Interview with Katy Schneider and Patricia MacLachlan
Katy Schneider: This is “What I Like.” From the new puppy book titled I Didn’t Do It, a kind of pair with Once I Ate A Pie.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: “What I Like” and it’s all those jellybeans – are they going to be in the middle of the page?
 
Katy Schneider: Well I left a little space I want it to look like they are sort of falling in the gutter.  And maybe they can Photoshop it where they want it, too.  There are a lot of words so that’s the only spot where there weren’t words, so…
 
Patricia MacLachlan: What do you mean there are a lot of words? Listen to her!  [grins]
 
Katy Schneider: Well I’ll show you…
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Yes, I know.
 
Katy Schneider: The way it’s laid out.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: A writer’s life is trying to cut words, delete words and not make a book too wordy.  And every once in a while, after I’ve finished a book I say, oops, we don’t need that sentence.  So you’re constantly revising, but it’s a help to see her work because we know how big the paintings are and Look! There are a lot of words.
 
Katy Schneider: So I used up all the space.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Oh yes… “Sweet I like.  Water in summer, not my bath, warm in winter.”  Oh, that’s a nice little poem that we wrote.
 
[laughing]
 
Katy Schneider: Do you like my chewed up gum?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Yes, it’s very real.
 
Katy Schneider: I bought special gum for it.  
 
 
Erin Daly and Daniella Bordonaro visited Katy Schneider’s home and studio as she was showing Patricia MacLachlan some new illustrations for their next book, I Didn’t Do It,  a sequel of sorts to Once I Ate a Pie.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: So Emily [MacLachlan Charest, co author and Patricia’s daughter] and I started this book—We’ve always loved dogs.  And the whole family has dogs. I have a son in Africa who inherited a house that has seven dogs. [They had to] give them some of them away.  Seven dogs is too many.  And so those dogs appeared, some of them in the dog book, Once I Ate A Pie. Emily and I were just talking one day and I was kind of mad at my husband and she was annoyed with hers and I said, “I’m not marrying a man in my next life.” And she said, “Let’s marry dogs. They’re always glad to see you and they love you unconditionally and sometimes they fetch! … I said, so let’s just write a series of dogs and we knew a lot of the dogs.  Now we don’t know many of the puppies in this book I Didn’t Do It, so it’s kind of different but poor Katy had to work with some of the dogs we knew, and then she had to find more.
 
 
 
Katy Schneider: Not Poor Katy, I like having like, “okay use this one.”
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Yes, that’s true, she does.  But it’s great. I’ll show you some of the pictures of my son John’s dog Wupsi, who is in there from Africa.   And there’s a wonderful picture in there that I sent to you, [Katy] of him reading to his new little child who is two years old.  And he’s reading the book and there’s Wupsi on the page and then there’s Wupsi in real life and he’s [sprawled exactly like the picture].  It’s just like she’s admiring himself.
 
Katy Schneider: It’s identical. It’s so funny.  The picture in the book was identical to the real life situation.  I was even surprised, I was like, “Wow, she really does do that!”
 
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And then Emily’s dogs are in there, not so much in form, but… She rescues dogs so there was Tess from the shelter.  I think we named her another name [in the book] what was it? I can’t remember but she took over the house and…
 
Katy Schneider: Abby?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: The couch is mine and the bed is mine and…
 
Katy Schneider: Abby!  Oh, no, Abby’s the one who…
 
Patricia MacLachlan: So, it’s real personal for us. Y’know, cause of all these dogs.  So, now sometime we’ll do a cat book.  
 
[ ...]
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Y’know I Didn’t Do It does have a total different look from Once I Ate A Pie because that’s more almost portraits of dogs and this is active:  like they’re running, romping through the book.  And I like it.
 
Katy Schneider: I like to too, I almost like it better I think.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Well it goes with puppies.  Dogs are a little more stately and self-knowing,  and puppies are just kind of blathering and they’re all just loose, you know…  So these pictures will go in soon, hey?
 
Katy Schneider: Yeah.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And we’ve done another book together, “Painting the Wind.” And ,In fact, I’m in that book!
 
Katy Schneider: Yes.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And my dogs Emmett and Charlie, who just got his stitches out this morning.  Clutched back from the jaws of death—is in there.
 
Katy Schneider: He looks like Dewey [Katy’s dog] a little, something about his size and face.
 
Patricia MacLachlan; Yeah, well they all have that funny terrier look.
 
Katy Schneider: So, that’s that.  I’m gonna take pictures and send them to the editor this week and see…
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Okay.  Do it quickly before the editor goes to another publishing house  So many editors are being laid off from the publishing companies, or moving.  Or just leaving.   I got two letters this morning from two that I’d worked with before saying how they were to be leaving. So it’s a hard time. Which we all take part in …  She’ll like these paintings.
 
