I’m Mark C. Collins, and I’m an illustrator and newbie children’s book author.
As an artist, I’ve been drawing since the age of 2, spent 20 years as a graphic designer after art school, and have been a professional illustrator since 2001. In the past decade, I’ve done illustrations for textbooks, packaging, magazines, and other authors’ books (some of these include Annette R. Burrell’s “Danny Cricket”book series (Amazon.co.uk – Amazon.com), and Mark Shulman’s sticker book, “The Insect Invaders”(Amazon.co.uk – Amazon.com)
Ever since my teens, I have written poetry as a hobby, then several years ago I began writing short stories just for fun. One day it hit me, “Hey, why don’t I utilize my design, illustration, and writing skills into making my own children’s books?”
My book, “GRANDMA STINKS!” is my first self-published children’s picture book combining those 3 skills.
“GRANDMA STINKS!” is told in first-person by a little girl named Emma. When Emma’s mother informs her that Grandma is coming to live with Emma and her parents, Emma is so excited! But when Grandma arrives, Emma discovers that Grandma is… well, rather stinky! Emma never lets Grandma know, but she is vocal about it to her parents, and especially to the reader.
Throughout the book, Emma’s various interactions with Grandma are always punctuated with a, “GRANDMA STINKS!” as Emma looks out to the reader in disgust! The reader, however, is never informed why Grandma stinks, nor what she specifically smells like. No matter! Emma goes through a series of schemes, intended as possible solutions to Grandma’s malodorous condition, but all result in failure.
Without giving away the ending, let’s just say that Emma learns a lesson in tolerance and unconditional love.
Initially, “GRANDMA STINKS!” grew out of my desire to write and illustrate a purely irreverent children’s book. My inspiration was gross-out cartoons like Ren & Stimpy, or any of the numerous other children’s books on relatively offensive topics like farting, etc. However, as I got through most of the first draft, it became apparent that I wasn’t as interested in shock value as I was entertaining young readers, while incorporating a simple lesson on compassion.
Besides, everyone has their own unique scent. Some are sweet, and some, not so much. It can be subjective, but regardless, it’s one of nature’s ways of tagging us as individuals.
Often times we can’t smell ourselves, so we subsequently can’t identify if we offend (that’s why it’s a good idea to bathe regularly whether we feel dirty or not).
History tells us that even though our ancestors probably didn’t bathe daily (heck, most probably bathed less than once a week), I imagine their personal odors must have been awful. But that’s just my perspective – one that’s coming from modern-day hygiene habit recommendations and countless products not only created to cleanse us, but also give the impression of “clean”, via an artificial scent that’s supposed to be based on one found in nature! Our ancestors probably were conditioned to the stench of their pungent neighbors, and from there their culture accepted what should have been deemed offensive, as the norm.
As a kid at my grandma’s house on Thanksgiving, my siblings, cousins, and I often discreetly discussed our grandmother’s particular smell. It was hard to determine the exact thing she smelled of, but my best guess in retrospect was that it was a combination of mothballs and turkey stuffing. Not only did she smell like that combo, but her house AND her cooking did as well… all the time. It wasn’t offensive, nor was it appealing. It just… was. We loved her regardless. It was HER smell, and hers only. She could have smelled of hard-boiled eggs and we would have found her to be just as lovable as she always was. None of us ever dared to tell her what we were thinking, however. Kids can be cruel, but we weren’t THAT cruel.
I imagine our grandmother’s ranking on the broad ‘Continuum of Grandmotherly Odors’ was somewhere down the middle. I also imagine the grandmothers (let’s not forget grandfathers, and elderly aunts & uncles) of other kids to be much more offensive. This could be a result of ill health, bad hygiene, or even the use of too much perfume (an irony I find amusing when you consider perfumes were historically used to hide bad smells due to poor hygiene or health).
As adults, our noses have been exposed to nearly every sampling of human scent, and we’ve become accustomed to, and accept these odors as relatively normal. Children, on the other hand, don’t have that level of exposure, and thus find new smells to be curious, unusual, and sometimes downright offensive.
As offensive as my book’s title may seem, it’s only outwardly verbalizing what many of us feel, and most of us would agree that we know and love someone who is rather odiferous. Besides, kids find humor in the off-beat, the over-the-top, and especially, the STINKY!
Why did I choose a young girl as the main character for “GRANDMA STINKS!” ?
As a male, I naturally have no reference point nor sensibility of a young girl when portraying human emotional responses, yet I chose a girl because I liked the contrast between her very expressive reaction to her Grandmother (it’s generally assumed that boys are the ones who vocalize disgust openly and without tact), and the fact that she’s a little girl. Conversely, her reaction to the more sensitive aspects of her Grandma are once again magnified because of Emma’s gender. There’s a sincerity present, which I don’t think would have been as convincing had I chosen a boy for the main character.
In illustrating the book, I wanted something that would focus on the simple story line without distracting from it with too many pictorial details. I chose to use a style that reflected that simplicity, with a bit of a retro feel.
I self-published “GRANDMA STINKS!” because I wanted total freedom to write and illustrate the book the way I envisioned. Going through a publisher would most likely mean giving up much of that creative freedom, and having been a commercial artist for over two decades, I no longer felt like being a team player where my art is concerned. Frankly, waiting around for months for a publisher’s response wasn’t something I wanted to deal with either, especially if that response would most likely be a rejection letter. LOL
In addition to “GRANDMA STINKS!”, I’m pleased to announce the recent release of my latest book, “Ben’s Day”.
My work and I can be found at the following:
Facebook Mark Collins Illustration
7 thoughts on “Meet Guest Author Mark C. Collins (illustrator & children’s books)”
Thanks for featuring me, Chris!
And thanks to those of you who replied! 🙂
Welcome Mark 😀
As talented as ever!!!!! Love love love your work!!!!!!
I know exactly what you mean about people having a particular smell. Both my sets of grandparents did and it was different for both sets.
What a great article about a very talented Illustrator! I had the pleasure of meeting Mark many years ago when his son took music lessons at the community music school in which I worked. I can’t wait to read this!
Sounds great fun for kids.