An interview with Ed Vere

posted in: Ed Vere | 4

Max at Night jacket250pxEd Vere has been an illustrator to watch from the start.

  • He won his first award with his very first book.
  • He’s been shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Award and the Roald Dahl Funny Prize.
  • The award for largest single print run for a picture book in the UK goes to his wonderful Mr Big (one of the first books to be reviewed on Playing by the book!)

  • Ed’s most recently created character is one sure to win hearts: Max is a fearless, adventurous kitten, a kitten who will melt your hearts. We first met Max last year and now he’s back, ready to see what the night holds for him as he tries very hard to fall asleep.

    Once again packed with charm and laugh-out-loud moments, Max at Night reveals what the curious kitten gets up to when his bedtime routine doesn’t go quite to plan. To celebrate the book’s publication I’m delighted to bring you an interview with Ed Vere. I should have asked him about when his bedtime routine fails, but instead we ending up talking about Belloc and tractors, travelling and epic quests…

    Playing by the book: What’s the first book you were aware of? A book you loved? A book you hated? A book that baffled you?

    Ed Vere: I think probably Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary tales. I remember my father’s tone of voice as he read them aloud to me and my brother. He read them with great relish and theatricality. Belloc, has a particular teasing quality to his writing, which my father was very good at capturing. He also liked making use of the pregnant pause… ramping up the anticipation. I still love reading these tales, they make me laugh, and they remind me of a particular side of my father.

    For anyone who doesn’t know it, I would suggest searching out ‘Jim – Who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion.’

    An illustration of the dangerous lion in Belloc's Cautionary Tales
    An illustration of the dangerous lion in Belloc’s Cautionary Tales

    Playing by the book: If Ed the kid could see Ed the grown up, what would he make of where he is at now and what he is doing?

    Ed Vere: I wanted to be an artist from an early age, either that or a farmer… so I think the younger me (I’m thinking of me at about 7 years old) would be very happy that I make my living by drawing pictures and telling stories. The young me would also be highly impressed by all the pens and paints I’ve accumulated over the years. He might also think that I ought to be living on a farm, tending the cows, lifting hay bales and driving tractors… but I’d have to tell him that there’s only so much time in the day.

    Playing by the book: If Ed the grown up could go back to Ed the kid and give him some advice, or a book to read, what would Ed the Grown up say/give to Ed the kid?

    Ed Vere: I’d say draw and paint as much as you can… take it seriously sometimes, because there’s no reason why you can’t do serious things at a young age. I’d say learn to play an instrument, preferably the piano… and I’d also say, have fun with it all!

    I’d give the young lad the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I still haven’t read it but I think young me would have really enjoyed it.


    Playing by the book: If someone were to create an illustrated biography of your life, who would you like to illustrate it (or different periods in your life) and why?

    Ed Vere: Well, if I can shoot for the moon I’d say Art Spiegelman. Maus is a work of complete genius, and told so empathetically. If he told the story of my life, not that it’s interesting or significant enough, I’m sure I’d learn a lot I don’t know about myself.

    It would also be pretty good if Javier Mariscal could do a chapter for the years that I lived in Barcelona.

    Playing by the book: In what ways is Max like you?

    Ed Vere: Hmmm, that’s a tricky one. My friends tell me that all my characters have something of me in them. I guess Max must have too. I suppose the way he’s most like me is that we both like to find things out… we’re curious about life, and what might be around the next corner. I’m less bothered about chasing mice though.

    Max at Night - looking for the moon900px

    Playing by the book: I hear you’re working on Max No. 3, but what about other book projects? Do you like to have several things on the go at once, or do you tend to focus on a single book at a time?

    Ed Vere: That’s right, in fact I’ve just finished Max number 3… I loved making it… a lot of fun, and a story that’s a little more complex… with a bit of jeopardy thrown in! It’ll be interesting to see how it goes down.

    I have many ideas all bubbling away at the same time, too many. It takes a long time and a lot of thinking / procrastinating to find the right idea to go forward with. But I only ever work on one book at a time. I need to keep the focus and continuity going with one thing, so I can maintain the right energy through the whole project. I’m not a great multi-tasker.

    Playing by the book: So you’re here being interviewed on Playing by the book… what’s the last thing you did / place you visited / something you made having been inspired by a book you’ve read?

    Ed Vere: What a great question, and not an easy one to answer… There are so many books that have influence, indirectly, over your life… Thinking of one that had such a powerfully direct & immediate effect is hard. Possibly the answer would be more a way of thinking than a direct action, an approach to the way I live my life. The book is ‘The Songlines’ by Bruce Chatwin. It talks about our instinct for nomadism, which comes from pre-agrarian revolution times when we were wandering the plains hunting and gathering. He starts the book travelling to Australia to research the Aboriginal concept of Songlines… The routes walked by the ancestors who sang the world into creation and that are still traversed by Aborigines today, handed down generation after generation. Travelling was an essential part of life, for many reasons… to discover the world, to trade, to find food sources, to widen the gene pool. The second half of the book is a collection of writings by himself and others talking about Nomadism in different cultures and through the ages. It rang true in many ways for me, and I suppose it’s effect is an approach to life which is a little freer and less tied down. If that makes any sense?


    Many thanks to Ed for today’s interview. Here’s the US book trailer for the first Max story:

    You can catch up with Ed here:
    Ed’s website
    Ed on Twitter
    Ed on Facebook

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