The Nick Bantock Interview

00030019.jpegToday's interviewee is perhaps best-known for his Griffin and Sabine books, a tantalizing series of novels written as letters and when I say "as letters," I mean the books actually include physical envelopes that you open and real, exquisitely-illustrated (by the author) letters to take out and read and examine. They blew my mind wide open when I first received them many years ago. He's written and produced a lot since then (as an author, artist and book illustrator), with books like The Forgetting Room and The Artful Dodger: Images and Reflections including pop-up books like Jabberwocky and Solomon Grundy. He is most recently the author of The Trickster's Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity, which is a book of exercises in creativity for writers and artists. Like his earlier books, it's aesthetically delightful and adept at igniting the imagination. I know my brain feels a bit like a desert these days so I am excited to try all the exercises (you can see the fruits of my labor from one here.) You can learn a lot more about Bantock's myriad projects here.

What drove you to publish a book of creativity-starters?
There's a limit to the number of people you can teach in a workshop, whereas a book lets you reach a much larger audience. I guess it just felt like it was time to articulate my ideas and experiences in text and images. Also I'm back to concentrating on books and I will only be doing the occasional live workshop.

Beyond the brainstormers in the book, what can people who attend your in-person workshops expect?
The main difference between book and live revolves around what my instincts tell me the group needs at any given time. With the book, the onus is on the reader to be more self-directing in their timing. In other words the workshop has the advantage of me watching what's going on. The book has the advantage of not having me watching!

What writers' or artists guides that have helped you throughout your career?
I'm smiling because, to be honest, I'm not a big fan of most of the creative guide books that I've seen, I guess that's another reason why I felt inclined to do one of my own. I prefer trying to tease and provoke individual inspiration-insight to teaching step-by-step.

What do you think is lacking from most books or workshops that purport to kickstart the imagination?
Humor, sense of play, encouragement to rebel internally, creation of personal mythology plus The Trickster's Familiars, a tribe of small creatures that carry the reader through the book.

I imagine the Griffin and Sabine books (not to mention your other works) must have inspired a colorful and wide range of fan reactions and tributes over the years. What are a couple of the most unique expressions of fan mail or tributes you've seen or received?
They lady that stood up after a reading and told the rest of the audience that she had one of Griffin's letter up on her fridge door to remind her husband how she wanted to be spoken to.

And then there was the totally unexpected letter I got from Kurt Vonnegut saying how much he appreciated the book. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. When I was nineteen he'd been my first hero.

Media and means of communication have changed significantly in the decades since Griffin & Sabine was first published. How has that influenced your art and writing?
My follow up to Griffin and Sabine was The Venetian's Wife which I believe was one of the first books to include email dialogue. I try and roll with the punches, take notice of what's fluff and whats exciting and innovative.

344111576_9780399165023_large_The_Trickster's_Hat.jpgWhat books or films have inspired you most as a children's author?
Never thought of myself as writing for kids. The pop-ups were meant to be for folks of all ages.

What are your favorite book covers, both that you've designed and that others have?
Covers I've designed? Mmmm... Hawksmoor, by Peter Ackroyd and The Music School, Updike (that was for a Dutch publisher). Other people's covers... I was a big fan of those old Frank Frazetta sci fi jackets.

Perhaps you can help me solve this conundrum: my seventeen-month-old son adores children's pop-up books and especially loves ripping pieces out of them (and then unsuccessfully trying to repair them.) From your point of view as a parent and an author/designer, what is better: to let him enjoy the books on his own destructive terms or saving them for when he's older or trying to teach him to handle things delicately?
Buy two copies. One new one second hand. Give him the second hand one and encourage him to see ow it works. Keep the new one in plastic and give it to him when her's 18.

Who did you imagine, whether it was realistic or not, playing Griffin and Sabine in the film version of the books?
For Griffin Ralph Fines or Daniel Day Lewis, maybe Jude Law. For Sabine, Cate Blanchett would be stunning but that might be my crush talking, if younger Morena Baccarin (from Homeland).

Do you still make collages? What have been some of your sources of late?
Always. A lot of faux mail and some very small collages (2"x2") using torn stamps and paint.

How does it feel to be the 374th person interviewed for
Rats--I was trying to make 373rd!