Behind the Book with Naomi Ulsted

Polar Bear and the UFO

This interview – the second of two parts – was conducted via email and FaceTime conversations.

Naomi Ulsted: In general, where do you pull your writing material from?

Cynthia Huijgens: From real life, obviously! Which is how I came up with the idea for Polar Bear and the UFO. Haha, okay, maybe not entirely from real life. Although I’ve seen both a polar bear and a UFO, I’ve never seen them together or talking.

Naomi Ulsted: Wait, what? I have to ask about the UFO.

Cynthia Huijgens: Right, well, my one-and-only sighting occurred when I was a teenager. My girlfriend and I were outside late at night and we saw these lights doing crazy things. We ran home and called the UFO hotline. We were on hold forever, but then they answered and I told them what we’d seen. This was like 1979. I remember feeling so surprised and validated about how seriously they took our experience.

Naomi Ulsted: I saw a UFO once too, I think. But I guess I’ll never know for sure. Anyway, back to Polar Bear and the UFO. How did you find your illustrator?

Cynthia Huijgens: I found the amazing Anne Costa through Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I was at their annual summer conference a couple of years back and the first or second day they were hosting a portfolio show. I spent half the morning looking at every page in every portfolio and making notes of the illustrators whose work I loved. I then met a handful of those illustrators. I chose Anne because I loved her work and she liked my project. SCBWI has provided me with some amazing connections.

Naomi Ulsted: Can you talk a bit about children’s books? Do you have a favourite contemporary author or illustrator?

Cynthia Huijgens: There’s so many! I still love the books I read to my boys like Hey Al, by Arthur Yorinks and illustrated by Richard Egielski, and anything by Shel Silverstein or Roald Dahl, and funny fairytale stuff like The Stinky Cheese Man! I love the illustrations by Mae Besom in Kobi Yamada’s book, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH AN IDEA? and the exquisite debut picture book illustrations by artist Ekua Holmes in Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hammer. Chaaya Prabhat has done an amazing job illustrating the book Cousteau, by Philippe Zwickau Eby. Oh, and I can’t leave Pigs Ahoy! by David McPhail off my list. It’s a story of sheer madness and probably one of my greatest inspirations!

Polar Bear and the UFO Cover Reveal

With much gratitude to illustrator Anne Costa and graphic designer Ardi Wahyudi, Idle Time Press is pleased to share the amazing cover for Polar Bear and the UFO!

For a glimpse behind the book, check out this mini interview with Anne Costa.

What attracted you to Polar Bear and the UFO?

I loved the unexpected assembly of the two characters. That kind of friction can produce some of the most interesting dynamics as writer Cynthia Huijgens has done with Polar Bear and UFO.

What do you bring to the project?

HA! Not sure yet, lets wait and see when the illustrations are done! Seriously, I‘m flattered that Cynthia chose me for this project. I’m having so much fun putting my artistic spin on the story. Choosing the right combination of medium and paper has been my greatest challenge.

Even though you live in Los Angeles CA, Thailand is your home country. What do you miss most about Thailand?

I miss the mobility of being in a small country that you can to go from one place to another relatively cheaply and quickly, much like Europe. I definitely miss the food the most!

Is it true your dad was an extra in Frances Ford Coppola’s epic film Apocalypse Now?

He was! Check him out in the film. Its the bit when they’re going through the water with all the canoes and the men, all painted in white, watch them go by 🙂

Polar Bear and the UFO, part of the debut collection from Idle Time Press, will hit bookstores in September 2020. Watch this space for more news and thank you for your interest in Idle Time Press.