With a fourth Olivia book, Ian Falconer talks with Bookshelf about his famous pig.
Your first PW interview was shortly after Olivia's stunning debut [for a Flying Starts feature in the fall of 2000]. Since then, you've written three other Olivia adventures; so far, all have been bestsellers. Has Olivia changed your life?
Yes. [He laughs.] In some ways good, in some ways bad. I get a lot more attention than I like now. I'm very private and a loner. I like a very, very regular schedule, and there are a lot of interruptions—even when you're done with the book, working with the art director, looking at merchandise, etc. On the other hand, it's allowed me to buy a space so I can have actual studio space and not be drawing in my bedroom and living room, and waking up looking at the same thing I went to bed looking at.
When we talked before, you discussed the sole use of red and black as colors in Olivia, and the challenges of using additional colors. But with Missing Toy, you introduced green, and now blue (in Band). Are you finding a way to introduce color while maintaining the same minimalist compositions?
I think to have continued doing just red, black and white... it needs something to distinguish [the books] from each other.
Also, it's fun. It's just two colors rather than one. Though this new book has some full-color pages with the sunset and fireworks but the rest of it is all blue and red and black and white.
I love introducing collage elements. I'm always interested in perception and how far you can stretch a visual image and see if people will swallow it. Like the scene [in Band] when [Olivia] tries on lipstick and she looks like a model from Vogue. Some of the editors were worried about the lips, so we showed it around to some classes, and it didn't bother [the kids] at all. They said, "Look she's got a Mommy mouth!"
Your background designing sets has certainly been useful in your books. Are you still working in the theater?
I'm about to go meet someone about doing an operetta in Paris called Veronique, which is a little scary because it all takes place in Paris—doing a French set for the French by an American. I better get it right.
Do you have other adventures planned for Olivia?
I do. I don't know if I should talk about them yet.
Can you just say if you'll be introducing another color?
It would be green again, but a different green. That's all I can say. [Since this interview, S&S announced the October 2007 publication of Falconer's Olivia's Christmas, with a 500,000-copy first printing.]
The real Olivia [Falconer's niece] must be a teenager by now. Is she still as curious and confident as the porcine heroine?
She's 12. Yes, she's quite confident. She's turned out to be more of a sports person than a ballet and operaphile. She loves to ski and sail, and races all the time.
Most of [Olivia] was really about me anyway.