Cover Reveal: Hello, Door by Alastair Heim and Interview!

Hi Alastair! Thanks for stopping by my blog to reveal the cover for your 2018 picture book, Hello Door.

Thank you, Dylan, for being gracious enough to host the big reveal!   I sincerely appreciate it.

Tell us a little bit about your new book, Hello, Door!  

HELLO, DOOR is the story of Mr. Fox (or “Foxy” as Alisa Coburn, the illustrator, lovingly coined him) as he breaks into a beautiful house that isn’t his.  As he sneaks around throughout the lavish home, he enthusiastically greets everything he sees (and steals) with a polite, “Hello!”  But, just as “Foxy” thinks he’s going to get away scot-free, well…he gets his well-deserved comeuppance. 

Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

I usually think of a book title first, even before I have a story figured out for it – with a few exceptions here and there.  HELLO, DOOR was actually a title that I had written down back in 2012, though I didn’t have an idea for the story until 2016.  I try to set aside a little time, each day, to think up new book titles.  99% of them will never go anywhere, because they’re terrible titles, but I have to get them out of my head so that better ones can find their way in.

Once I have a story worth telling, I tend to write my first drafts very quickly.  It’s the editing and re-editing that takes a bit more time.  Sometimes that takes a day or two, but it oftentimes can take weeks.  When I’m finally feeling good about a particular manuscript, I send it off to my agent. She also makes editing suggestions when something’s not quite working or if I have gotten a bit too wordy here and there – which happens a lot.

I am part of a local critique group, too, which I highly recommend for writers looking to sharpen their craft and tighten their storytelling.  The folks in my group are always good about being completely honest about my work, which I greatly value.  By the time my agent submits a manuscript to a publisher, it’s usually been seen by a number of my most trusted advisors – my kids included.

Have you always been into writing?

Yes.  My passion for writing really began with a story I wrote in sixth grade called BAR WARS.  It was a parody of STAR WARS, featuring a cast of candy bar characters with deliciously delightful names such as Jelly Rolo, Charleston Chewie and Granola the Nut.  A few years later, in high school, I wrote a poem for my freshman English class that was called DETENTION.  Unbeknownst to me, my English teacher submitted the poem to a statewide poetry contest and I ended up winning second place.  The poem went on to place fifth runner up nationally and I received a check for a whopping $19 (I affectionately refer to it as my “first paying gig”). 

To be honest, though, the thought of writing books professionally had never really crossed my mind after I reached adulthood.  It wasn’t until my first child was born that the inspiration and motivation to pursue picture books really took hold.  I truly owe all of this to my kids, which is something I tell them all the time.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Reading my books to kids at schools, by far, has been the greatest part of this whole experience.  Kids are smart, perceptive and funny and it’s always awesome to watch them react when I’m reading aloud to them.  Kids are also my best critics and aren’t afraid to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about your stories – especially my own children. 

Another aspect of the job that I absolutely ADORE is when I get to see illustrations for the first time.  I can’t draw to save my life (I wish I could), so to see my stories through someone else’s eyes has been amazing.  I’ve been lucky enough to have been paired with three incredibly talented illustrators – Alisa Coburn, Sara Not and Kim Smith.  They have brought these books to life in ways far better than anything I could have imagined.  It’s really an honor when someone puts as much thought, charm and love into the illustrations as I try to do with the writing.  And these three incredibly talented artists totally knocked it out of the park – in my humble opinion.

What inspires your creativity?

While I’ve always had a weird, creative, writer-ish brain, there are two things that consistently inspire me – COMEDY and MY KIDS.  I am a huge fan of humor and try to weave it into every story I write.  I really want my books to be entertaining, read-aloud experiences for both parent and child. It’s important for me as a dad to find books that I enjoy reading and my kiddos love hearing over and over again.  That has heavily influenced what I write and how I try to shape my writing.

