Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Aidan Cassie






© Cassie Aidan


Oct. 18, 2019

Today we are pleased to feature author-illustrator Aidan Cassie, and her latest picture book, LITTLE JUNIPER MAKES IT BIG (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, July 2019). Enter to win a copy!



Tell us about your background and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I’ve always collected picture books, but before I began making them I was telling my stories with animation. I loved making my characters come alive, with their sketchy lines and grand gestures and subtle sounds. But it takes 5360 more drawings to make a six-minute film than a picture book. Book making allows me to pour much more into the art. I also love that instead of moving forward by frames-per-second, page-turns set the pace; instead of showing the entire action, children imagine the story that happens between the pages. For me, picture books are the perfect way to explore all the other worlds I wanted to visit as a kid, each one dreamily inhabited by my imaginary friends, inventive wildlife and adoring pets.


© Cassie Aidan


Congrats on your newest book, LITTLE JUNIPER MAKES IT BIG. Tell us about it and what inspired you.



© Aidan Cassie

Now don’t laugh, but when I was really small I thought the world was half kids and half adults. Obviously it seemed unfair that those grown-ups in power went and built everything to their own, huge scale. My childhood frustration created the emotional foundation of the story. Later, as I was drawing narrative sequences for my portfolio, this funny, determined raccoon character emerged. Juniper – who uses plungers, catapults and stilts in an effort to get out-of-reach cookies – took hold of my imagination. As I was writing her story I remembered that when I eventually got bigger I wished I was still small enough to swim in the tub and ride on my dad’s shoulders. Juniper finds a similar perspective with the help of an even littler friend.


© Cassie Aidan


As an author-illustrator, what comes first, the words or images?

That’s a great question; for me it’s a constant back and forth. Usually a broad story idea leads to casting my characters (I let different species and personalities audition), and then I sketch out the best options, so I know who to visualize. Then I’ll write out a general synopsis and start doing thumbnails for the ‘shots’ I see. With scenes playing out like a little film in my mind, I ‘rewind and edit’, jotting things down when they’re right. With a first draft of the manuscript barely hanging together, I’ll put scans of my rough drawings into my layout program – that way I can finesse the words in context, and leave out everything I can show better with the art. That all sounds pretty messy, but somehow, it works!


© Cassie Aidan


Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

All of the above. After a degree in animation, seven years as a giftware designer and product illustrator, a bunch of years reading picture books to my daughter, and two years building up a portfolio and writing dummy books, I can honestly say I was an ‘overnight success’ when I submitted my debut book, STERLING, BEST DOG EVER I sent my dummy out only once, to my favorite children’s book agency, Greenburger Associates. After two weeks they called with an offer to represent me and within a couple months it had been sold to FSG-Macmillan. So, ignoring that first decade, it was a total Cinderella story!


© Cassie Aidan


What projects are you working on now?

I’m just finishing up the cover artwork on my third book, THE WORD FOR FRIEND (FSG-Macmillan), coming out in 2020. It was inspired by experiences living in a country, France, where I could barely speak the language. At its heart the story is about making new friends in new place, with gentle themes of immigration and English-as-a-second-language. At the same time, I’m writing two new stories. I love this beginning stage where I’m drawing characters and puzzling out the tales.

What advice would you give to aspiring author-illustrators?

Find an agent that loves your work so you can focus on making the books. I’ve found agencies seem keen to get submissions from author-illustrators. Unlike getting a text-only manuscript from an author, you are in the unique position to show them how you see your story with a rough book dummy, and some sample spreads. 
Also, have a second book in the ready for when they say “So what else have you got?” 

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I have little robots attached to me. Well, I guess they’re just smart machines, really. One leg has an insulin pump attached, and on the other I have a super fantastic sensor that gives me a real-time graph of my blood sugar levels. Diabetes is a tough balancing act, but I know it’s also inspired some of the self-acceptance themes that got me where I am professionally. Another upside: ‘medicinal’ chocolate!

Where can people find you online?

I live on a small island so I do a lot of my connecting remotely – you can find me here:
Website: aidancassie.com
Instagram: @aidan_drawin
Twitter: @aidan_drawin
Facebook: @AidanCassieBooks



Aidan Cassie is the author and illustrator of STERLING, BEST DOG EVER (2018) and LITTLE JUNIPER MAKES IT BIG (2019) as well as her forthcoming book, THE WORD FOR FRIEND (2020). She attended the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and Edinburgh College of Art, where she studied animation and earned a Media Arts degree. She lives with her very tiny family and very large dog on an artist-covered island in the Salish Sea of BC, Canada.


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32 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your writing/illustrating process. STERLING, THE BEST DOG ever is such a clever concept. It has been one of my favorites to read this year.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! So glad Sterling has found himself some love in your class - he does LOVE to be loved.

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  2. Wow, definitely a Cinderella story--congrats! I enjoyed the humor in STERLING (especially since I have two rescue dogs) and can't wait to read your newest, with all of those adorable woodland creatures!

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    1. Rescue dog at my feet too; they are inspirational in their unconditional love!

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  3. I love these illustrations. So cute and expressive. All the books mentioned above are going on my TBR list!

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  4. As an aspiring author-illustator, I find your story inspiring. Way to go!

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    1. You're in a good position to display for the publishers just how you envision your tale - good luck!

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  5. Love these illustrations!!

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    1. Thanks Anitha! Jumping into the illustration stage is just my favourite part!

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  6. I absolutely LOVE the owl with huge green eyes! So adorable!

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    1. Thanks - sometimes there is no story when I start. I'd seen an owl standing at the side of the road and just had to draw him! There is a weekly art challenge on Twitter where illustrators make art based on a single colour (it was the eyes, of course). I love seeing what all the artists come up with! #colour_collective (posts on Friday 11:30 am PST)

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  7. Juniper looks so winsome on the cover! I love his expressions on the character sheet!

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    1. Thanks, doing a character sheet is so helpful in getting to know a character.

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  8. Congrats on your success. Your illustrations are so full of life!

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    1. Thanks Laura, hoping they come alive is always my goal! =)

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  9. I look forward to reading this, and what inspiring illustrations! I love the northern sled corgi, and most of all your pangolin drawings. I've been working on a pangolin story and I'm thrilled to see these!

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    1. How wonderful... pangolins are going to need to be a household name to get the attention and protection they need. Good luck with your book!

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  10. I like looking at the early sketches for the illustrations.

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    1. Oh good - that's always my favourite thing too... the before and afters! =)

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  11. Congrats, Aidan, on books 2 & 3! Loved learning more about you.

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    1. Thanks Tina! And congrats on your 2 forthcoming books, and "Korean Celebrations"! How wonderful!!

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  12. So cute! The Northern Sled Corgi just cracked me up. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

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    1. Ha, oh good! My own dog looks like the larger. She's too big. We've often thought we need a dog just like her, but smaller (the fictitious Northern Sled Corgi would be perfect)

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  13. That owl is adorable and I love all the cuteness and expressions in your art. Congrats on your success!

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  14. Wonderful! I love your overnight success story (after 10 years of prep...). Congratulations!

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  15. Little Juniper looks and sounds like a great MC. Enjoyed hearing about your process and congrats on all your projects!

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  16. Thanks Marty! I loved creating Juniper, and she makes a cameo in my 3rd book too, The Word for Friend, alongside her pal Clove.

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