Here today to talk about their new book, I have both Lisa Wheeler (author) and Molly Idle (illustrator) with me!
Thank you for taking the time to join me here at Mile High Reading!
Molly: Thanks for hosting us Dylan!
Tell us a little bit about People Don’t Bite People from your perspective.
Molly: Oh my goodness, I LOVE the text in this book. Lisa’s writing is short and sweet and FUNNY! From the moment I first read it I was completely smitten (bitten?). I couldn’t wait to start drawing!
Lisa: Every person has either bitten someone, been bitten, or knows someone that has been bitten. Bites happen, people! I see this book as a funny and mildly subversive chant that amuses both parent and child and explains what biting is for–Food!
Molly, can you tell us a little bit about your illustration process?
First, I scribble tiny sketches and notes on the manuscript, as I read, and reread, and reread it… figuring out pacing… and page turns… and how I’d like to break up the text throughout the book.
Then, I’ll move to my sketchbook and start making rough compositional sketches- still keeping them very small- less than half the size they’ll be in the finished book. I’ll share those sketches with my editor and art director, (for PDBP that’s the fabulous duo of Emma Ledbetter and Ann Bobco), and we’ll revise and rework them as needed.
Once all of the sketches are approved, I’ll scan them and scale them up to about 120% of the size they’ll be in the book. Then, I print out those enlarged sketches, and transfer them, by hand, onto the paper I’ll use to create the finished pieces of art. My medium of choice is Prismacolor pencil, so at that point I get out my pencils and start coloring! It takes me a few months (and more than a few pencils) to color all the pieces for a book.
Lisa, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
Lisa: My process can vary with each book. I get a lot of ideas and some never come to fruition. But once I get an idea, I generally do not go straight to paper. I mull it over in my mind. I do lots of editing in my brain before I ever sit down in front of the computer. I often scratch words down on envelopes, backs of receipts, grocery lists, etc. When I think that this idea could be viable, I go to the computer. I jot down all my scratchings and see how it might come together. It’s like a fun little puzzle.
I get obsessed. I walk around talking to myself, repeating lines over and over. I answer questions from others with nonsense because I’m generally still inside my head writing. This is actually my favorite part of the whole process. Sparking life into that idea is what really gets me excited.
Have you always been into writing / illustrating?
Molly: Before I became and author and illustrator, I was an animator. In fact, my first job out of school was working for DreamWorks Feature Animation. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, and studying every old Disney film (long or short) that I could get my hands on. Some of my favorites were the Jiminy Cricket, “I’m No Fool” shorts from the 1960s, which were a mix of education and entertainment. That same mix is very much in line with Lisa’s text for PEOPLE DON’T BITE PEOPLE, and so I tried to bring a bit of the same retro-edutainment vibe into my illustrations too. This book really brings together my love of both classic animation and illustration.
Lisa: As a child, I liked to make up little songs and chants. I was obsessed with jingles, jump-rope rhymes and hand-clap games on the school playground. I also have a knack for remembering words to silly songs–not good songs, just wacky ones. My brother, Dan and I made up a song which we called “The Garbage Truck Song” and we still remember it today even though it was basically one line. “Ho-ho-ho! Hee-hee-hee! My Dad-Dee works on a garbage truck!”
In 4th grade I won a Halloween poetry contest and it was the first time anyone said that I was a good at writing. I continued to write–mostly poems–throughout my life, but I was 32 before I ever sent my work to publishers.
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Molly: Ooooo, that’s a tough one. I like a lot of things about my job. But the most exciting part? I’d have to say that, as an illustrator, it’s the first reading of a new manuscript on my desk. That first reading brings with it all sorts of new visual storytelling possibilities, and that- to me at least- is just about the most exciting thing there is in the whole world!
Lisa: The most exciting part is the idea process as described earlier. That is when I am one fire. The revision process can also be as exciting when an editor makes me rethink things and I get in this headspace where I am turning the manuscript upside down.
It is also very exciting to see the art. I think about the picture book process this way; When I sell the manuscript, it’s like finding out I am going to have a baby. But when I see early sketches, it is like getting a 3-D ultrasound! That’s when I know what the baby is going to look like and my excitement of the arrival grows exponentially.
Then, the finished book arrives–our baby is delivered!
What inspires your creativity?
Lisa: I do a lot of reading. I tell kids that you have to keep your brain fertilized with words if you want to be a writer. I take my own advice and try to stay on top of what new books are being written, taking stacks home from the library each week.
But I am also inspired by many other things; nature, conversations, dreams, television, music. . .I am a kinesthetic learner and when I am writing, you will often see me taking long walks, riding a bike, driving or swimming laps. Don’t be fooled! My brain synapses are firing like crazy when I am in motion.
I also get a lot of ideas from insomnia. When I am lying in bed, trying to get back to sleep at 3am, I have often come up with new ideas. I even dreamed one book.
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
Molly: My favorite color- because it changes all the time! Today, it’s AQUA.
Lisa: I have always felt the need to create something. I’ve gone through many “phases” in my creative life. As a child, I learned to crochet and I adored art class. I got into drawing and painting in high school, crafts and sewing when my kids were young, and of course, writing was always thrown into the mix. I worried that my writing would be a phase, like everything else. But I’ve come to realize that it is a part of who I am, not a phase. I still like to create and got into a rock painting phase a few years ago that lasted an entire summer. Some things never change!
If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?
Molly: Hmm… maybe arranging flowers… or making furniture… something that would let me continue to make things by hand.
Lisa: Before I was an author, I worked for six years in a children’s book department. I loved that job! Not only did I get to be surrounded by kid’s books, but I got paid to read them. It also fed my desire to organize everything. I think that if I had not been working there, I never would have got the nerve to start submitting my work. So, if I couldn’t write for kids, I would look for a job in a children’s books store or a school library. I am really very passionate about children’s books and what I do!
What can readers expect from you in the future?
Molly: Let’s see… My next book is one that I’ve both written and Illustrated. It’s about a mermaid named PEARL, and it’ll be out in the world this fall. (October 9, 2018, Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
and…Lisa and I are working on another project together- a companion book to PDBP!
Lisa: I am most excited that People Don’t Bite People is entering the world on April 3rd, 2018. Molly and I already have a follow-up book in the works called People Share With People. It is such an honor to have my words illustrated by such a talented artist!
Next September is the latest installment in my popular Dinosaur series. this one is Dino- Christmas, illustrated by Barry Gott. My editor at CarolRhoda and I decided to have the sport- loving dinosaurs explore a few holidays. Then, I have a book coming out in December with Abram’s Appleseed called A Hug is for Holding Me, illustrated by Lisk Feng, in which I explore things in nature that can be compared to a hug.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
Molly: It’s funny you should mention sharing because book that Lisa and I are working on now is titled:
PEOPLE SHARE WITH PEOPLE!
Lisa: Just that I feel so fortunate to be allowed to do what I do. I LOVE my job! I am grateful to all my readers for their wonderful support. Thank you, Dylan, for affording me this opportunity to share a little bit about myself with them.