Author/illustrator Anastasia Kierst
Author/illustrator Anastasia Kierst

I’m an author/illustrator. I was dragged (kicking and screaming) in to illustration when a family friend asked me to illustrate Hummingbird Heaven. The project seemed daunting but when I finished, I decided that the next book I illustrated would be my own. That decision became Imagination Vacation Yellowstone.


Here’s an interview from the My Writing Process Blog Tour, that sums up quite a bit about who I am as an author/illustrator:


Right now I’m wrapping up the illustrations for Goldibear and the Three Campers (now in print). The idea came to me as I sat in the car in a parking lot in Boulder, Colorado. We spend a lot of time in the mountains there and I’d read The Beast in the Garden, an account of the cougar related tragedies that shook the Boulder area in the late 1980s. It had me thinking about the complicated relationships between wildlife and people who live on the fringes of the wilderness. From that heavy material the idea for a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, emerged. I’m hoping that this book will spread the word that responsible, bear-conscious living will keep both bears and people safe.


I try to write with a venue in mind. I travel a lot and sometimes a story just seems to grow from a place. This was definitely the case with the Imagination Vacation Series. Having a venue in mind makes my books enticing to the gift shop market and keeps my work from getting lost in the shuffle of traditional bookstores.


Anastasia (left) backpacking with her parents in Yellowstone National Park
Anastasia (left) backpacking with her parents in Yellowstone National Park

I write with an education/conservation mindset. My family spent a lot of time traveling, camping and exploring the great outdoors. My dad is a geologist and my mom an artist so family vacations had a way of turning into field trips and artistic and scholarly expeditions. I always felt that my parents were my best and first teachers. They’ve definitely been the inspiration for the Imagination Vacation series. The series teaches geology as it follows the fictional family on their adventures. Lesson plans in the back of the book make it easy to expand learning. My hope is that it will inspire families to see vacation time as an opportunity for a memorable, educational adventure.

Conserving biodiversity is the theme behind P is for Pangolin, an alphabet of obscure, endangered and underappreciated animals. There are so many creatures that are on the brink of extinction and yet are practically unheard of to the general public. The book has lesson plans in the back that teach conservation and a “Learn More or Donate” section where I’ve listed reputable conservation organizations that work to protect the forgotten species.


My studio!

This question makes me laugh because sometimes it seems to work so slowly! I guess it begins with a quick jotting down of the general story or idea. I do all of my own illustration, layout and book design so the next step is choosing a format/size for the book. Then I set up a file and add the pages, deciding how the text will fall and where page breaks will be. Once I have an idea of how much text will occupy the pages I move on to story-boarding with thumbnail sketches. Somewhere along the way the process of researching and fact-checking kicks in. I love research and I’ll spend hours on details, like making sure that the plants and animals are appropriate to the geologic era I’m depicting. Illustration is definitely the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process but I also find it to be the most rewarding part of the process. I illustrate in a watercolor collage style. I have kind of a mad scientist approach to watercolor; tossing everything from salt, rubbing alcohol, string, plastic, leaves, spaghetti, even hair onto the paint to get the effects I’m looking for. Once I’m happy with a painted piece I scan it and assemble the collage in PhotoShop. Layout is completed in InDesign and then it’s off to my wonderful editor, Ashley Argyle.