Happy International Women’s Day Taylor! Thanks so much for joining TripFiction to celebrate such a pivotal day. I’m gonna jump right in there with, if you could invite any five inspiring women – past and present, real and fictional – to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?
Thank you for having me! I would really love to bask in the collective wisdom of some illustration powerhouses and creatives. So, an ideal dinner party list would be: Carson Ellis (the genius behind Du Iz Tak and Home, to name a few), Joohee Yoon ( the printmaking goddess who made Beastly Verse and The Tiger Who Would be King), Ana Juan (the atmospheric queen behind ghostly tales like Promises and Lacrimosa), Lotte Reiniger (the nimble fingered silhouette animator from the early 1900s), and Käthe Kollwitz (the only artist I’ve ever seen who can capture pure emotion on paper). We would have such fun, especially if we all brought our own sketchbooks to hide behind occasionally.
Who are your favourite five female writers?
It took me longer than I care to admit to be able to draw together this list, so many of my childhood favorites were written by men. Hopefully, we are collectively creating new classics that push female writers into the spotlight they deserve. I will say, I owe a great deal to the written wit of Eva Ibbotson (Which Witch?, The Secret of Platform 13), I hope a commission to re-illustrate her work comes across my desk someday. Other favorites of mine include Pam Smy (Thornhill), Agatha Christie, Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time), and Diana Wynne Jones (Chrestomanci).
Who’s your biggest role model that has inspired you over your childhood and career?
My mom is a constant source of love and inspiration, and as a local librarian she spreads that joy of books to all the students who come to her cozy literary safe space. To this day, she will still read me books out loud and do all the voices. She was the one who always said that she knew I would be making books someday, it was just a question of ‘when’.
This year’s IWD campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge. As a children’s author who writes about empowerment, inclusivity, and disability representation, what is something you choose to challenge?
That is an excellent theme. I #ChooseToChallenge the notion that characters with disabilities are limited and defined purely by their diagnosis. In Ghost Scouts, I have a whole cast of characters who fit under the umbrella of many different diagnoses and they all achieve extraordinary mischief. Sweet Book is an adorable ghost who communicates primarily non-verbally, Mary Shelley is a highly educated zombie with a limb difference, and Emmy Loulou Garou is a kind-hearted werewolf who deals with panic attacks. These are important parts of their characters, sure---but they are each so much more than one trait.
(More on the campaign theme at internationalwomensday.com/theme)
This year also marks the publication of your third children’s book in your Ghost Scouts series – congratulations! Why is writing this series important to you, and what do you hope readers take away from reading your books?
I love the freedom of middle-grade fiction, it’s the spot for the perfect pairing of illustration and words! My books in particular I hope show readers that they can be loud, messy, mischievous, and a little dark and twisty.
What was the original inspiration behind your series?
I was lucky enough to be in Girl Scouts for nine years while growing up in Texas. That meant that my weekends were filled with bonfires, canoe trips, camping and just romping around. I wanted to recreate that joy but add a little horror and magic.
If you could spend the day with Lexie Wilde and the Camp Croak squad, what would you get up to?
I feel like I already spend every day with them. There isn't a twenty-four hour period in the last two and half years that I haven't been working on some aspect of this story and these ferocious scouts.
You were raised in Texas, went to school in Cambridge, and now live in Arkansas. Does travel have a big inspirational impact on your writing?
Actually, I also lived in France and Scotland! So yes---travelling is incredibly important to me. I love collecting people’s voices and stories when I travel about. I keep a list of names and random quotes that feel a little special to me---maybe, one day, they’ll make it into a book.
Where is Ghost Scouts set and what made choose this location?
Ghost Scouts is set in the wonderful and perilous swamps of Louisiana. This part of the world was incredibly essential to me for two reasons. One, it has a long history of southern gothic magic that pop up again and again in stories told. Two, this place is a melding of cultures including those of the Cajun and Creole people. This means that the state is rich in diverse religious practices, parades, music and types of food.
For anyone following if your literary footsteps, do you have any top tips/must see landmarks/advice?
Location-wise? Confront your misconceptions about Louisiana Voodoo by listening to actually Voodoo Queens (priestesses) or attending the local museum in New Orleans. Take an airboat tour of the swamps and see all the alligators. Try the local cuisine---there is a reason this region has world famous Gumbo. And Beignets. And Jambalaya.
What’s the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
There is room in this world for your voice, you are allowed to take up space.
Do you have any tips/advice for aspiring children’s writers?
The best advice I can say is---when it comes to dialogue, keep writing until you can hear the characters speak in your mind. For me, I can tell when I have fully figured out one of my characters if I can’t hear their voices and speech patterns.
Also, study the trends in current children’s books---surround yourself with the very best stories and pictures and soak it all up.
What children’s books do you recommend for IWD?
If you are looking for a bit of a scare, check out Thornhill by Pam Smy. It’s a wonderful twisty book that flits between elaborately painted spreads to punchy text as it tells the story of two lonely girls. Very haunted, very fun.
About the creator
Taylor Dolan was born into a house of stories and raised in Texas. Her mother used to read to her every night, and together they made their way through the worlds of Narnia, Oz and many more. Sometimes, when Taylor is feeling blue, her mother stills reads to her and does the best voices for all the characters. Being a happy booknerd, she attended the Cambridge School of Art for her Master’s Degree in Children’s Book Illustration. She was overjoyed to find a whole herd of booknerds to spend quality time reading quietly together with. She now lives in Arkansas, while using her imagination to pretend she still lives in Cambridge. On her bedside table is a copy of Matilda (Roald Dahl), The Phantom Tollbooth (Jules Fieffer, Norton Juster), and Which Witch? (Eva Ibbotson) which pretty much sums her up in a nutshell. She adores a magical adventure full of wit and monsters alike!
For more information about Taylor and her incredible artwork check out Taylor's website taylordolanart.com/, and Taylor on Twitter and Instagram @taylordolanart.