Hey Edwardian & Josh! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your new 2017 book, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, and especially for the honor of revealing the cover here!
Dylan: Tell us a little bit about It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk.
Edwardian: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is a twist on its namesake fable. However, we come in contact with characters that seem to have other ideas about how the story should be told. It’s quite funny because we all know how the story goes, but our characters seem to take over their own story.
Josh: It’s not just a Mixed-Up Fairy Tale – it’s a META-Mixed-Up Fairy Tale – where YOU – the reader, the teacher/librarian/parent/grandparent/caregiver/2nd Cousin-three-times-removed – get to interact DIRECTLY with the characters in the book (and hopefully appear foolishly entertaining doing so).
Dylan: Tell us a little bit about your process.
Josh: As writing picture books isn’t my day job, I generally try to find time in the evenings, mornings, weekends, lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and bathroom breaks to brainstorm ideas and write. Once get an idea that really excites me, I usually make the time to write a whole first draft in the following few days, sharing with my wife, kids, and cats throughout the process. Once it’s done, I’ll share with some critique partners and revise and then share with more critique partners and revise and revise and share with my agent and revise and then send it out to some publishers to be rejected a few dozen times. Every once in a while, though, I trick a poor editor into turning one of my stories into a book… (sorry, Marilyn).
For this story, specifically, my kids played a HUGE role in building the text. There are essentially three characters with speaking roles in the story (with one slight exception): Jack, the Giant, and the Reader. As I developed the story, I often played the role of ‘Reader’ while my oldest played ‘Jack’ and my youngest played ‘the Giant.’ It was a blast to read this with my kids around the dinner table, at family gatherings, and to the cats. I can’t wait to perform it at Readers’ Theater at their school next September!
Edwardian: For this book, I was given Josh’s manuscript to read. This is to me the most important phase because of the exploration needed to figure out the characters and the world they live in. My background is in animation, so I treated my rough sketches like storyboards, but keeping in mind the text would also play a part like a character in the story. When you read the book, you’ll see that the reader is a part of the story so its text is purposely considered and placed within each composition. One thing I enjoyed at this stage was seeing what worked or didn’t work within the context of the story once the visuals were in place. Josh was always open to ways to improve the story or to edit things as I was illustrating the pages. I think that kind of collaboration is a fantastic motivator to me as an illustrator, because I feel like I’m contributing more to the story instead of just being limited as just the illustrator.
After the rough sketch phase, we dive into the rendering (color) pass. This part tends to take the longest. Since I also have to figure out the general colors for object, characters, environment there is lots of decision making I have to do make sure color pallets make sense and are still fun and whimsical. Something I was mindful too was the use of lighting to tell time. Since we are experiencing the story in a single day, having these differences in lighting to tell time helped aid to move the story along.
Once the color phase is finished, we move into final adjustments after the designer places the text in the illustrations. Then Voila! It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is born.
Dylan: Edwardian, have you always been into Illustration?
Edwardian: Actually, to be honest, I kind of fell into it. I’ve always loved children’s books, but I had always thought it was something you had to go to school for. But what I do as a visual development artist for animation is very similar in how I approach working on illustrations. After having been let go at my last full time studio job, I had taken this as an opportunity to cast my net wide and see where else my art could take me besides animation. I had applied to several illustration agencies, and I was fortunate to find my current agency The Bright Group. I had been with them a couple weeks before I got my first book gig. And each book I’ve worked on has been such a labor of love, especially It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk. I knew then that this was going to be an adventure into something I never imagined I could get to do. But boy am I glad I had been let go from my old job, cause now (along with freelancing for animation studios), I get to do this rewarding and fun job of illustrating children’s books.
Dylan: Josh, have you always been into writing?
Josh: No! At least I never thought I was. I wasn’t a huge reader as a kid. But I married a voracious one (reader, not kid). While we dated, we read books out loud to each other (often kidlit, like Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket). I started listened to lots of audio books on my long day job commute in the early to mid-2000’s. And when I had kids, I read a ton of books to them. It was only about five and a half years ago when I wrote my first really really REALLY bad picture book manuscript.
However, ever since becoming an author, I’ve looked back and realized that I actually did enjoy writing. In middle school, B.J. Novak and I wrote a 150 page radio show script together, along with a few short stories. I also wrote some goofy editorials for the Newton South High School student—run newspaper (The Lion’s Roar). And in college I learned to play guitar and I wrote lots of songs (more They Might Be Giants-quirky than Eddie Vedder-poetic rock). So maybe the answer is ‘Yes?’
