Katie Mazeika is an Ohio girl, born and raised! She grew up in Cincinnati, went to The Columbus College of Art and Design, and now lives in Cleveland with her husband, two kids, and two dogs. Katie can’t imagine a better job than making books. She loves creating characters that make an impression. Katie specializes in telling stories based on real people and events and likes to highlight disabled voices in her work. When she’s not drawing, Katie enjoys gardening or reading other people’s books. She wrote and illustrated the picture book Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid (Simon and Schuster, 2022). Visit Katie's website to learn more about her and her work.
1. What was your favorite book when you were a child? Why?
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans because she goes to the hospital and because she shows off her appendix scar, and the other girls are impressed by her bravery. When I was a kid, Madeline was the only picture book character that spent time in a hospital and had a scar. I had cancer when I was three and lost my eye. I spent months at a time in hospitals. Madeline was my hero.
2. What are you working on? What's next for you?
I'm working on another picture book biography for Beach Lane Books: Beulah Has A Hunch. This one is about Beulah Henry. She was the most prolific female inventor of the 20th century, which is incredible considering her education was limited to finishing school. She had a mind that worked differently (synesthesia and hyperphantasia), and, like Annette Kellerman, she refused to give up.
I also have two historical/stem fiction books I'm working on for Beach Lane. One is about Sears Kit houses, and the other is about my grandmother and her sisters. They worked at NELA Park (one of Edison's lightbulb plants and the world's first industrial park.)
3. Do you work on multiple projects at the same time?
Yes and No. I can do final artwork on one project and research or write another or do sketches for another book. I couldn't research more than one book at a time or do final art for more than one book at a time-I would be overwhelmed, and the quality of my work would suffer.
4. Where did you get the idea for Annette Feels Free?
An illustration I did many years ago. I read about Annette Kellerman and created a portfolio piece depicting her arrest on the beach (it was very similar to the spread in my book that shows the arrest). Her story stayed with me and when I started looking for a literary agent, I dove into more research and wrote Annette's story.
5. If you could tell readers one secret about this book, what would it be?
It didn't make it into the book, but Annette was the first actress to appear nude on screen.
6. What's a particularly striking or memorable reaction someone has had to Annette Feels Free?
I've had more than one person tell me they had no idea who Annette Kellerman was before they read my book. I love hearing that! Annette's story is impressive. Her willpower and determination made a difference for women everywhere. Everyone should know her story!