Anne Sawyer-Aitch (pronounced like the letter “H”) is a puppeteer and stilt-walker. When she decided to create her first children’s book, Nalah and the Pink Tiger, she began experimenting with different styles of illustration, and finally discovered a technique that uses her skills as a maker of color shadow puppets. She calls it “Illuminated Illustration”, and it involves cut-away designs, layering, and backlighting. In her capacity as a puppeteer, Anne creates puppet pieces of all kinds: parade floats, giant stilt puppets, and intricate color shadow shows. She is a MN State Arts Board Roster Artist, teaching puppetry all over the state, and has been touring around with her first book & her Nalah and the Pink Tiger show for the last two years. Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City is her second book. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Thank you for this interview, Anne. Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
The adventures of Nalah continue in Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City! One day Nalah finds herself bored and lonesome because all of her imaginary friends have gone away on vacation. But wait – not all. Mad Tooth, the little mouse who lives in her sock drawer, is still busy munching away on her knee-highs. When she finds out why Nalah is sad, she offers to take her down through the sock drawer into a mouse metropolis. The result is a tale of wild dancing, cousins and mice, taffy and a sock monster.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
I have always loved children’s picture books. I have wonderful memories of going to the library with my Mom and getting stacks of them every week. I have a pretty large collection now, for a grown-up.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
Writing a sequel is always tricky. It has to stand alone, but it also needs to have continuity. The first Nalah book, Nalah and the Pink Tiger, had a number of characters that I had to follow-up on quickly, then get out of the way so the main plot could go on.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
I have been published by a small press, and also self-published. This most recent book is self-published.
Was it the right choice for you?
Yes, I believe it was. The story and the illustration style are very unconventional. I wanted to have artistic control. When you self publish, you get that, plus you have some say over how your book is marketed.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
Because I’m a professional puppeteer, I have a puppet show that goes with the book. I’ve been performing that at various sites and selling books that way. But also through social media, Amazon, Good Reads, and shops that support local artists.
How is that going for you?
It’s going well. I would like to reach a broader audience. I’ve entered some book award contests and asked for a Kirkus review. I will be re-vamping my website and then do some FB sponsored posts to drive traffic there. The the live puppet shows remain my most sure-fire way to sell books.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
Aside from the puppet shows, I’ve done a little merchandizing. Made small mouse finger puppets to go with the Mad Mouse City book and packaged them for the holidays. That went well.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Find a way to give your potential readers an experience that they will connect with the book. Whether that is a reading with themed cupcakes, or a hands-on activity that the children can do, those things will give them extra attachment to the book.
What’s next for you?
I have a couple of books cooking. Another Nalah book, and also a book with paintings of animals hibernating, foraging, and otherwise dealing with winter. Completely different illustration style, but it’s good to mix it up.
Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
Buy on Amazon: