Gail E. Haley oral history interview 16, 2009 January 30
Gail Haley, an author and illustrator of children's literature born in Charlotte, North Carolina, recounts her career in the mid 2000s. In this final interview of sixteen, Ms. Haley describes her work on My Father's Beast (2006). Ms. Haley recalls how she was motivated to create the book after her interactions with a friend recovering from alcoholism. The combination of her own experiences with alcoholism and those of others culminated in a desire to create a work which would address the subject. At the suggestion of her sister, Ms. Haley decided to create a book tailored for the children of alcoholics which could be used as a tool by counsellors working with the children. Ms. Haley also discusses the narrative choices she made in My Father's Beast, including her decision to create an allegory, personifying alcoholism in order to depersonalize the story and allow the reader to disassociate the identity of the parent from his behavior. Other choices referenced were making the father the alcoholic figure, which she felt would show greater impact on the family, and depicting the family together at the end in order to convey that there is hope in the situation. In addition, Ms. Haley describes creating the illustrations for the text by using hand-crafted paper to form collages on which she painted faces and shadows. She chose this medium by reasoning that children would be able to connect with the images because children are able to make collages from a young age. She also felt the patchwork nature of the illustrations communicated the universal impact of alcoholism. Ms. Haley reflects on her color choices throughout the illustrations which feature primarily bright colors to offset the situation being depicted. She then discusses her choice to create racially ambiguous characters by using paper bags to create the characters' skin tones, thus allowing the characters to appeal to a broader audience. Other themes in this interview include rituals, motifs in fairy tales, alcoholism, and treatments for addiction.