Many people have asked me why I illustrate and write books and especially how I create children's books. This question is often followed by how did you get started? And then how can I get started, and I've always wanted to write a story with my kid.  Many are surprised to learn that my first passion is as an illustrator.  I've humbly tried to answer some of your most frequently asked questions below.

What would you be if you weren’t an author or an illustrator or a visual alchemist, whatever that is?
Nothing, I'd be nothing.  Except maybe be a TV producer, I can do that.  And a student advocate.  That's really it.   I also paint huge canvases, poorly. (I"m getting better.)  But, I paint digital canvasses magnificently!  And, I am learning to play the drums, which is going quite well though the neighbors may not agree.  Oh, and I recently did my first acting stint as a ghoul.  I guess the real answer is what won't I do.   If it's got a creative bend to it and seems like fun, I'm in.
Can you fly a plane?
No, but I have jumped out of them.
Can you cook a soufflé?
No, but I have a huge garden full of red hot chili peppers for when I'm feeling spicy.
Can you craft really clever copy for the FAQ section of your blog?
No, but I will do my best.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Ideas come from everywhere, be careful I may be writing you into a storyline right now.  I like to think of myself as a cream puff stuffed full of all the things I’ve experienced along the way, squeeze me a little and some delicious ideas come out!  As a kid I liked myths and magic and books that caught me by surprise, especially if there was a mystery at the center of it.  I like too many styles of music (from punk to post hardcore to classical to pop) and too many artists to pick a favorite, but I especially like Dali and Caravaggio (I know weird pairing), and tunes that make me tap my toe, get up to dance or jump off a stage are my favorite.  It’s not surprising that my work takes twists and turns you may not have expected, neither did I!

What medium do you work in?
I work in whatever media a project calls for but I am really interested in digital painting right now.  I'm a d*** good illustrator and doing the color in the digital realm gives me the freedom I need to satisfy all my tastes.  Besides I'm (definitely) a techno-fan and love the pairing. 

If you are sent fine, dark chocolate will you accept it?
No, but if you want to go horseback riding we can talk.

Would my child like your books?
I don’t know, but lots of kids at schools I have visited like my books a lot.  Maybe it's because I write them with my daughters who add a unique perspective that really nails what kids like right on the head, grown ups don't understand this.  I like them too, the kids, because they make me think of ideas that adults reject like a rapping Hansel and Gretel, imagine that!  Life is full of plot twists and so are my books, which are packed with action and clever young people who can use what they’ve got and what they find around them to figure things out. Sometimes that means riding a magical narwhal out of the Bronx Zoo, or deciphering a code that will save the earth.  However the story goes it’s gotta be fun and have some element of adventure.

Do you speak?
Yes, I am 50% ham, 50% cream puff so I love getting up on stage.  I see myself as a champion of art, of digital citizenship and kid’s great ideas, they certainly have enough of them!  I like to encourage people to get their ideas into the world.

Can I reach you on Facebook?
You can try, but that’s not where I live.

Do you tweet?
Yes, but not as much as I used too.   I am part of the twitteratti and co-created a web chat for educators called #whatisschool thats gotten a lot of attention.  I have a vested interest, my kids are in the system now and there is a lot that needs to be re-worked.  You can tweet me at @candylandcaper but the best way to reach me is to just send an email.

Who is your favorite picture book author?
I love Jez Arborough’s Some Dogs Do.   Don’t judge me and if you do only say nice things.  Maurice Sendak’s, Where the Wild Things Are, D’Aulaires Book Of Greek Myths, Jan Brett’s illustrations (they are kind of like Starbucks, I always get what I expect and am always pleased), Brian Selznick who create Hugo,  and Jon Scieszka, The Stinky Cheese Man and the fabulously weird work of illustrator Lane Smith.

Will you give me advice on my unsolicited manuscript?
No. I am a bad speller and cannot hook you up with a publisher or agent.

What is the best way to contact you?
You can leave a comment on this site or send me a message at laurahillbooks@gmail.com When I get to know you better we can trade texts.

That’s about it but if you need to know more....

Where were you born?
I was born on Long Island, NY and still have a house there.  We are flatlanders, which means the biking is great and the beaches are even better.  I spent most of my youth catching blue claw crabs and taking my friend’s sailboats out to pull up lobster traps-so I am an admitted beach bum who loves seafood and quite frankly I really don’t see anything wrong with that.  The flip side to my upbringing is NYC where I studied art, slummed with bands and made films for 15 years.  I got to travel around the world with my pug Buster and meet some really interesting people and participate in amazing and sometimes scary rituals. Bet you never danced in a Buddhist monk initiation rite at the Marble Temple in Bangkok or filmed a voodoo conjuring ceremony on Halloween night in Washington Park in New Orleans, hmmm? Have you jumped out of a plane? Kayaked into sea caves full of screaming monkeys and bats?  Raced Vipers in LA?  Interviewed Tony Hawk at the X Games? Well, I have and it was fun!  (Again, don’t judge me, I won’t judge you. I don't want to anyway, you are way too interesting!)

Do you have any pets?
After my dog Buster died, (we based the character Sparky in The Great Story World Mix-up on him), my daughters started a dog sitting business through Petco and Rover.com so now I have lots of pets!  Permanent residents include a guinea pig named Poppy who loves carrots, a high flying parakeet aptly named Tricky and a tank of fish we named after the cast of Gilligan’s Island.

What did you do before you became a book author and illustrator?
I headed up the on-air promotional marketing department for Ryan Partnership creating TV spots for Pepsi, Michelin and Heineken. Then I moved on to filming extreme sports then to writing and producing documentaries. One I am particularly proud of that I created for the History Channel covers the storyvof women combat pilots and afforded me the opportunity to fly in an F16 off Lemoore Naval Base. Another strangely interesting gig was working on the series Mugshots for TruTV, I never quite got over interviewing criminals, or detectives for that matter.  In the future I'd like to spend a little more time in front of the camera.

What are your favorite books?
I like lots of books especially those with an element of fantasy or a plot twist I didn’t expect.  I loved reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and anything by Stephen King.  In the YA/Middle grade market I enjoyed Veronica Roth’s Divergent, The Percy Jackson books penned by Rick Riordan, I loved Eoin Colfre’s Artemis Fowl series, Dan Gutman’s Weird School Books and Patrick Carman’s Skelton Creek series.  In a book club with my daughters I just finished reading Wonder, Flowers For Algernon, Out Of My Mind and Fig Pudding and have just started reading The Keeper, (due out in September), which is the second book in David Baldacci's fantasy YA series that he signed for me along with a copy of The Finisher.  Did I hear someone say wow, you betcha!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into writing and illustrating books?
Write, draw, everyday, a lot!  It has taken me years of hits and misses to stand on the threshold of publishing and I have adjusted my life to create the opportunity to be a creative alchemist full time and not starve.  If you want to do it you need to be determined.  Turn off the TV, get your face out of the computer and dedicate the time.   Get passionate, make friends in the industry and don't be afraid to say, why not me.

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