My kids provide a constant stream of inspiration.  My first two books were directly a result of me interacting with my kids and, frankly, being in the right place at the right time.  In fact, “There’s no tooting at tea!” was something one of my daughters actually said to someone else.  Had I not been in the room when she said it, there wouldn’t be a book at all – which gives me anxiety about all of the wonderfully inspiring and book-title-worthy things my kids say when I’m not around them.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I grew up in a tiny farming town in rural Wisconsin – population 1,200.  After college, I moved to a very big city in Missouri – population 2,000,000.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Although getting to write picture books is an absolute dream job, my OTHER dream job would have to be a record producer. Listening to music has been a huge part of my life and it would be incredible to work with bands in a recording studio on a regular basis. I love the art of creating and helping musicians write music and craft their songs would be such a challenging-yet-rewarding experience.  So, if Radiohead ever decides to part ways with their producer…I’m totally available. 

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Thank you for asking!  My third book is called THE GREAT PUPPY INVASION and comes out on October 3rd.  It’s the story of what happens when hundreds of puppies suddenly show up in Strictville – a no-nonsense, no-fun town that has never seen puppies before.  After HELLO, DOOR releases on January 2nd, I have a fifth book coming out in the Fall of 2018 that is a prequel to NO TOOTING AT TEA called NO PEEKING AT PRESENTS.  It features the same older sister, albeit a bit younger, who has a lot of rules for her little sisters on Christmas Eve.  I also have a sixth book coming out sometime after that, but the title and release date have not yet been announced.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

From the time I started writing picture books in 2008 to the time my first book LOVE YOU, TOO came out in December of 2016, it had been nearly nine years.  Throughout that almost-decade of my life, I got discouraged, doubted myself, and even gave up completely a few times along the way.  So, to have the front cover of HELLO, DOOR revealed by you, Mr. Teut, is, very much, a dream come true for me. 

The reason I bring this up is that I want people to know just how much I appreciate it when they read one of my stories.  I do not take the privilege of getting to write picture books for granted for a single second.  Getting to do this was never a certainty for me.  My wife can tell you just how much I struggled and questioned whether having a children’s book published would forever be a pipe dream.  In fact, I still have to pinch myself that this is actually real, and it’s a wonderful gift to know that my books are actually being bought, checked out of libraries and, most importantly, read by parents and their children.

And now…. the big reveal!

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Super Manny Stands Up! Interview with Kelly DiPucchio

Hi Kelly! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Tell us a little bit about your new book, Super Manny Stands Up!  

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Thanks for inviting me back to your blog, Dylan! You’ve been following Manny’s journey for a long time so it’s great to finally be able to talk about the book now that Super Manny’s in the real world.

Manny was born from this sketch by Stephanie Graegin.

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Stephanie and I share the same agent, Steven Malk. Steven’s super powers are his keen instincts and his impeccable eye for art.  When he saw Stephanie’s racoon sketch he felt the little guy had a story to tell. He emailed the picture to me and asked if I was interested in creating a manuscript with Stephanie’s sketch in mind. Of course, I thought the vampire was adorable but I wasn’t sure how I felt about writing a Halloween or monster book. What appealed to me most about the character was his cape and mask and I wondered if there was a superhero inside that little vampire. I ran my idea past Steve who ran the idea past Stephanie and she, in turn, created this updated sketch.

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I immediately fell in love with Manny’s yellow and red striped tee and his little kid belly. Seeing the new character sketch made me ever more excited about writing a book with a superhero theme. I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to be a story about an everyday hero and kindness. I was beyond thrilled when, after reading the manuscript, my editor at Simon & Schuster, Emma Ledbetter, responded with one of the most touching letters I have ever received in my twenty years in this business.  I’d share part of it with you but I’d just start crying all over again.

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Tell us a little bit about your writing process.  

My writing process for each book can vary. With Super Manny Stands Up! I used a lot of creative visualization techniques to essentially manifest the original manuscript. That’s pretty much a fancy way of saying I totally psyched myself into producing a crappy first draft. I visualized and imagined the superhero book on my bookshelf alongside my other published titles. I focused on Stephanie’s character illustration and I pictured what the cover of the book might look like. I also imagined myself reading Manny’s story to kids in libraries and in schools. While doing these visualizations I’d try to imagine as many details as I could –  not just what I was seeing but what I was feeling as well.

