a tiny house with wings that flap, a desk-bookcase-bunk-bed, and a little shadowbox with gouls that dance up and down when you turn a handle, as well as innumerable hide-outs, dolls, doll-houses, and other projects. Things haven’t changed much!

Which is harder for you, writing or drawing?

Whatever I’m doing at the moment is the hardest thing. I am better at drawing than writing, I think, but that doesn’t make it easier, exactly.

What tools (media) do you use to make your illustrations?

For Secret Science Alliance I penciled on copy paper with a 2B mechanical pencil. I’d scan these pencils, fix any mistakes, and then print them out in light blue onto Strathmore 400 Series Smooth Bristol, which the book’s inker, my husband Drew Weing, (www.drewweing.com) would ink with a Hunt 102 crow quill dip pen and Higgin’s waterproof ink. The art was colored in photoshop by Joey Weiser (www.tragic-planet.com) and Michele Chidester (www.michelechidester.com), SSA’s fantastic colorists!

I don’t always use such fancy materials or such a laborious process, though. I do a lot of final art on regular drawing paper, or watercolor paper, or whatever I find laying around. I do love drawing with a dip-pen, though – my current favorite nib is the Hunt 107, because it’s less scritchy.

How do you work?

When I was working on art full-time I would try to keep to a strict 8 by 8 schedule: 8 hours of drawing by 8 pm each week day. Now that I have a day job, I have the luxury of working when I feel like it, rather than having to keep to a schedule. I really like working in the morning and at night. Afternoons are the worst!

I do a lot of work with my husband, Drew Weing. We sit around our kitchen and brainstorm, or go to coffee shops and sketch together. Working with him has been so fun that I’ve been trying projects with other people too. Right now I’m writing a book with my mom, and that’s been amazing.

We loved your book! Is there a similar book from a different author that’d you’d recommend for kids who liked yours?

I’m so glad you liked it! I love The Little Vampire series by Joann Sfar and the Little Lulu reprints from Dark Horse books. As for non-comics books, there are too many to even try to list them all, but I love anything by Daniel Pinkwater!

What’s next?

I’m really excited about my next project! I’m co-writing a graphic novel with my mom, Ann Davis! My mom’s a history teacher, and we’re writing a historical murder mystery set in Samarkand in the 700s together! It probably won’t be done for ages, but it’s gonna be a doozy, I promise! Keep an eye out! ;D

Eleanor Davis and The Secret Science Alliance Elsewhere on the Web