Ashley Spires’s 2014 book The Most Magnificent Thing was a tough act to follow. The Most Magnificent Idea, released by Kids Can earlier this month, is the Canadian author and illustrator’s long-awaited follow-up. It reached its second printing before it hit shelves, after running through a first printing of 50,000 copies—a reality that Spires calls “deeply terrifying.”

Spires has remained busy in the eight years since The Most Magnificent Thing was released. She has many projects on the go—serving as an executive producer for the television adaptation of her Binky the Space Cat graphic novels, for a start—but says that living in Canada and having her work appear in the U.S. allows her to exist in two different publishing worlds. “You can kind of feel like we’re almost sort of the same place,” she explains. “But it really is, I think, in our books that you see the real difference between our two countries. I feel like in Canada, and probably because we are supported partially by government funding, there’s just a little bit more leeway for different voices and different styles of storytelling.”

Working in U.S. allows Spires to “stretch different muscles” and working in animation has had a profound impact on her writing and illustration career.“It’s definitely changed the way that I think about my storytelling,” she says. “In particular, when I am working on a graphic novel, because, of course, when you are scripting the action of an episode you are picturing exactly what the character is doing and describing that. And that’s very much a storyboard process. So I find that the two of them together works just beautifully for me.”

As for the gap between books, Spires says she felt blocked but found that engaging with that resistance was something her audience and readership, many of them educators, could identify with. That is particularly true, she explains, since the first book concerned the joyful challenges of the creative process. “And I realized that that’s only really one side of the creative process coin. The other side is the days that you wake up without an idea, which is exactly what was happening to me when I was like, I don’t have an idea for a sequel. And then I realized, oh, wait, that’s exactly what this character would go through. She wants to make something, but she doesn’t know what. And that can be equally if not more frustrating than trying to realize something exactly how you imagined it.”

Spires says that when the first book was published, some readers were shocked to see a book about a girl who is an inventor. Now, she hopes the thinking has shifted. “I love that maybe eight years later, seeing a woman create things—a young girl, via an adventure, work with her hands and push herself for herself—is maybe not as revolutionary, but hopefully just as welcome.”

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