Last year, Carter Stuart released her debut Children’s Book, Higgins Takes Flight. As the author and illustrator of this fantastic tale about a penguin who longs to fly, she is a wealth of knowledge and insight to aspiring authors. Join Kingdom Winds Publishing as we get the inside scoop from Carter on everything from her writing process to her best advice and future aspirations.
KW: Did you feel called by God to write this book?
Carter: Whether it is an explosive idea or a gradual one, I feel that the credit for my inspiration comes from God. I think this book has been a progression from one form of inspiration to another. After college, I started drawing penguins on notecards. As their personalities developed this story took shape.
“You are so intimately aware of me, Lord. You read my heart like an open book and you know all the words I’m about to speak before I even start a sentence! You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. Lord, you know everything there is to know about me. You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.”
Psalms 139:1-4 TPT
KW: How long did you sit with this idea before you jumped in and started writing?
Carter: Again, my process for this book was gradual. I actually came up with the artwork first before putting words in the story. From concept to published, this book has taken almost two years.
KW: Was the writing process easier or harder than you expected?
Carter: I would say that the writing process was harder than I expected. Everyone reads a children’s book and thinks how simple this is, and that anyone could write this. But the revisions are where the challenge lies. The details that are involved to make a simple idea sound interesting, appealing, and understandable to children is paramount and harder than it appears. Can I say this a different way…a better way…fewer words… that has taken the most time and so I will say it has been the hardest part of the writing process.
KW: Did you face opposition, internal or external, in any way during the writing process?
Carter: Doubting myself has been my biggest opposition.
KW: What is your dream over this book and or the purpose of it?
Carter: My goal for this book would be to promote a love of truths that used to be universal that now seem less so. Kindness, helpfulness, compassion to name a few. I read a troubling article a few years back by an editor at an established publisher that simply stated that if your book had any kind of moral to it it would not be published by them. I was shocked and saddened by this as it is at the very foundation of children’s literature.
KW: How long did it take you to complete the writing process?
Carter: From idea to published – almost 2 years.
KW: What does your writing environment look like? Is there anything interesting about how or when you write?
Carter: How interesting is your kitchen table? Sometimes I have ventured out to a coffee shop or museum but find my most productive moments are in the quieter venues.
KW: Do you have any interesting writing ‘quirks’?
Carter: If you call having a cup of tea quirky. But no special pens or pencils that I have to have in order to write.
KW: What are some routines that help you get into a creative headspace and/or overcome writer’s block?
Carter: Call my mom. Talk to a friend or two. Sometimes it’s just nice to have people you trust to pray with you and bounce ideas off of that have a different thought process than you do. I also go for a walk or take a break from whatever it is I am working on and hopefully return with fresh eyes.
KW: What is your favorite book genre or author? What are you currently reading now?
Carter: Mystery. I am reading an assortment of books now both nonfiction and fiction. Though not a mystery, I thoroughly enjoyed Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, and Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove.
I also could relate to Squire Rushnell’s When God Winks at You, and Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm.
KW: If you could write a second book about anything in the world, what would it be and why?
Carter: Hopefully my second book with Higgins and his friends will continue a theme of friendship and overcoming obstacles while learning valued lessons along the way.
KW: What are some ways you continuously stretch and sharpen your writing/drawing skills?
Carter: Practice, practice, practice. No really, try to brainstorm, draw, doodle, write, journal whenever I can or whenever I think about it. I have a sketchbook that I try and have with me all the time for whenever inspiration hits. I also think workshops are a great way to immerse yourself with new ideas and honing your skills.
KW: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a book but doesn’t know how or where to start?
Carter: Write it! Just start with what you have, your idea, and go from there. The connections and research will begin to take shape once you start with your idea and have something to go off of.
KW: Is there anyone who influences your writing/artwork, like a muse who inspires you?
Carter: The biggest influence might have to be Beatrix Potter. Followed closely by A.A. Milne and E.B.White. The relatability and depth of their characters are unparalleled.
Contemporary favorites include Oliver Jeffers, Peter Reynolds, Philip and Erin Stead.
KW: How long have you been pursuing art?
Carter: I can’t remember a time where I didn’t love drawing or painting. As a child, I loved coloring books! I took a variety of art classes throughout school but didn’t think seriously about pursuing it as anything other than a hobby until my senior year of high school. One conversation with my mom changed my college direction completely and I ended up with a college degree in art. All that to say, a while now.
KW: How did Higgins and his friends come to be a part of your life?
Carter: Gradually. After college, I began receiving cute Christmas and holiday cards from my friends with family photos, etc. Wanting to reciprocate and yet not send just a picture of myself I drew a little penguin singing on a few blank cards and sent it off as my Christmas card. The following year I had friends asking if I was going to do another, so I did, but this time it was a chorus of penguins singing. Which in turn snowballed into note cards for others, and then putting the penguins on a mug. As I did more the penguins started taking on unique characteristics and I found that I wanted to say more about them.
KW: Did you know from the beginning you wanted to write a book with these characters?
Carter: No, but as I did more with them in other avenues (i.e. note cards, mugs, etc.) I wanted to say more about the different characters as their personalities were taking shape.
KW: How much time did it take you to create your book illustrations?
Carter: 6 months to a year.
KW: What do you see in the future for this group of feathered friends?
Carter: I hope Higgins and his friends have many more adventures. I see them tackling anything from temper tantrums to traveling into the unknown, but hopefully together.
For more information about Higgins Takes Flight and Carter Stuart, visit the following link.