Publishers' Preview: Debut Authors: Tim Fischer

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2023 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In Under the Blanket Sky, a young boy makes a most unusual friend on a special summer’s day.

1. What constitutes the perfect summer’s day for you?

It’s peaceful — the kind of day that takes its time and brings your attention back to small details that often go unnoticed in the bustle of daily life. The wind in trees, a chorus of children playing, the smell of grass, the warmth of sunlight.

2. Did you/do you have a secret friend?

When I was about eight, I flew paper airplanes into the backyard of the house behind ours, where the elderly woman who lived there liked to sit. Each plane would return covered with strange abstract things drawn in crayon or marker. I never spoke with her, but the game went on all summer.

3. Bedtime story that still works for you?

Recently I read Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends before bed and had a dream that I was standing on some old sidewalk that stretched on and on before abruptly ending beside an overgrown meadow. I was afraid to venture out there. 

4. What has creating your first picture book taught you about creating your next?

How to write clearly, how to be honest with myself and readers, how to compose images that enhance the story yet aren’t redundant. The ongoing lessons having to do with focus, work ethic, and persistence. It’s been a bigger challenge than I anticipated, but all the more rewarding for it, and there’s still so much more to learn.

5. You’re an engineer turned artist — what is the most surprising skill common to both?

Studying engineering is not an obvious precursor to writing children’s books. Yet I realize that a technical education taught me a lot about approaching things one step at a time, being methodical, solving small problems one after another until the goal is reached. I think I approach my illustration work like that; I whittle away at small details and trust that the bigger picture will work itself out in time.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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