This practice might seem like a bunch of New Age nonsense to some people but for me it solidifies a clear goal and a destination. From this point on I proceed as if it were impossible to fail because I’ve already seen (and felt) the finish line. These kinds of mental exercises help me to relax and I’m free to just listen to the story being told in my head. This is when I make the magical shift from writer to scribe.

What can readers expect from you in the future? More Manny?

Most definitely more Manny! Manny will return next year with his super sidekick, Gertie, in a sequel called Super Manny Cleans Up! The second book has an environmental theme that Stephanie, myself and the S&S team are all very proud of. I can’t wait for you to see it!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Kindness matters! I’m confident all of your readers know that, and more importantly, live it but humanity as a whole has room for improvement. While the problems of the world are big and numerous, we still have the power to revise and we can start with simple acts of kindness. Everyone can be a hero to someone whether that someone is a person or an animal or a plant. Manny’s mantras are “I AM FEARLESS! I AM STRONG! I AM BRAVE! I AM POWERFUL! And I AM INVINCIBLE!” Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all had a heart like Manny’s and we believed that for ourselves? Now that would be a magical shift!

Bub by Elizabeth Rose Stanton Cover Reveal

Today I’m thrilled and honored to share with you the first look at Elizabeth Rose Stanton’s Spring 2018 title, Bub! Bub is available for pre-order now. Make room in your heart for Bub, as I’m sure he’ll find himself a home there after you read this new book!

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BUB

by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

  • ISBN 9781481487573 |
  • January 2018
  • Grades P – 3

For Bub, it’s not easy being the middle child in his little monster family—especially such a noisy and busy one: Maw and Paw can be very loud, his big sister Bernice is good at everything, and everyone has to pay attention to The Baby. No one has time for Bub. But the day comes when Bub decides to take charge, and suddenly things change in a very magical little monster way! Bub keeps his family guessing—until he sees that it might not be so bad being in the middle, after all.

LIFE: Interview with Cynthia Rylant

I am honored today to welcome Cynthia Rylant to my blog! I have admired Cynthia’s books for years, so when Simon and Schuster invited me to do an interview, I jumped at the opportunity.  Cynthia is here to talk about her book, Life, which comes out this coming Tuesday. The illustrator is Brendan Wenzel, and I interviewed him last year.

Hi Cynthia, thanks for stopping by my blog! You have been a great inspiration to me as a writer.

Hello Dylan! Thank you for inviting me into your blog.

Tell us a little bit about your new book, Life. 

Life is another out-of-the-blue piece of writing from me. I just sat down one day and spontaneously put the words on paper. This is how most of my picture books have been written, without any pre-thinking or pre-planning, starting back when I wrote my first picture book at age 23 (When I Was Young in the Mountains). I have not been a “scheduled” writer, I don’t set aside a certain time or day to work. Every writer will find his or her own way to making books, and for me, just living an ordinary life and not thinking much about writing has been what has worked best. I do feel inspired by, and also envy, writers who work very diligently day after day and who produce big beautiful—and long!—books. But I learned early on that I am not made to be that sort of writer, so I don’t push too hard to fill pages with words day after day. I guess I am more poet than novelist. Too many words and I can’t find the center. And Life: well, I think it came up from a place inside me of a need to accept the inevitable big changes in life, changes that every thing, every creature, in this world must accept. We are all part of the natural world, and nature tells us that Life is about change. It is also about love. I think children will understand this.

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What inspires your creativity and your ideas for books, and have you always been into writing?