Katy Schneider: She didn’t give me any direction as far as the cover, so I…
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And what are you going to have for the cover?
 
Katy Schneider: Well, the kids were like, “Do Dewey!”  [laughter]  He was sitting in the Clementine box so I thought… [gestures to painting pictured below]  So unless she tells me to do something other… I didn’t know if they wanted a repetition of [one of the  other illustrations].
 
 
Erin Daly: Would you talk a bit about how Once I Ate A Pie came about? You had already done one book together, right?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Yes, Painting the Wind was the first one we did together. I think I got you into this, didn’t I?
 
Katy Schneider: Yeah.
 
Patricia MacLachlan; I said, “Do you want to do a book together?” Because she was a portrait painter, then.
 
Katy Schneider: I like the still lives and my husband does landscapes.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: So she used a lot of her portraits, too.  [Portraits] that she had [already].  And Emily and I have always been interested in painting and art and how it relates to life… and we certainly did dogs in this book, too.
 
Katy Schneider: Isn’t that what gave you the idea?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Yes, that’s what gave me the idea because you had at least two dogs.
 
Katy Schneider: Each person had a dog so there were four.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: It’s true the painters all had dogs.
 
Katy Schneider: So they liked the dogs in the book and then I think they said, Let’s just do dogs for the next book.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And Katy was ready so it was a natural transition.
 
Katy Schneider: yeah.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: I think we can’t do dogs anymore. I think we have to go to something – marmots or something.  
 
Katy Schneider: Unless it’s the story of one dog.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: That’s true.
 
Katy Schneider: One very special dog…
 
Daniella Bordonaro: In the first book Once I Ate A Pie, what’s your favorite dog?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: I don’t know if I have a favorite.  See there’s Wupsi, modeled after a picture my son took when I went to Africa to visit.
 
Katy Schneider: That was mine, so I have to say, mine.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: That was her puppy.
 
 
 
Katy Schneider: That really captured his essence.  And I like this one too.  If I had to have two of the dogs I would take these two [flips pages showing a Pug and a German shepherd].
 
 
Patricia MacLachlan: I’ve seen a million of these [looking at the page with the German shepherd].  This was my daughter’s dog who would always open the bathroom door when I was in there because he wanted me back in the living room because he was a herder. And I’d always say, “Close the door!” I could never teach him to close the door and there I was, y’know in the bathroom! And this is my daughter’s dog, her name is really Tess, but we called her [Lucy], she was from the pound –“dog with issues”. And she’s better now.  And there’s Wupsi from Africa and that’s just what Wupsi looks like.  And there’s Botox… Here’s the barker.
 
Katy Schneider: Can’t say he’s my favorite.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: No, he’s not my favorite either, but everybody has a dog like that.  This is Sugar who was a…
 
Katy Schneider: Pit Bull right?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Yes.  She was a special kind of Pit Bull. And she’s dead now, but she was the dearest sweetest dog.  And these three [greyhounds] lived in my town and they’re all adopted from the racetrack and they were just magnificent, because they are not only beautiful and graceful, they don’t bark, they just look at you and invite you into the house, so they’re a fabulous breed.  Needle nose I kind of made up because we needed another one and my dogs they get into mail and other things.
 
Katy Schneider: Most kids like Pocket the best.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: They do like Pocket, don’t they, because he’s got a raincoat on.
 
Katy Schneider: Pocket lives across the street.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And I can’t tell you how many people like this because this is a very popular breed now and they all have them.
 
Katy Schneider: What is the breed?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Boston bull… no Boston Terrier.  So, my friend has one named Ruby, my hair cutter has one named Dora.  And these two white dogs at the end of the book: When Emily and I wrote this book ,(Emily, the wonderful absentee), and we wrote this about friends who had Bernese Mountain Dogs which are huge black dogs and you went to look at them and they were hard to paint because they were so black- so Katy turned them in to these [West Highland Terriers]. These are fun to do with kids because you read it across the page like a play – a dialogue between two dogs.
 
Katy Schneider: And did you know that everybody does the greyhound one in British accents?
 
 
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Oh, do they!   I don’t know where Luke came from but he’s…
 
Katy Schneider: He’s from that car fix-it shop.  He’s the nicest hugest dog ever.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Well Emily’s new adopted dog is going to be that big because he’s got some of that breed in him.
 
Katy Schneider: That’s so great. She’s lucky.  They’re so nice.  
 
 
 
Patricia MacLachlan: They’re so nice. Emily said we went for temperament this time, even though it’s going to be huge.
 
