Books and Food with Kelsey Garrity Riley

Secret Society of Books: Two things I imagine for your book inspiration:

Idea one: You were sitting in a cozy restaurant pushing your dumplings around on their plate and you imagined them dancing on a stage.

Idea two: You were asked in an interview what your favorite food was and you couldn’t decide and thought “that would make a great book! “

Close? No? Tell us where did your inspiration come from?

Kelsey: Oh my gosh, I love these scenarios! They aren’t entirely off the mark from what really inspired the book.  I’m definitely like Frankie in that I would be hard pressed to pick an absolute favorite food. When we moved to NYC 5 years ago I was so excited by the unending options of new places to try. Specifically I would go to Chinatown in Manhattan once a week and try a new restaurant, and paint my meal in a little notebook. That excitement overlapped with Halloween when I was stuck inside working on a deadline. I got distracted sketching out ideas for dream costumes I would want to dress up in. There was a pretzel in the mix, and I think some berries. From there my love of drawing kids in food costumes was born. 

SSOB: Were you a picky eater as a child?

K: Not at all! I’ve always loved most foods. I mean there were definitely some things I was squeamish about trying as a kid ( not super into fish, definitely not into oysters. etc) but there weren’t any veggies or fruit I didn’t like. But I now have a 16 month old who is decidedly not into food in general, so I’m having to learn how to navigate pickyish eating in a different way.

SSOB: Did you observe or eat a lot of food for inspiration? Do you consider yourself a foodie?

K: Whether it was specifically intentioned as inspiration or not I was definitely having a blast eating all kind of wonderful food all over NYC around the time I was writing the book! Definitely inspired a lot of it. Although ironically – I was finishing going over edits to the manuscript and sketches with Tundra during my first trimester pregnant with my son. I was nauseous all the time, and for the first time in my life didn’t want to be thinking about food at all!

I don’t think I’m a specific foodie. I just enjoy it all. Specifically trying food from different cultures and the way preparing a meal can bring people together.

SSOB: If you could take your favorite kid lit author/illustrator out for dinner who would that be with?

K: Carson Ellis, her work is just unparalleled. 

SSOB: Have you ever been in a school play? If yes, what part did you play?

K: I played Miss Havisham in our junior high production of Great Expectations. The whole thing was so over our heads at the time! But it was a lot of fun.

SSOB: We love your work, what are you working on next that we can keep an eye out for?

K:Thank you so much, I love your instagram. I’m currently working on final art for a picture book written by Nina Laden with Macmillan, and on my second picture book with Tundra. ( I can’t say much about it, mostly because its in a very early stage- but I’m building a world around my mushroom characters for it which is a dream come true!)