I can say that I have always had a child’s wonder and sense of play in my heart. But I did not know anything at all about children’s books until I was 23. I was raised in rural West Virginia, and I read mostly comic books as a kid then stepped up to paperback romances as a teenager. I had no large ambitions, and assumed I would just marry my high school boyfriend and live in Shady Spring the rest of my life. But, you know, I think we are not really in control of our lives. I look back, and as many people have said about their own lives, I see where one small and seemingly minor choice or event—walking down one street instead of another or seeing a certain billboard or losing a job—can turn us in the direction of our destiny. And so it was with me. Through a series of seemingly unrelated events, I wound up working as a clerk in a public library, and when I walked into the Children’s Room—the first time I’d ever been in the children’s department of a library– there was my future. Within a few months, I was secretly writing picture books (this was in Huntington, WV) and mailing them to publishing companies in New York. I kept this secret because I was embarrassed, I felt people would think I was completely unrealistic in my hopes to be published. But I wasa writer. I fell in love with the children’s books I saw in that library—Ox-Cart Man and The Animal Family are two that I found especially beautiful and led me to my own voice—and I could not help but write. Which is still happening, from time to time.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Sometimes I think I have done my life’s work and the stories I had inside me have been told now. I don’t want to become predictable or outdated. I have been writing stories for 40 years. But the writing has never been the central part of my world. I raised a son, I had many dogs and cats, I repaired old houses and planted flowers, I watched a lot of good shows and read some good books, I sent letters to people who mattered to me, I enjoyed cookies and tea, I tried to trust God’s plan for whatever would happen next, and I said sad goodbyes when endings came. This is all where stories come from, you know, just living. I don’t have any advice for writers except maybe the same advice I give to children, which is just play a lot. For me, play was dogs and sticks. I owe a lot to dogs and sticks. But I do think, deep down, I was never in control of anything nor will be in the future. Small seeds are always being planted, even if we don’t know it. So I’ll see what happens.

What, ultimately, do you want readers to walk away with after finishing your books?

I don’t write to change the world, or to bring joy and peace, or to send a certain message. My books are just stories I think up. And without the illustrators who made all the stories better, more beautiful, often funnier, or, as happened with Brendan Wenzel’s work for Lifedeeper, there would just be some simple words on plain pieces of paper sitting in a drawer in my house somewhere, not amounting to a whole lot of anything. It is the combined contributions of many—intuitive editors, gifted artists, brave book designers—that my writing depends on. And which eventually makes something lovely that I end up talking about to a book person like you!

Thank you again, Dylan, for inviting me, I wish you all the very best, and have a good summer.

Bulldozer is Back! Interview with Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

If you haven’t met Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s Bulldozer, you need to fix that! The delightful sequel released just a few short weeks ago, and here to chat about it are my dear friends Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.

Hello, Candy, hello, Eric! Thanks for stopping by!

Hi, Dylan.  We’re thrilled to be here.  It’s always good to talk with you.

Tell us a little bit about your new book, Bulldozer Helps Out.

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Bulldozer Helps Out came about, in part, because the characters from Bulldozer’s Big Day stayed with us, charmed us.  We’d gotten to know them in the first book, and felt there were more adventures to be told.  We really wanted to find out what would happen next in Bulldozer’s life.  Sequels, however, are always hard because they have to be better than the first book, or at least different enough to distinguish themselves.  And we didn’t want to repeat ourselves.  Then I hit upon the idea of Bulldozer being too little to join his truck family in the rough, tough work of the construction site.  As the former mother of little boys, I clearly remember the frustration my guys experienced when they couldn’t help paint the front porch, or cut up carrots.  “I’m big enough!” they’d cry.  “I can do it!”  As so does Bulldozer.  Worn out by my little ones’ pleas, I would eventually some way for them to help out – stirring the paint, washing the carrots.  And so does Bulldozer’s truck family.  They give him a small job, away from the dangerous work.  They believe he can manage it.  I don’t want to give it away, but the story has some surprises not typically found in books with construction truck characters.  This was purposeful.  Both Eric and I wanted to break away from the tropes a bit.  We wanted kids to see themselves in Bulldozer.  After all, he might be a truck, but he’s got the heart and mind of a Kindergartener.  And like all Kindergarteners, he wants to help the grownups in his life (who, in this case, just happen to be bigger trucks).  Will he succeed?  The ending, we hope, is both sweet and satisfying.  And little Bulldozer?  He ends up with the roughest, toughest job of them all… taking care of little ones.

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Tell us a little bit about your process of working together.

Our collaborative process is pretty simple.  Candy writes something and shows it to me.  We talk about it.  Then I make some sketches and show it to Candy.  We talk some more.  Once the finished manuscript is hammered out to candy’s satisfaction, I start on the finished pictures.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

We were both storytellers as kids.  I made mine with words.  Eric made his with pictures.  We’re still doing that.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

For both of us it’s the exploration and discovery – trying something new.  That explains why we make a lot of different kinds of books; tell a lot of different kinds of stories.  We’re both excited by the opportunity to do something we haven’t done before.

