Interview with children’s book author and illustrator Cathleen Francisco

I have author and
illustrator Cathleen Francisco here
today to chat with me about her new children’s book, OH! The Things You Can See In The Dark!
Cathleen Francisco is a
Sonoma, CA-based photographer and author of two books on wine. This is her
first children’s book and one that has been eight years in the making. The idea
for the book had been realized for some time but without the ability to draw or
paint she was at a loss as to how to visually express the landscapes she was
By expanding upon the
tools of her craft, exploring digital photography and incorporating Photoshop,
she was able to bring her illustrations and the book to life. She can often be
found wandering vineyards, camera in hand, with her dog Belle.
Welcome, Cathleen. Please tell us about your current
OH! The Things You Can See In The Dark! is a picture book for children and adults of all
ages. The premise of the book is to reveal that which can only be seen in the
dark or those things made more glorious by the absence of light. While we may
often perceive the dark to be ominous, the book shows a magical aspect of the
night through the vibrant and lush imagery used. There may be a note of tension
in a storm cloud or a rolling sea, but the components of the images are
familiar and the scene is ultimately quieting, curious and inviting. Showing
the dark as a place of discovery offers an opportunity to engage in the wonder
and beauty of the night.
The text is divided between
child and adult. For the child, simple questions that can lead to curious
discoveries. For the adult, a bit of trivia to offer a stepping off place for
the reader to begin a dialogue with the child, create a story of their own, or
continue to explore the night.
What inspired you to write this book?
A young friend of mine
suffered terribly with night terrors, her fear of the dark so intense that even
the simplest of pleasures, like going to a movie or camping under the stars,
were terrifying prospects. No words could be found to alleviate her fears,
because to her, the dark was an unsafe place, void of beauty and mystery. I
started to think about the dark and what it meant to me. Yes, it could be
scary, but what about all those things made more beautiful in the absence of
light, all the life that exists beyond our sight and how busy and colorful the
night truly is? That was the dark I wanted my young friend to see.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Book two of OH! – working on
the image for bats and lightning. Also would like to do a book in similar
fashion about places we live – animals and people.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote stories for my
children when they were little, poetry when I was younger. I was always in love
with words, how they shaped imagination and offered up worlds to discover. When
I started exploring photography I found a similar experience of discovery.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to
I do not write full time
but am always jotting down ideas or sketching it out. I am never without a
piece of paper and pencil. I do work as an educator part time but the best time
for me to write is in the late afternoon and into evening, out in my garden,
when the world settles in and quiet abounds.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Tons of note books – large
and small, pockets size and sketch size and every size in between. Random notes
and drawings all over them – I enjoy going back over them to see what journey I
was on how different the illustration and story turned out.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A botanist
Anything additional you want to share with the
I enjoy children’s books
that not only engage the child but the older reader as well and that is what
OH! is all about – taking you to a place of discovery and exploration. I think
curiosity is a gift and one we should relish all our days.

Thanks for being here today, Cathleen!

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