Author and Illustrator Spotlight: Patricia Miranda and Chris O'Leary



Nov. 22, 2019

Today we are pleased to feature author-illustrator team (and spouses!) Patricia Miranda, illustrator Chris O'Leary, and their picture book, LEAF MAN (Albert Whitman, March 2019). 

Enter to win a copy below!




Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children. 

Patricia Miranda: My teachers and friends always thought I was a strong academic writer, but sadly, I never tried creative writing when I was in high school or college. I came to writing late in life, when I was nearly forty and literally because of a freak wind storm that cut electricity in our neighborhood for three days. During this power outage, I started making up stories for my daughters at bedtime. They enjoyed my stories, and so did my husband. He encouraged me to write them down, and I've been writing ever since. 


© Chris O'Leary

Chris O'Leary: I worked as an illustrator for ten years before I was given the opportunity to illustrate David Adler’s children’s book MAMA PLAYED BASEBALL. I’ve illustrated a few other books since then, but LEAF MAN is the first book my wife and I created ourselves. 


© Chris O'Leary


Congratulations on your book, LEAF MAN! Tell us about the book and what inspired you. 

Thank you! LEAF MAN was created out of our concern for the environment, as well as seeing the deep connection that our children—and all children—have to the natural world.

You are a team of spouses. How collaboratively did you work on the book (ie. the writing and the illustrations)? Would you do it again? 

We’ve been a couple for twenty-nine years, and people have often asked if we would ever work together. I’ve joked that we would rather stay married. But over time, we’ve learned that we work best when not sitting across the table from one another. For LEAF MAN, I presented Tricia with drawings and asked if she could write a story. We’ve created another picture book using that same process, as well as a graphic novel and an illustrated middle grade fantasy novel. 

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


© Chris O'Leary

Patricia Miranda: For LEAF MAN, I would say our publication journey was long, but relatively straightforward. Chris created the sketches, and I wrote brief lines to stitch them together. Then Chris made several mock-ups of the book, with a hand-sewn spine and a full-color cover on textured bark paper. Our picture-book agent, Pat Lindgren of Lindgren and Smith, sent the manuscript to various publishers, one at a time, over the course of four years. All the while, we kept ourselves busy working on other projects, and then to our delight, Albert Whitman accepted the manuscript and published it in March 2019.


© Chris O'Leary

Chris O'Leary: In between. We knew that Harry Potter was rejected twelve times, so we decided not to let ourselves get discouraged until we were rejected  twelve times. Our book visited five or six publishers before happily finding a home with Albert Whitman.

What projects are you working on now? 
© Chris O'Leary

Patricia Miranda: I’m working on a fantasy novel for middle-grade readers and a book of poetry for adults.
© Chris O'Leary

Chris O'Leary: It’s always evolving. I’m using more digital effects in my work these days, but I always start with traditional media. Much of LEAF MAN was created using a technique called pochoir, where stencils are created for each shape on the page.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Patricia Miranda: I wish I knew where this quote came from, but it is currently taped to the front cover of my writing journal: "Write some letters, make a word. Write some words, make a sentence. Write some sentences, make a page. Write some pages, make a chapter. Write some chapters, make a book." Thank you to the practical genius who came up with this!

Chris O'Leary: Hmm … Don’t do it unless you can’t think of anything else? Have a plan B? One thing that helped when I was starting my career was talking to other illustrators. There was a group of illustrators in Cincinnati that would meet every month to share their art and work experiences. 

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

Patricia Miranda: I have a phobia of cicadas, particularly the ones that emerge in droves every seventeen years. I'm dreading the next brood awakening, but I figure that being cooped up indoors all summer long will mean I'll get a heck of a lot of pages written.

Chris O'Leary: I once worked as an elevator operator.

Where can people find you online?

Patricia Miranda: https://patriciamirandawrites.com/ 


Chris O'Leary: I’m represented by Pat Lindgren and Piper Smith. The best place to view more of my work is  LindgrenSmith.com. 



Patricia Miranda has always loved words. When she was a kid, she would line up her stuffed animals for reading and writing lessons, which eventually led to her current job as a high school English teacher. When not writing, she can be found reading next to her napping Scottie dogs. 

Chris O’Leary has always enjoyed creating pictures. When he was in elementary school, his classmates would recruit him to draw the covers for their book reports, which eventually led to Chris's career as a freelancer illustrator. When not painting, he can be found outside walking or throwing tennis balls for his Scottie dogs. 



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9 comments:

  1. This sounds like a fun collaboration, especially since it has an environmental theme...I'll look forward to reading it!

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  2. The colors and the textures are so beautiful!

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  3. The quote that Miranda mentioned about breaking down writing into its smallest parts is so good! Love the character design of the leaf man!

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  4. I am so excited about this book! I love the illustrations and the message this book is presenting. Thank you for this opportunity!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your publishing story. This is the first interview I've read with a husband and wife team and I admire you very much.

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  6. That was a fun interview! Loved reading about your creative process and the birth of this book. Congratulations and best wishes!

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  7. love the illustrations

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  8. We need more kids books like this that celebrate our connection to the natural world.

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