What inspires your creativity?

What inspires our creativity?  Everything!  Dog walks, people we meet, movies we go to, books we read, food we eat, trips we take.  Anything that happens in our lives has a chance of making it into our books.  We’re just filling our need to make something, to tell a story, to connect with readers.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I am a searcher and collector.  I like to walk beaches and woodland paths, picking up arrowheads and fossils and beach glass… especially beach glass.

Eric is obsessed with dinosaurs and Star Wars and has been keeping a sketchbook/journal for twenty years.

If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Eric: architect, zookeeper, playing left field for the Cubs.

Candy: museum curator, history teacher, Broadway star.

What can readers expect from you in the future? More Bulldozer?

Right now we’re working on two books.  The first is an illustrated novel (65 paintings!) called Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen based on the true story of the first movie star dog.  Schwartz-Wade is publishing it.  The second is a nonfiction science picture book called Honeybee.  That’s a Neal Porter Book.  Bet you can guess what that one’s about.  As for more Bulldozer, we hope so.

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Dan Santat Stops by to talk about RODZILLA and More!

Hi Dan! Thanks for joining me here to talk about the latest book you illustrated, Rodzilla!

It’s a real pleasure. You’ve been making quite a name for yourself in the last two years and I applaud all the things you’ve achieved in that time for the literary community!

Tell us a little bit about Rodzilla.

Rodzilla is the story of a lizard type creature who inadvertently terrorizes Megalopolis City due to his large stature and childlike mannerisms. It pays homage to classic Godzilla movies that we all used to enjoy when we were younger. It pairs well with a child’s imagination to be an omnipotent being among a tiny world which is at the mercy of your massiveness. The story was written by Rob Sanders, who lives out in Florida, and I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time, last year. It’s a fun read which I enjoy reading to kids. It gets them laughing.

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Tell us a little bit about your process.  

When I illustrate a project such as this I like to just dive right in and allow my mind to be very impulsive so I can spit out whatever comes to my mind first. This phase really is just loose scribbles that only I can really decipher. I then take those ideas and then I’ll take a few passes trying to refine the jokes, compositions, and character designs all at once. I don’t really have time to spend a day focusing on just one thing (like character design) so I’m often trying to do all those things while I’m trying to work out other aspects of the books such as the pacing and color palette.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

Yes! When I was a kid I thought I wanted to make movies. I was an only child so I used to make my own comic books because it was the closest thing to storytelling in a film format that I could do. As I grew older I realized I had a greater passion for storytelling than I did for actual drawing and painting. Drawing was always the thing I was complimented on because the results were easily observed by anyone who walked by, but creative writing was subjective and oddly enough, I felt like a lot of kids I grew up with didn’t like the same things I did. I felt like I was the only kid watching “He-Man” and “Transformers” in the fourth grade. It was as if everyone I knew grew too old for that stuff at an early age. What’s up with that?!

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

When I get to have lunch or dinner with fellow authors who live in town or when a fellow author is coming through town on a book tour. We often talk shop and talk process and share our emotional ups and downs.

What inspires your creativity?

I inhale content. I listen to music, read books, play video games, and watch a lot of film and television. Often times an idea comes from being inspired by other ideas. You see how someone presents an idea and when you to try to see it from another perspective you sometimes end up with something new. I’m also inspired by my family, especially my kids. They help remind me how to communicate with children and speak to their interests.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Years back when I was working on a book series with Rhea Perlman, my family was invited to her home in Malibu. We hung out with Rhea and her husband, Danny Devito, and it was the first time our 6-month old son saw the ocean. While we were there we saw someone walking down the beach over to us and we were wondering, “Do we know anyone else at this party?”

It was George Clooney.

Rhea introduced us to George. He complimented our child and kissed his forehead.

Our child was kissed by George Clooney.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I’d be a very unhappy dentist.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

My next picture book comes out in October called After the Fall. It’s about Humpty Dumpty recovering from his famous fall and overcoming his fear of heights. In April 2018 I have a book coming out with Aaron Reynolds called, Dude! and I’m working on a few graphic novels of my own. The first is The Aquanaut with Arthur A. Levine Books and the second is a memoir called You Bad Son for First Second.