Dylan: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Josh: There are so many exciting things about being an author, it’s hard to pick just one. The first time seeing an artist’s illustrations of something I wrote is amazing! Having my name on the spine of a book on a library shelf is surreal. And sometimes, just cracking myself up with a silly joke that I’m writing into a story is exciting. But the most exciting? It’s got to be interacting with readers; whether it’s via skype or in person, talking to kids about reading and writing is my favorite favorite.
Edwardian: That’s easy, when I’m designing a new character for the book. You’ll notice in this one that I took liberties on fairy tale character cameos in it. There is even a kind of “Where’s Waldo” game to find all the fairy tale characters I’ve placed throughout the book. It was my fun way of doing little Easter Eggs to make people go back and really look through the illustrations.
Dylan: What inspires your creativity?
Edwardian: When someone on social media tells me how much they look forward to seeing my posts every week and that it brightens their day, is gratifying. I don’t need to be the most popular artist with the most followers, but having people that let me know I bring them joy is enough and makes me want to make more art.
Josh: Yes! I love Edwardian’s weekly posts from all the illustration challenges he does! If you don’t already follow Edwardian Taylor on Instagram, you MUST! Edwardian’s and other artist’s illustrations always inspire me! I love scanning through illustrators to see what they’re up to on social media. There is so much talent out there in the kidlit art world, it’s incredible!
Other things that inspire me include my kids, spying on people in coffee shops, reading other amazing picture books, and lots and lots of coffee!
Dylan: What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
Edwardian: I’m a huge Meatloaf fan. Not the meal (which is still good), but the actual rock star Meatloaf. He actually lives in his hometown of Dallas, Texas. But I’ve yet to have any run-ins with him. I remember when I was little, my dad had Meatloaf’s “Bat out of Hell” on cassette tape. I had kept it for myself, and would listen to it all the time on my boom box. When I was in junior high my first CD purchase was Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell 2. I can’t help to sing along when one of his songs comes on.
Josh: Hmm… I’m kind of a sharer and don’t really hold much back (that’s not what readers don’t know – they probably already do – I’m just saying it’s hard to think of things that I haven’t already shared before). To stick with Edwardian’s theme, the first cassette tape I ever bought was The Coasters’ Greatest Hits (I was a big Yakkety Yak (Don’t Talk Back) fan in 2nd grade. The first CD I ever bought was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Homebase. And now I think I might have overshared…
Dylan: If you weren’t writing or illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?
Josh: Sitting in a cubicle (which I do do). Or maybe teaching ballet.
Edwardian: I’d probably still be working as a visual development artist for tv, games, and feature films.
Josh: Hee hee … I said ‘do do.’
Dylan: What can readers expect from you in the future?
Edwardian: My first book RACE! written by Sue Douglass Fliess comes out this year. And I’m currently working on an unannounced book series with the writer of “Secret Life of Pets” and the “Minions” movies, Brian Lynch. I’ve also been working on studio projects with Sesame Street, Dreamworks TV, Universal Studios, and Out of Order Studios, so keep a look out for any announcements on social media for those.
Josh: Before It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk releases on September 19, 2017, THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (sequel to Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast) will be served to readers on May 2! Have you ever opened the fridge and noticed that something didn’t quite smell right? In this episode, Inspector Croissant recruits the help of his uncle, Sir French Toast, and Lady Pancake to search for a mysteriously stinky culprit and save the fridge from destruction. And while nothing is announced yet, 2018 might be my busiest year so far …
Dylan: Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
Josh: At this point, I think I’ve shared too much.
Edwardian: If you want to follow me on social media, I’m on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr @edwardiantaylor I also have my blog/website www.edwardiantaylor.com. And finally my online store, where I sell various prints, stickers and art books www.edwardiantaylor.storenvy.com.
Josh: Oh, yeah, you can follow me, too on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook @joshfunkbooks or on my website at www.joshfunkbooks.com. Thanks for reminding me, Edwardian! And thank you, Dylan for inviting us to reveal the cover of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk.
Edwardian: Yeah. Thanks, Dylan!
And NOW…. here’s the cover!