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Fully Booked Chats: Michelle Sterling & Aaron Asis share their journey in creating When Lola Visits

Fully Booked Chats: Michelle Sterling & Aaron Asis share their journey in creating When Lola Visits

What does summer feel like to you? 

When Lola Visits is an evocative picture book that celebrates gentle bonds of familial love that spans oceans and generations. Written by Michelle Sterling and illustrated by Aaron Asis, the storytelling and lovely illustrations highlight the scents, tastes, and traditions that define a young girl’s summer with her grandmother.

Funny stories of baking mishaps, the aroma of mango jam, and sweet tunes in Tagalog—true enough, When Lola Visits shares the simple joys of togetherness; the perfect book to connect with young children or kids starting to read.

Behind the story

Michelle Sterling is a writer, photographer, and speech-language pathologist and When Lola Visits is her debut book. When she thought about the theme while working on her first title, Sterling had the idea of writing about the glow of summer days because of one familiar smell: peaches.

“It all started one summer when I smelled the ripening of peaches, a sweet smell that made her think about everything she loved about summer as a kid, and the things she loved about summer right now,” said Sterling in an interview with Fully Booked. “I thought it could be a story of a Filipino-American Family.”

Sterling also shared that in some ways, the storyline is based on her own experiences as a child.

“Some of the stories are inspired from memories with my own lola… Childhood memories,” Sterling shared. “These are also things that I’d want to do with my family in the future.”

The heartwarming pictures

While you could feel the warmth through Sterling’s words, there is no denying that readers would equally adore the illustrations found in When Lola Visits.

Asis, an artist based in Manila who was inspired with editorial cartoons as a teenager, explained how the creative collaborative process worked in creating the book. 

“The illustrator has the freedom once he gets the manuscript. The story serves as his screen board. Nonetheless, the Editor, Art Director, and the Author can help, and shall guide him. The whole coordination for the book is all through email,” Asis said.

Sterling also added that with most publishing houses in the US, if there are two or more people working on a book, the author would finish the manuscript and send it to the editor. The editor then would be responsible for sending the manuscript to the illustrator.

When asked how the art style came to be to translate Sterling’s story to beautiful illustrations, Asis shared: “An illustrator is chosen based on his art style. Everything inspired by the story from the visual composition to the overall look and feel of the illustrations. He also added his own experiences through the drawing.”

Moreover, Asis also revealed the scene he enjoyed creating the most, “The Kamayan scene, and it is a full spread and has more spaces for drawing. It portrays the filipino culture and tradition and how it binds our love of food. He also likes the End Papers because of its importance.”

Lightning Questions

Fully Booked: Paperback or Hardcover?

Michelle Sterling: Hardcover since it lasts, while the Paperback is lighter.

Aaron Asis: Hardcover because it looks more special. 

FB: Reading one book at a time or multiple books at the same time?

Both: Multiple for both. 

FB: Bookmark or dog-ear?

MS: Bookmark. Since as a kid I was reprimanded not to do that so the book could last long.

AA: Dog-ear because it’s more convenient.

FB: Early bird or night owl?

MS: Night Owl. I usually work when the home is already quiet and I can focus more. 

AA: Early Bird. I have more energy during the day and I also like to catch the natural light.

Top Three

Books you always recommend

MS: The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease since it explains the benefits of reading aloud to children, Nate the Great Series, and Tikim by Doreen Gamboa Fernandez.

AS: The Little Prince, Kafka on the Shore, One Hundred Years of Solitude. 

Favorite books by Asian authors/artists

MS: Eyes that Kiss in the Corner by Joanna Ho, Water Crest by Andrea Weng, Jason Chin, I Dream of Popo by Julia Kuo.

AS: Karapat-dapat by the members of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, Pagkatapos ng Unos by Haru Munzon, Biyaheng Langit by Vito Nada. 

Best Filipino food for you

MS: Pancit Palabok/Pancit Malabon, Leche Flan, Turon. 

AS: Sisig, Pinakbet, Palabok.

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