Of Ponies and Princesses: An Interview with Kate Beaton
Well, I’m just about as pleased as I can be. For years I’ve adored and promoted and generally yammered endlessly about webcomic artist Kate Beaton and her Hark, A Vagrant strips. Whether it was her Nancy Drew covers or her psychedelic take on The Secret Garden (to say nothing of her history strips) she’s one of my heroes. This year, she’s gone a step further and created her very first picture book. Called The Princess and the Pony, it’s edited by Cheryl Klein and Emily Clement and published by Scholastic. As you can see from the cover here, the book contains a fat little pony character that Beaton created for the Hark, A Vagrant strip years ago. On June 30th it’ll hit shelves everywhere. Before that happens, though, I was given the chance to chat a bit with Ms. Beaton about her work.
Betsy Bird: Let’s talk about the impetus for the character of Princess Pinecone here. I get a bit of an Adventure Time vibe off of her, but that might just be because kickass princesses are in the air these days. From whence did she spring?
Kate Beaton: There are a lot of kickass princesses on Adventure Time! Funny you should mention it, because one time years ago, the Pony itself was featured on an episode. Only it was purple. And turned out to be the Ice King in a costume. But they asked my permission, which was cool! Of course I said yes!
Princess Pinecone came to mind almost immediately for me. I’m one of four girls, our house growing up was full of Girl Stuff and princesses are a part of that. I loved princesses myself, I drew them all the time. I don’t think anyone had to tell me to like them, they were my jam. But kids do get lobbed a crazy amount of princess stuff these days, and some of it is a little too much, so if I was going to make a story about one, who she was and what she wanted would be pretty important. Pinecone deliberately sort of looks the princess part with the blonde hair and ribbons, but she’s also small and tough and she’s named for a bristly little plant thing. And really she is only a princess because I tell you she is, it’s not like her status carries the story, because no one else cares that she is a Princess. What’s important is her goals and how she wants to work to achieve them, and her family that supports her.
BB: With your comic background you haven’t had much need to dive into the wide and wonderful world of watercolors before. How was the switchover?
KB: I’m super flattered that you think it is watercolor but it’s digital colors. And that was new to me for sure. I chose digital because it was my first picture book and I was ready to make 2000 mistakes that would need to be fixed. And that happened so god bless photoshop! I picked a color palette and tried my best to make things look ok, but I’m still new to the whole thing. Go to art school, kids.
BB: If you had to choose your top historical real world princesses, which ones would you select?
Rani Lakshmibai is a good one, so is Boudicca, if you are talking warrior types! Or Tamar of Georgia, and of course Eleanor of Acquitaine and Elizabeth I. Or Anna Nzinga. There are a lot you know!
BB: Any plans for future picture book princessing?
KB: I do enjoy this world, so yes! I hope there will be more adventures. Outside of this book, I have sketched out a bigger family and world, so you never know. But first hopefully people like this story.
So many thanks indeed to Ms. Beaton for her patient responses. And no discussion of princess would be complete without a nod to this.
Filed under: Interviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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