Friday, January 25, 2002

Interview: Lalex

Imagine our surprise to see some familiar characters running around - but this time around speaking French!  Bon Sour One Frank, indeed! Lalex is the contemporary illustrator of the French translations of John Bellairs' Lewis Barnavelt books in the "Kévin et les Magiciens" series.

Q: How did you become an illustrator for the books?

A: I'm a professional illustrator so I'm always searching for different types of work. So when I knew that Editions du Rocher [the French publisher] was searching for an illustrator for kid books, I tried to get the contract. I read the French text (the translation) and proposed a few sketches fifteen days later: two big black-and-white drawings and one in color. The editorial team liked my style and my approach; the publishers preferred my work! And now I'm in charge of the illustrations of the Bellairs books. I've signed on for three books, perhaps eight.

At the moment, only the first book (La pendule d'Halloween) is published in France; the second book, The Figure in the Shadows (La médaille ensorcelée), should be out in February. And I'm drawing The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (Emily et l'anneau magique) now.

Q: You've been illustrating for a while then?

A: Yes. I've always drawn as far as I can remember, for the pleasure of it. I did not take classes in the field, but I worked hard to improve over the years. I draw with the Indian ink after a base with pencil, then I scan and I color on computer. My specialty is pin-ups and my artwork's appeared in fanzines, magazines, websites, and I participate in many drawing contests. With Kévin, it's enabled me to diversify and experiment!

Q: What are your reactions to the books?

A: I like them! I really like the atmosphere. From the first moment I read the book I had little difficulty drawing Kévin because he is sort of a "non-hero"...but I think he's very charming.

Q: Yeah, about that...Kévin? Why the name changes of the characters?

A: It was the decision of the publisher for Lewis to become Kévin Barnavelt and Rose-Rita to become Emily Pottinger. "Kévin" and "Emily" feel American to the readers. Plus the settings are not changed... only those two names.

Q: So who is your favorite character?

A: Ms. Zimmermann without hesitation!!! She's little crazy and I like that. It's a real pleasure for me to draw her, because my vision of her is like a modern grandmother with lots of originality. She's quite dynamic and with lot of secrets. She's really my favorite character!

Q: Your favorite book?

A: At the moment, I've read only three books, and I prefer Emily et l'anneau magique (The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring). But I like all the books. I prefer Bellairs's books to Harry Potter because they are more in a real life setting - not in a imaginary country - but very enchanting!

Q: Are the books popular in France?

A: A little for this moment, but only one book is in the bookshops. I think with the second and the third it will be better. I will attend Salon du Livre de Paris (a large French book show) in March 2002: I will see if a lot a people come for the Bellairs books!

Q: Will other books about Johnny and Professor Childermass come later then?

A: I don't know...I think the publisher will decide that if Kévin's adventures have success in France.

Q: Anything you want to say to all the American fans?

A: Wow...I hope my drawings are not too different from what American readers imagine when they read Bellairs' books!

Merci Lalex!

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