Katy Schneider: I would like to get one.  Once the bunny goes.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Now, see, what we just were talking about—doing a book about one dog.
 
Katy Schneider: Yeah.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: There, Katy.
 
Katy Schneider: which one?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: I don’t know.
 
[laughter]
 
Daniella Bordonaro: Katy, how long does it take you to make one of these [paintings]?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: She’s fast!
 
Katy Schneider: Y’know, I had a really busy semester, I was teaching a new class in addition another one and I was kind of frazzled about it and the editor – we went through three editors and okay so I stopped work the end of April and started… So, two weeks it took me to do all of these.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: She’s very fast. Once she gets all the stuff in her head and she’s got all of her resource material.
 
Katy Schneider: I did all the drawing so I knew what I was going to do, but to actually start painting them I mean, that one took one day [pointing], that one took one day, most of them took a day and then I went back in on another day for a few hours, so I would say maybe six hours each.
 
 
Patricia MacLachlan: That dog doesn’t look as big as he is because there’s nothing next to him.  Do you realize that?  I’ve seen that dog.
 
Katy Schneider: This one? He doesn’t look big enough.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: You know it just struck me because I just saw the dog this week and he’s this tall [holds hand at waist height]. And he goes into the lake and it’s like a little pony in the lake, so I don’t know.
 
Katy Schneider: Should we put a scale change something-or-other in it?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: No, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I’m just looking at them thinking that…
 
Katy Schneider: Little tiny person?
 
Patricia MacLaclan: I don’t know. I’m not really criticizing it.  I just am thinking.
 
Katy Schneider: yeah, I mean I think…
 
Patricia MacLachlan; (joking) little house, a little house behind his rear end… See working with Katy is great because she calls me up and sends me things to look at and talk about and that’s really nice because I don’t send her my writing and say what do you think of this one?  
 
[Katy laughs]
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Working with your daughter is really funny. I had two boys and then I had Emily – the boys were really much easier to raise.  Emily was tough ..and she said to me one day when we were writing, “I was awful wasn’t I?” and I said, “No, you were a joy.” But, we get back into that mother daughter framework the minute we’re working together. One time she said to me, (she’d really make a great editor “What “Are you committed to that sentence?”  Which was a nice way of saying, I hate it and I just loved that because it’s really funny. We write quite a bit alike so it’s hard to tell what she’s written and what I’ve written.  That’s why it’s fun to do these because we work on one together.  I’m trying to get her to work on a novel with me, but that makes her have to faint. She thinks writing a novel would be terrible, terribly hard.
 
Katy Schneider: Seems hard to me.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Well painting a book seems hard to me.
 
 
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Rudy really is a beautiful dog. [Katy’s dog, pictured above, in Once I Ate A Pie, poem titled Puppy]
 
Katy Schneider: God rest his soul.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: God rest his soul. I know they’re so many that are gone that we like.  And when John and Karen were here from Africa with Ella, their caretaker nanny dog died.  And they were very sad that they were so far away.  It was a real emotional thing. We’re all terribly tied to our animals. I hope Katy and I work together again.
 
Katy Schneider: and I like working with you.
 
Patricia MacLachlan; And we’ve never really taken a character through a book.
 
Katy Schneider: I think it’d be great, because they just look so different all the time, I mean like a person, there are so many great poses and then you could turn it into whole scenes.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Well I had come up with books, a kind of idea about a dog that writes.  Rufus Writes.  I just thought it would be a great idea, he could leave notes for people:  “more snacks please and “y’know, I don’t want to go to the vet.” And the idea of a dog [like that] would actually be kind of a comic book.
 
Katy Schneider: That sounds much more like a surreal artist.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: It does, but maybe you can do surreal. I’ll give her two days and she’ll do it. But you know, working together with an illustrator you know can be very complex.  I know you’ve talked to other people about this.  But when we as writers get through a book we really do, if we are honest and true professional writers, give it up. It’s like having a child and when the child goes to college you can’t tell it what time he or she comes in at night. You give it up and so we’re good at giving up and so it becomes her [the illustrator’s] book.  And I’m really pretty good at doing that don’t you think? I don’t ever foist my ideas on you.
 
Katy Schneider: No, but I hope that you look at it when I’m done and you think oh I’m glad that she did that and I thought of something else.
 
 
 
Patricia MacLachlan:,  It really is a collaboration, but it’s an independent collaboration.  She takes it and goes with it and she has a different view of it. I’ve written picture books before and given them over and they come with completely different characters than I had in mind when I’d written it. I mean Through Grandpa’s Eyes is one I remember that I wrote -  a story about a blind grandfather and his grandchild and I had my father who is not blind, but I thought about him and my son – and it came with different people. You’re startled for a minute and then you aren’t anymore because the book has a life of its own. That’s kind of the magical part of this, I think.
 
