Nancy was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in Columbus, Georgia. She graduated from Rollins College with a degree in English Literature and subsequently co-founded an advertising agency in Dallas, Texas. When Nancy became a mother, she left her advertising career to stay home with her children, something she dearly wanted to do. In 2005, she self published her first book, On the Night You Were Born. It was an instant success.
You know a Nancy Tillman book when you see one. Her unique illustrations prominently feature a child and animals in whimsical settings as if they've been taken right out of a child's dream. Her words are so touching and speak to children in a very motherly, loving tone. Her books put into words what parents feel for their children in a way that you can't help but be moved by. She crafts her books to make children feel loved and comforted. They masterfully do just that.
I was so elated that she gave me the opportunity to ask her a bit more about her work and inspirations. I always like to ask whomever I interview at least one question specifically for other parents, like myself. In this interview I ask Nancy what the greatest lesson she learned staying home with her children was. Her response both surprised and comforted me in a way I didn't realize I needed as a mother. So, once again, I have to thank Nancy Tillman for her words. They always seem to be full of warmth and love.
An Interview with Nancy Tillman
What are the top 3 things inspiring you now?
That’s an interesting number! I am always inspired by wide open spaces and try to put them in my books, especially since children can’t experience them today in the way I did as a child. I am inspired by the beautiful young faces of children looking up at me.
I am inspired by truth…especially the truth of how valuable every child is... and finding new ways to share it.
When did you first decide to write a children’s book?
I’ve always been interested in children’s literature. I was blessed to be able to stay home with my children as they were growing up, but once my youngest was in high school I knew the time was right.
I started a greeting card company first, in order to get back into the print industry… but I was working on the book at the same time. On the Night You Were Born spoke what I felt for my children, and I hoped it would speak for other parents as well.
The whimsical layers of your art are so unique and distinct. How did you begin working with digital art?
Being a lefty, I always smeared art. Digital art works for me because that isn’t an issue! It also gives me a lot of control over final color.
Did your experience in the advertising industry prior to staying home with your kids influence your work?
Yes. I learned a lot about the beauty of clean, negative space. I try to use a lot of that in my work.
How many children do you have?
I have two children and one grandchild. My son Tucker, his wife, Crystal, and my granddaughter Bonnie Jayne live in Anchorage, Alaska. My daughter, Tess, and her husband, Shay, live in Seattle.
What was your favorite stage of raising children?
Oh, definitely when they were of “Santa Claus” age. I loved the magic of Santa and elves and tooth fairies…etc. There’s nothing like seeing wonder in a child’s eyes.
What was the greatest lesson you learned staying home with your children?
I learned that it is quantity, not quality, that counts. They just wanted me there. I also learned to memorize moments. I’d encourage anyone to do that. Take a second in the middle of a wonderful moment and concentrate on memorizing it.
Did you have a favorite book that you read to your own children?
I had many. But my children would say they loved The Napping House, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Story of Ferdinand, and Who Sank the Boat the most.
Each of your books has a message to the child at the end: “You are loved.” Did you decide early on that would be included in all of your books or did it happened organically?
I’d say it was organic. It really crystallizes the message in all of my books and just felt right.
You have written so many books that accurately portray the deep, vast love a parent holds for their child. Do you have a favorite of your own?
I don’t have a favorite. They are all my children. But, since I just lost my father, Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You holds a dear place in my heart right now.
What projects are you currently working on and what can readers look forward to in the months ahead?
My newest book, You’re All Kinds of Wonderful, will be released in October. It is dedicated to every child, everywhere, and teaches children that each one has unique and wonderful talents… but sometimes it takes a while to discover them.
In September , I’ll also have a collection of mini- books, The World is a Wonderland Collection, for the three and under crowd. They fit perfectly into little hands, are specially worded for the wee ones, and feature illustrations from my hardback books.