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Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

I knew Dylan Teut before he was famous.

Interview with Mr. Evan Turk

Hey Evan! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your latest book projects!

Thank you so much for inviting me!

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Tell us a little bit about The Storyteller, which was released last year.

The Storyteller is my first book as author and illustrator, and it is a story, within a story, within a story, about the power of stories to give us hope, protection, and sustenance in times of need. It is based on the Moroccan art of public storytelling, a tradition that extends back a thousand years, and follows a young boy who inadvertently becomes an apprentice to one of the last master storytellers.the-storyteller-9781481435185_hr.jpg

Tell us a little bit about Muddy, which is coming this summer!

Muddy, written by Michael Mahin, is a picture book biography of Muddy Waters, one of the most legendary and influential blues musicians. It follows his journey from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the juke joints of Chicago, and the creation of his electric sound that brought the souls of those, two places and their people, together. Muddy Waters was a part of the Great Migration of African Americans fleeing the violence and oppression in the South during the first half of the 20th century. He and other blues artists created a unique music out of this painful and pivotal period that would be the backbone of American music for generations.

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For me, it was a wonderful project to be a part of. The writing is beautiful. Artistically, it was exciting to delve into research and learning about something new. I was able to go to where Muddy was from in the Mississippi Delta, see where his music blossomed in Chicago, and hear and draw musicians playing the blues in the both places. The artwork was inspired by incredible artists like Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and the Gee’s Bend quilt-makers of Alabama, as well as the music itself. The roots of blues are so deep, and what Muddy did with them was so electric and new, that I wanted to show those two sides coming together in the artwork.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration process. 

My process usually begins with research! I do a lot of reading and looking at artwork related to a particular project. Then I will try to find some way to make it real. For The Storyteller, it was about going to Morocco and meeting and talking with real storytellers and carpet weavers, and getting a feel for the place by drawing it. With Muddy, I went to listen to the blues musicians in Mississippi and Chicago, and talked with the people there. The on-location drawing I do usually has a big impact on the final artwork of the book.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating ?

Pretty much! I always loved writing and illustrating picture books when I was in elementary school. They were usually about an obscure animal of some kind. Then, in art school, I continued working on my own illustrated book projects, and thanks to my art director, Ann Bobco, I got an early entry into the industry right out of school!

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I think the most exciting part of creating books is the research phase. I just get to learn and draw, which is the best. I love making the final artwork, seeing it all done, and talking to kids! Really every part of the process is wonderful. Getting to talk with kids about the artwork and the story on school visits is so exciting for me!

What inspires your creativity?

I get inspired by drawing and by reading. When I learn something new, or see something new, I want to study it and share it, and that usually leads to some kind of story! I always love looking at new kinds of art, and seeing the endless possibilities.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I have two cats! Bert (Full name: King Aethelbert) and Pica (Full name: Empress Pica Bunnycup (because she has a little bunny tail))

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I think maybe making movies? It’s kind of a similar process, but coming from a completely different angle. I’d also love to design a stage show! Costumes, sets, lighting… That seems like an amazing job.

What can readers expect from you in the future? 

I am almost done working on a new book right now called Heartbeat. It’s about a baby whale who loses her mother during the heyday of American whaling in the 19th century, and swims through the next 200 years seeing how human attitudes towards whales shift throughout the decades. In the end, she’s able to find solace in the compassion of one young girl who hears her song and sings with her, with hope for a brighter future. It’s based on the the reality of whaling, in that there were many orphaned whale calves, and that recently some whales have been discovered to have been over 200 years old! The amount of things we have used whales for over the decades is staggering: Oil for light, mechanical lubricant in the industrial revolution, machine guns and bombs in the two World Wars, food, automatic transmission fluid in cars, and whale oil even coated some of the first photos we ever took of the moon in space! So it’s a book about a lot of things: whales, history, the environment, loss, compassion, empathy, and the way we treat/commodify the most vulnerable in our society. In the end, it’s really about connection, and how listening and understanding can unite us. It will be out from Atheneum in 2018!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Just a thank you to you for doing the work of spreading your passion for books to kids and everyone else! And a thank you to anyone out there who is reading these books! It really is a remarkable feeling to have someone connect with something you’ve made, and I am so grateful!

