Who I Am and Why I Write
My name is Rocio Bonilla and I was born with a pencil in my hand, or at least that’s what my mother says. I’ve always loved literature and drawing in any form, which is why I chose to study Fine Arts.
My professional career took me through several disciplines like photography, education, painting, and advertising.
But art—as my first teacher used to say—is like a virus which can virulently awaken after lying dormant for years.
And this is exactly what happened after twelve years of not touching a pencil. It was no accident that I left advertising and plunged into the publishing world. I started illustrating children’s books but the need to tell my own stories kept growing until it became too evident for me to turn a deaf ear. That’s when everything began. Now I know exactly where I have to be.
For me, being a writer is a very serious calling, so I don’t see myself as that. I prefer the word “author”. I’m an author who tells stories and, in doing so, uses words and illustrations, often in equal parts.
My favourite format is the illustrated album because of its versatility and narrative possibilities, as words and images dance together, are equally important, and are mutually enriching. The brevity of the text obliges an exercise of absolute precision, looking for the exact and necessary words, neither too few nor too many, to tell only what the image can’t.
Many people think that children’s literature is a minor genre, the little sister of generalist literature but I can assure you that children are the most demanding and pitiless readers!
I tell stories about children for children because I’m fascinated by their world. I try to speak their language, reflect their world as they see it, always with a generous dose of humour, which I think is essential. I try to get them to share the values and concepts immersed in my stories, but always naturally and through the flow of the narrative or character, and never through moralising. Let’s not forget that the fact that they’re small doesn’t mean that they’re simpletons. I always try, too, to give a nod to adults, to involve them, too, in the process of shared reading.
My own surroundings, my everyday life, are my main source of inspiration. And so are my memories, my experiences, my baggage. I need to write about things that I know so I can feel that the story is honest. And reality makes it easy for me because, as people tend to say, life is stranger than fiction!
I’d define my style as tender, sweet, close, empathetic, but also dynamic, expressive, with a touch of naughtiness and informality, and influenced by the classical comic and cartoon films, which have been with me since I was very young and during my training, leaving a very visible imprint on my way of creating, moving, and making my characters express themselves. My great mentors have been all the books I’ve devoured throughout my life and, in particular, the illustrated albums by a great many other authors, classical and present-day.
When I create a story, I look for what moves me and try to find the best way of conveying it so it will also move the reader. I don’t have specific message in mind but pursue what might become a universal story so that everyone can feel identified with it, and so that it will transmit what I am trying to describe. Thereafter, the interpretation and use made of it by readers is up to them.
Right now, I have no plans for any change of direction. I feel fortunate because my vocation is my profession, proud because my work is present in so many countries, and moved to receive so many marvelous messages from my readers around the world. And, what’s most important, feeling each new project as a great challenge.
Rocio Bonilla, 2020