Erin Daly: Katy, you said you work with oil paints, do you always work with oil paints?
 
Katy Schneider: yeah, I love it.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: you don’t do watercolor do you?
 
Katy Schneider: No, you know, I had a really bad experience with watercolor in high school…
 
Patricia MacLachlan: That sounds like a bad date!
 
[laughter]
 
Katy Schneider: and I just, I just felt like you can’t make a mistake, but it was before I knew so many other things, like how to paint light and stuff.
 
Patricia MacLachla: Yes.
 
Katy Schneider: But I feel like I can use oil paint like watercolor.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And you do.
 
Katy Schneider: Like here, when I rub it in it looks like a wash.  It does everything, oil paint and then it’s forgiving, I could wash it right off.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: You know how to, sort of, manage it.  And David paints in watercolors.
 
Katy Schneider: My husband does landscapes.  He does oil and he does really nice watercolors.  He can use different paper, and he does all different mediums.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: He does. So you have some of the original art from Once I Ate A Pie right?
 
Katy Schneider: I have all of those paintings…
 
[Katy rummages around in boxes]
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Now will you at any time take these to New York City and show them [to the editors] in person?
 
Katy Schneider: Yeah, I have to take them by June first.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: That’s just a couple of weeks.
 
Katy Schneider: I know, I have to get cranked.  I’ve been literally ball and chained to the studio, which has been really fun, I love that.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: I know you do. That’s what you do, other than be a mother and a cook and all that.
 
[Katy shows us some sketches, but doesn’t have sketches for each piece]
 
Katy Schneider: I like to go straight to painting.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Well that’s what you do you’re a painter. You don’t draw, do you?
 
Katy Schneider: I used to sketch and draw, but I’m much faster at painting than I am at drawing so it’s like why slow down?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Do you think it has something to do with color and texture?
 
Katy Schneider: Paint just, oil paint just moves really fast. And sometimes I’ll do a drawing and it will look nothing [like I wanted it to]. And I’ll think “Oh I think I want to paint this.”  Once you have the color it doesn’t translate. So, that’s a step that just never really helped me.  I probably should investigate doing more drawing for my paintings, but I don’t. That’s what’s nice about working so small on my other paintings.  If I don’t like it I change it.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And you know, actually, before we did our first book, I bought a couple of her portraits. I said “I think you do flowers, too.” I have two of her flower paintings.  Then one day she said to me “I’m tired of doing people and flowers, let me do your dogs.”  She did a portrait of my dogs and actually it’s a great portrait, I don’t have a picture of it here… and it was so great and that is what ultimately led to us working together.
Patricia MacLachlan: He does. So you have some of the original art from Once I Ate A Pie right?
 
Katy Schneider: I have all of those paintings…
 
[Katy rummages around in boxes]
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Now will you at any time take these to New York City and show them [to the editors] in person?
 
Katy Schneider: Yeah, I have to take them by June first.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: That’s just a couple of weeks.
 
Katy Schneider: I know, I have to get cranked.  I’ve been literally ball and chained to the studio, which has been really fun, I love that.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: I know you do. That’s what you do, other than be a mother and a cook and all that.
 
[Katy shows us some sketches, but doesn’t have sketches for each piece]
 
Katy Schneider: I like to go straight to painting.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Well that’s what you do you’re a painter. You don’t draw, do you?
 
Katy Schneider: I used to sketch and draw, but I’m much faster at painting than I am at drawing so it’s like why slow down?
 
Patricia MacLachlan: Do you think it has something to do with color and texture?
 
Katy Schneider: Paint just, oil paint just moves really fast. And sometimes I’ll do a drawing and it will look nothing [like I wanted it to]. And I’ll think “Oh I think I want to paint this.”  Once you have the color it doesn’t translate. So, that’s a step that just never really helped me.  I probably should investigate doing more drawing for my paintings, but I don’t. That’s what’s nice about working so small on my other paintings.  If I don’t like it I change it.
 
Patricia MacLachlan: And you know, actually, before we did our first book, I bought a couple of her portraits. I said “I think you do flowers, too.” I have two of her flower paintings.  Then one day she said to me “I’m tired of doing people and flowers, let me do your dogs.”  She did a portrait of my dogs and actually it’s a great portrait, I don’t have a picture of it here… and it was so great and that is what ultimately led to us working together.
 
 
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Daniella Bordonaro
photo by Karen Zwick
Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest.  Photo by Anne Messer.