A Few Questions for Tim Miller

Joining me today is the author/illustrator of the brand new Moo Moo in a Tutu books, Tim Miller!

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Hey Tim! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your new book and what else is going on for you!

Hi Dylan! Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to speak with you!

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Tell us a little bit about Moo Moo in a Tutu.

Moo Moo in a Tutu stars Moo Moo, an enthusiastic cow who’s always looking for the next adventure, and Mr. Quackers, the most loyal duck a cow could ask for. They’re a pair of unlikely best friends who share different adventures together. This time around they’re heading to the ballet thanks to Moo Moo getting it in her head that she wants to be a ballerina even though she’s never taken ballet lessons before. With a somewhat skeptical yet supportive Mr. Quackers at her side, Moo Moo graces the stage with a performance that the ballet world will never forget. Although everything doesn’t go exactly as planned, Moo Moo prevails triumphantly thanks to the enthusiastic cheers of applause from her good buddy Mr. Quackers.

Will we see more of Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers?

Yes, Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers will be back! The follow-up to Moo Moo in a Tutu is called What’s Cooking Moo Moo? and will be published in Winter 2018. This time Moo Moo and Mr.Quackers team up and open a restaurant together with a few unexpected missteps along the way. It’s quite a feast that will leave readers quacking up.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration process.  

My process can vary depending on what medium I’m working in, but for the most part it’s pretty straightforward. For Moo Moo in Tutu, I started by making sketches of the first visual impressions I had based on the manuscript. Next, I organized these into storyboards to see it all together, and then made a dummy book incorporating everything into the standard 32-page structure of a picture book. In doing so, I tried to find the best way to give emphasis to key moments and keep the page turns fun and exciting. Anything that wasn’t necessary, I cut.

Once the dummy book was settled, I started making the finished illustrations. I worked directly from the rough sketches on a light box and drew everything with brush and ink. I tightened things up so that they read clearly while also trying to keep the raw energy of the rough sketches. Instead of drawing each composition out in its entirety, I broke them down into fragments. Although it sounds complicated, this allowed me to ignore my mistakes because I could just redraw a piece of something if I needed to. After I had finished collecting the fragments for each composition, I scanned everything into the computer and pieced the images together in Photoshop. From there, I added color digitally and made some final tweaks and that was that.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I’ve been drawing ever since I read my first Garfield book around the age of seven. It was a big revelation when I discovered how to copy the character because I could make it my own. I was living on a dairy farm and there wasn’t much to do besides milking cows, so drawing and reading comics was a welcome outlet. In middle school I got into stuff like Bloom County, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes, and started making my own comic strips (basically Bloom County, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes rip-offs). In high school my interest turned to the superhero stuff and my drawings got jacked up with bulging muscles and skintight attire. My seminal work from the period is a seven-page comic called The Samurai Schnoz and His Ninja Nose, the story about a not-too-bright Samurai with a big nose that has mystical ninja powers (imagine Opus the penguin meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meets Groo the Wanderer).

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Deadlines are a lot of fun, but I would have to say that connecting with readers gets the prize. I love the opportunity to engage kids and see their reactions.

What inspires your creativity?

A bad sense of humor and a love for pictures.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I used be in 4-H as a kid and showed sheep. I was actually pretty good at it (got the ribbons to prove it) until one day a bear paid our sheep a visit and that was the end of my sheep-showing career.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I would continue teaching and paint full-time.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I have three more installments of Tom O’Donnell’s Hamstersaurus Rex middle grade series (HarperCollins) on the way, and Snappsy the Alligator And His Best Friend Forever Probably by Julie Falatko is coming out in Fall 2017 (Viking), followed by What’s Cooking Moo Moo? in Winter 2018 (Balzer+Bray).

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Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Thank you everybody for stopping by! Feel free to visit me anytime at www.timmillerillustration.com I’m always happy to hear your thoughts and feedback.