Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Charlie Eve Ryan

© Charlie Eve Ryan

August 14, 2020

We are excited to feature author-illustrator Charlie Eve Ryan and her debut picture book as an author-illustrator, BLUE CAT (StarBerry Books - Kane Press, 2019). Enter to win a copy of BLUE CAT as well as SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA, by Candy Wellins (Page Street Kids Aug 11)!

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

I am a happily married mama of two adorable kids and one major fluff ball, our cat Ivory. Growing up I was always writing plus loved art but I did not explore it more professionally until my first child was born. 

© Charlie Eve Ryan

My husband and I want me home to raise our kids and I started writing more at night. Eventually, I was sketching, painting and watching tons of You Tube art videos. I joined the Society Of Visual Storytelling, studied a ton. Eventually, I got work in the educational market which leads to magazine projects and trade children's books. I have a board book, called WHO IS MAKING A MESS with Amicus Ink, written by Maria D’Heane plus two picture books. I was hooked and never looked back.

Congrats on your author-illustrator debut picture book, BLUE CAT. Tell us about the story and what inspired you.

I have always loved cats, their personalities and actions are a lot of times so animated that they make great characters. They are fun, affectionate and mischievous all at the same time. Initially, I drew an illustration of a blue cat peeking out of a window and I wondered what he was looking at and what made him explore in the first place. That moment leads to the idea of taking this cat on an adventure after hearing a noise in the distance. I combined very simple, repetitious, and expressive language with very cat-like movements/habits. It was a ton of fun to create a close-up view of the world from a cat’s perspective.

© Charlie Eve Ryan

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

© Charlie Eve Ryan
A steady yet gradual road of personal creative growth and many potholes. Then all of a sudden I was working on three trade children’s books at one time, so a marvelous mix of both. I sent my BLUE CAT dummy and manuscript to two editors, both were interested but one passed on the project early because they already had a cat book on their current list and the other, to my delight, made an offer. She happened to LOVE cats so it definitely landed in the right place. I had an amazing time working on the project with the team at Boyds Mill Kane. They were wonderful and really helped me to navigate the process well.

What projects are you working on now?

I am editing a few manuscripts for my agent plus my picture book with Candy Wellins and Page Street Kids called SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA just hit bookshelves this week. It has been so exciting seeing all the positive reviews and hearing about reviewers getting teary-eyed while reading it. It landed on Amazon Editors Best Books of the Month for August (kids ages 3-5) and got a Kirkus star. I could not be happier or ask for a better response. I’m so honored to be a part of this book. Candy Wellins wrote a truly poignant, tender, and heartfelt story. It really is an artist's dream project.

© Charlie Eve Ryan

When writing and illustrating a picture book, do the words or pictures come first for you? How does the creative process differ from a book where you illustrate someone else's story?

For my own stories it is definitely a strong mix of both. Sometimes I draw a character and before I know it they are chatting with me and urging me to write about them, like with BLUE CAT. Other times it can be a simple phase or connecting two ideas on a page and the words start flowing. As the story develops, I start seeing the characters in my head, the way they move, talk, and gestures, etc. I go back and forth until I have something worth showing my agent.

When I was illustrating SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA I first focused on the feeling of the book and the relationship of these two main characters. There is a lot more pressure when you are illustrating another writer's work and especially a manuscript that deals with such a sensitive topic. That being the loss of a loved one.

It can be tricky because of how I view the characters and their world is likely very different from how the author originally thought of them. I try to be mindful of that but not let it override my thoughts and my own creative instincts. The publisher made it clear that they wanted to give me a lot of creative leeway on this book. They hired me because they believed in my work and wanted to see what I would do with it. They gently guided me along and were not heavy-handed. It was a great collaboration and experience. I have heard that the author was very happy with the art, so that makes my heart happy and relieved!

In this book, I really tried to capture the spirit of the story and the intimacy of their relationship. I had to show a range of strong emotions dealing with loss and grief that hopefully felt authentic while really accentuating the joy. This book is a celebration of a well-lived life. There is a strong emotional journey that the young main character, George goes on and I had to make sure the transitions worked well and that it was clear to the reader what was happening without showing a funeral or gravestone.

What I loved most about this story is Grandma Stella really shows George how to love through action and not just words. She didn’t wait until a birthday or a special occasion, she loved him always in everyday life through many tiny moments. That is what makes this such a hard yet very heartfelt and at times gut-wrenching journey for George. It is his loss to live and in the end, he journeys to find healing. It has a very intentional circular feel of joy, loss, and hope.
For me, writing and visual storytelling is all about listening and making connections that most people would ignore. It is also about allowing your brain to get bored enough that it starts playing with words and images. Boredom is your imagination's best friend. 

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

I was a Licensed Practical Nurse in a cancer center prior to becoming a work at mom and pursuing my dream to work as a professional writer/illustrator in children's books, plus I cry during the occasional heartfelt commercial and I can be super competitive during Mario Kart with my husband and kids.

What advice would you give to aspiring author-illustrators?

Listen and really observe the world around you. Don’t be obvious but study body movements and how people interact with each other. Small everyday moments in life are as important as the big ones. Write a ton of really crappy stories then write a few really good stories/book dummies with multiple drafts and feedback from other writers. Do this before you even start thinking too much about publication and marketing. The last two won’t matter if you are not honing your skills. 

© Charlie Eve Ryan

Overall you are learning, failing, and succeeding over and over again. It is a life long journey of creative growth, rejection (LOTS of rejection), and praise. Enjoy it and if you are lucky try to get a couple of kick-a$$ mentors, they are worth their weight in gold and be sure to support them as they help you. Never just take. I basically owe my career to the awesome folks at the Society Of Visual Storytelling ( They are super talented and most importantly they know how to teach. And of course, join SCBWI to find out more.

Where can people find you online? @charlieeveryan on FB, Twitter, and Instagram. My work is represented by the wonderful Charlotte Wegner of Prospect Agency (she recently got married and became Charlotte Boudreau)

Charlie Eve Ryan is an author/illustrator living in Eastern Pennsylvania. She is an active member of SCBWI. Her work combines simple designs with rich textures, memorable characters, and imaginative storytelling. Charlie loves books more then fluffer-nutter sandwiches and spends most days painting, writing, reading, and playing make-believe. 

Her author/illustrator picture book debut, BLUE CAT, came out in October of 2019 by Starberry Books/Boyds Mill Kane. She is the illustrator for WHO IS MAKING A MESS, Board Book, Amicus Ink Spring 2020  written by Maria D'Heane, and SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA, Picture Book, Page Street Kids August 2020 written by Candy Wellins. She lives a tumbleweed cottage with her husband, two little ones, one fluffy cat, and a couple of overly-affectionate fish.  

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  1. I love that beautiful blue cat! Congratulations on the great books!

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  2. Your illustrations are so cute and have a softness that seems so real. Congrats!

  3. Oh, love the blue cat! And Saturdays are For Stella! Congratulations!

  4. Both books look very enjoyable. I particularly like the unique illustrations for Blue Cat. Thanks for the chance to win 'em!

  5. I love Saturday’s are for Stella and excited for Blue Cat! Thank you for a chance!

  6. These books look great! Want to read them to my twins!

  7. Terrific artwork...especially like the cat.

  8. I love your illustration style! Makes me want to adopt a blue cat!

  9. I love the Blue Cat. Such a cute cover! My kids would love these books.
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