Kia Heise and Chris Park: Author & Illustrator Q&A

In  Kia  Heise and Christopher D. Park’s  debut children’s book  Little Sock, the reader learns the whimsical answer to a common household problem, where do lost socks go? Sock City of course!  The story follows a curious sock who braves the unknown and travels beyond his normal routine to find a colorful and exciting land inhabited by the lost socks. This is a fun story with simple text that inspires young readers to explore beyond the ordinary.

I had the pleasure of asking the author and illustrator team Kia and Chris about writing and illustrating their debut children’s book  Little Sock and how this story can be used in the classroom. Here Chris answers my questions about their experiences.

Tell us your story and how you began working together on this book?

Kia and I have been together for about 10 years now. We were married 5 years ago and moved across the country from Minnesota to LA where we lived for 3 years. Since we enjoy each other’s company, it seemed only natural that we would eventually want to work with one another. I think initially we were excited about the possibility of collaborating together as storytellers, but it was our confidence in our abilities at that specific time that really helped us make that first leap. I have been an artist my entire life, but only recently had a serious interest in children’s books and Kia is a professor in Sociology so she teaches and writes all the time. One day we just looked at each other and had the confidence to say, “Hey we can do this, together.” Now we are settled back in our home state raising a baby boy and have a published book. It feels surreal, but at the same time, we always knew we wanted to be on a career path like this.

What was the inspiration in writing/illustrating the story of Little Sock?

I think the main inspiration was to take something that everyone can relate to and turn it into a story. Very early on we were brainstorming on our living room couch and asked ourselves, what ideas can people, no matter how different, relate to. It was a desire to have the story make connections. Humor was a big part of it as well. We really wanted to make children laugh.

Tell us more about the strategies you used as a writer/illustrator for this book.

We made it a point to sit down every weekend and go through multiple drafts of the story together. We would bounce ideas around and try to give honest but constructive criticism. Needless to say, it didn’t always go as smoothly as we hoped. There were a few arguments and differences of opinion on where the story should go but that’s what couples do. We would argue then eventually make sure we could come to an agreement. Really that’s what writing a book with your partner is like, it’s exactly like a relationship. We both had to sacrifice ideas for a better one or make sure the other person was being heard. And honestly, if we were to try and write a story together in our first 5 years of knowing each other, it would never have happened. At the time we worked on this we were already established as a couple so we could tackle the challenges of collaborating while still being respectful to one another.

When did you know you wanted to pursue writing/illustrating a children’s book?

Again, for me children’s book illustration is a fairly new interest. My art always had a whimsical aspect to it so I suppose there were early signs that I would choose children’s books. It never seemed like a huge leap for me. Kia on the other hand had no idea that she would ever be a children’s book writer, even after marrying an illustrator. However, I think for her, being a teacher, lecturing and narrating are very similar to storytelling, so she clearly was exploring those skills well before she wrote this book. And she has continued to impress me every step of the way, especially when she reads the book in public, I mean, she is just a natural, so it’s reassuring to know you’ve got a solid teammate picking up where you might lack.

What part of the story came to you first?

Visually the reveal of Sock City had always been in my mind. It’s a very ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment in the story and I’m proud of how it came out. I knew that there had to be one very specific part of the story that really popped and grabbed the attention of the reader. A spectacular reveal in a story is always my favorite part. Kia has an innate ability to take inanimate objects and give them personalities so maybe it was just a matter of choosing something and running with it.

What advice do you have for young developing writers and illustrators?

Practice every day! Carry a sketchbook or notebook everywhere you go so you never miss an opportunity to hone your skills. There are so many artists and writers out there who are so disciplined that it’s in your best interest to keep up all the time. That’s my professional advice but my personal advice is to make sure that you enjoy it ALWAYS! When you enjoy writing or making art it makes you want to MAKE MORE ART! It’s a very healthy cycle that’s hard to achieve but worth every second.

How is your book best used in the classroom?

I think there are a lot of opportunities with the book to focus on emotions. Emotional diversity, we believe, is such a healthy thing for children to explore and understand you know? It’s good to feel happy and excited but how should we react and behave when we are not in control of our emotions? I drew a lot of the sock characters interacting with each other in different situations purposefully. I wanted to show that we don’t always feel like sunshine and rainbows every day, nor should we. A healthy child is one that explores and understands all of their emotions—the good and the bad. Our hope is that if a child understands their emotions, it can help them empathize with other children who may be feeling those same complex feelings and there is more of a connection between them.

Do you have any plans on continuing Little Sock’s story?

We definitely have some more stories involving Little Sock in the works. We really do want him to bring a friend and share his adventures. At this point, we certainly hope there are more opportunities for this story to continue. There are a lot of places to explore outside of Sock City after all!