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Interview 15 with Gail E. Haley

Haley, Gail E. (15)
Wright, Christina
Date of Interview: 
Haley, Gail E.; Children’s literature; Folk literature; Illustrations; Kokopelli (Pueblo deity); Painting; Interviews (Sound recordings); Oral histories
Gail Haley, an author and illustrator of children’s literature born in Charlotte, N.C., recalls her continuing career as a children’s author. In this fifteenth of sixteen interviews, Ms. Haley discusses her work on Kokopelli (2003). Ms. Haley describes the long gestation of this story, which was originally suggested by a friend but not acted on for over a decade. Eventually, her observation of cicadas in her garden inspired Ms. Haley to research and interpret the legends of Kokopelli, a trickster, sometimes depicted as a cicada, who ushers in spring. Ms. Haley notes that her retelling is a story of emergence as the ant people are led by Kokopelli through colorful underground worlds before arriving on the surface, where they shed their ant skins and become the first humans. Ms. Haley discusses the many versions of the story in addition to the significance of the colors used in her illustrations, which reflect traditional colors available in the southwest region where Kokopelli’s story manifested, and which she sees as ancient and universal colors. Ms. Haley relates her original intention of creating illustrations on interfacing, in a similar method as that used in Two Bad Boys (1996), before altering her technique in order to create crisper illustrations which would be easier to reproduce. She describes painting the illustrations while listening to music and its influence on her designs as well as repeatedly drawing the ant people and creating puppets of their figures until she felt satisfied with their depiction. Other themes in this interview include the role of music in Kokopelli stories; traditions, rituals, and stories across cultures; and the changing roles of illustrators in publishing.
North Carolina--Blowing Rock; circa 1990s - 2008
Interview Setting: 
Charlotte, N.C.
Interviews with Gail E. Haley
Interview Audio: