Interview with Sarah FergusonOctober, 2009
SS: How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
SF: One percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
SS: What is your motto or maxim?
SF: Focus on your goal, and just keep plodding towards it with blinders on.
What Readers want to know...
SS: How would you describe perfect happiness?
I love to perform. First as a ballet dancer, and now, when I go out to promote my books, I get to perform for audiences. Happiness to me is when I'm in the spotlight. I'm very lucky. I have a wonderful husband and children who are (knock on wood -- I am very superstitious) happy and healthy, who allow me to do what I love...which is basically to sit at my drafting table coloring every day, and occasionally stepping out into the limelight.
SS: What’s your greatest fear?
SF: That someone would sneak up on me while I'm sleeping and shave off one of my eyebrows.
SS: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
SF: My favorite city is London -- I wish I had an English accent! Like Ruby in my book, I'm hoping one day to have tea with the Queen.
SS: With whom in history do you most identify?
SF: When I was a child, prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn was my dream and inspiration. Unfortunately, I was never that good a dancer.
SS: Which living person do you most admire?
SF: My mother, who is my greatest role model.
SS: What are your most overused words or phrases?
SF: Down, Boo, down! (spoken to the dog)
SS: What do you regret most?
SF: That I didn't make the most of my ballet career when I had the chance. Ballet requires sacrifice, determination, and above all, hard work, and I was too young to really understand that at the time. However, I'd learned those lessons by the time I launched my second career and and I'm grateful to have been given a second chance.
SS: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
SF: The ability to train my dog to stop chewing the sofa.
SS: What is your greatest achievement?
SF: That I have been able to make a living in the arts my whole life, and combine it with raising children (Sasha, 17 and Ben, 14) who I not only love, but I really like.
SS: What’s your greatest flaw?
SF: I've never been very good at following rules...
SS: What’s your best quality?
SF: I don't hold grudges.
SS: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
SF: My dog Boo, because she gets away with murder, and all she needs to do all day is eat and sleep.
SS: What trait is most noticeable about you?
SF: I've always worn my hair pulled back in a bun or ponytail, and despite not having danced for over 20 years now, it's a habit I cannot break.
SS: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
SF: Harriet the Spy
SS: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
SF: The Wicked Witch of the West, the original version
SS: If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A number of years ago I did a book with Lynne Cheney called A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women. In doing the research on these great American women in history, I was so awed and inspired by what these women were able to acheive -- and what they had to go through to give women of my generation and the next the ability to go after our own dreams with fewer stumbling blocks along the way. So many women, both nameless and well-known, worked so hard. I would be thrilled and honored to meet any one of them in order to say thanks.
SS: What is your biggest pet peeve?
SF: When people are not efficient and are wasteful of other people's time.
SS: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
SF: Going to the theater, in New York or London.
SS: What’s your fantasy profession?
SF: I don't have to fantasize, I live it every day! My studio is just steps off my bedroom, so I am fortunate to be living my fantasy.
SS: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
SF: A sense of humor, kindness, and vitality
SS: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
SF: Banana Cream Pie! My mother still makes it for me every time I come home (occasionally she'll make two -- one for the family and one just for me!)
SS: What are your 5 favorite songs?
SF: I Got You Babe, Stand By Me, Michael Bublé's Everything, Somewhere (There's a Place for Us), At Last
SS: What is your birthdate?
SS: What were your previous occupations?
SF: My first career was as a professional ballet dancer. I danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet for 11 years before going back to school to become a children's book illustrator.
SS: What was/is your favorite job?
SF: Always the book I am currently working on.
SS: Where did you go to high school and/or college?
SF: Professional Children's School for high school while I studied at the American Ballet Theatre school (now known as the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School), and Parsons The New School for Design for my B.A. degree (begun at age 30).
SS: Name of your favorite composer or music artist?
SF: Leonard Bernstein
SS: What is your favorite movie?
SF: My latest favorite movie is Pixar's WALL-E. The emotion the animators were able to bring to a few pieces of hardware and a couple of eyeballs is extraordinary.
SS: What is your favorite television show?
SF: I adore the show Monk. I am always interested in character, and how the writers (and actor Tony Shalhoub) have been able to create such a rich, complicated character who battles all kinds of afflictions yet remains so lovable is, to me, enormously satisfying.
Questions About Books and Writing
SS: Who are your favorite authors?
Fran Lebowitz, my cousin, who had her first New York Times best-selling book when I was young and impressionable and she inspired me to want to work in this field.
SS: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
My five favorite children's books are:
Zlateh the Goat, by Isaac Bashevis Singer, illustrations by Maurice Sendak
Eloise, by Kay Thompson, illustrations by Hilary Knight
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, illustrations by Sir John Tenniel
Now We Are Six, by A.A. Milne, illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard
All the World, by Elizabeth Garton Stanlon, illustrations by Marla Frazee
SS: Is there a book you love to reread?
SF: I have three sisters with whom I am very close, so I have always loved Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.
SS: Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
SF: Advice for new ILLUSTRATORS: Keep working at it and do not get discouraged; it took me 20 years to develop my style and to really get to know what I was doing in this field so do not give up!
SS: What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
SF: People most often comment about the details in my pictures -- I love to layer lots and lots of action, humor and surprise into my illustrations.
Get more on Sarah Ferguson at SimonandSchuster.com