Dylan: Hey Adam! Hey Scott! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your upcoming 2016 title, I Will Not Eat You!
Scott: Hi, Dylan. You’re quite welcome, good to be here; thanks for having us.
Adam: Hey Dylan! (Waves to Dylan.) Thank you so much for hosting us. Super excited to be here with you. Hi Scott. (Waves to Scott.)
Dylan: Tell us a little bit about I Will Not Eat You!
Adam: I Will Not Eat You! is a story about breaking through barriers. Self-imposed barriers, like those between Theodore, the main character, and the world outside his cave. And interpersonal barriers, like making new friends. Okay, that’s maybe a bit too much mumbo jumbo. You probably wanted some plot, right? Theodore spends all of his time hiding from the world in his cave. He sees everything as either a possible meal or not worth his time. That is, until something new comes up to his cave. A boy. And instead of leaving Theodore alone, the boy encourages Theodore to leave his cave. Well, encourages isn’t maybe the right word. But, in any case, Theodore leaves his cave. And he’s none too happy about it.
Scott: I WILL NOT EAT YOU is a suspenseful, funny tale of the woods—it reads like a little stage play in your hands. Its a little Three Billy Goats Gruff, a little Three Little Pigs, part Where the Wild Things Are and part Pete’s Dragon. It continuously pulls you along as the plot drives page turns—and beyond that, Theo’s voice and animal sound effects will be fun to create at story time. I’ve read it to kids on my school visits and they are enthralled by it. They want to find out what Theo is and how it all works out in the end.
Dylan: What was it like to work with each other?
Scott: For me initially, Adam was a bit like the eyes in the cave on the cover of I WILL NOT EAT YOU. What was he all about, I wondered. I knew Adam only by way of his book WARNING: DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOK which was wonderfully mysterious, a little spooky—already the stuff of legend really—and so I wasn’t sure what to make of him. But after a few back-and-forths with him by way of Sylvie Frank (our editor at Paula Wiseman Books) I began to realize that he was much more like the inquisitive and mischievous boy character of I WILL NOT EAT YOU: poking around at the text to see how we could make the book even better. After that I was much more at ease and loved how he shaped the book well into the illustration phase. We’ve been in touch since and hope to meet up next month in person for the first time. Not in a cave though.
Adam: Oh, wow! It was SO AWESOME! Scott is such an amazing illustrator and I was a bit nervous at first. I’m a HUGE fan of his other books. The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! Spoon! Mostly Monsterly! I LOVE his style. So, when Paula (Paula Wiseman at S&S) said Scott was going to illustrate this, I totally did a happy dance. Right there in the coffee shop. And it only got better from there. His sketches were brilliant. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how the book has turned out.
Dylan: Have you always been into writing/illustrating?
Adam: I’ve been writing stories since I was in the second grade. My first was called The Little Red Plane. It wasn’t a very good story. I really wanted it to be The Little Blue Plane, but Mike had the blue crayon. He wouldn’t give it to me. So red it was. I’ve continued writing over the years, and now I have the great pleasure of calling it my job. I love it.
Scott: Right after college I was burned out on writing and drawing and sort of withdrew into my own creative cave for awhile. I had been earning my degree in English (constantly writing, reading), working on drawing and writing my weekly comic strip (called Duct Tape Man) and needed a short break. Short break turned into something like 3 years. Other than that though, absolutely yes.
Dylan: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Adam: Can I pick two? I’m going pick two. Is that alright? I hope so. I’m picking two. Does anyone else hear Anthrax singing “Breaking the Law”? Okay, I digress. So, first is seeing the initial sketches from the illustrator. It’s unbelievable to see your characters come to life. But I also really love seeing the faces of listeners as they hear my stories. I do a lot of Skype visits with classrooms, and watching the students as I read is a wonderfully gratifying experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Scott: As I’m drawing my characters I see them come to life—and seeing them before anyone else does is pretty cool. Drawing Theo from I WILL NOT EAT YOU is a great example because he took on a couple of different appearances as I was designing him and I wasn’t sure what he’d wind up looking like until very late in the process. Another exciting part is building in some storytelling structures that help tell the story. For I WILL NOT EAT YOU it was the slow but deliberate zoom in on the cave from far away and each spread gets progressively closer. The reason for this is twofold: it slowly builds tension and brings the reader right up into the scene. Its fairly subtle—but maybe because of that it was exciting to be able to include that device.
Dylan: What inspires your creativity?
Adam: I get inspiration from all kinds of places. I read a LOT. Not just picture books and kid lit. I read all kinds of stuff. There are some really wonderful books out there, with great characters. Another thing I love is the way writers are developing their plots in movies and TV shows. There’s a lot to be learned there. I also get inspired by personal experiences. For instance, the first draft of I Will Not Eat You was written on a 6 hour car ride with my kids. I think you can see a bit of this in the interplay between Theodore and the other animals that approach his cave. Maybe even here the faint echoes of tiny voices asking, “Are we there yet?”
Scott: A little of everything—that’s my goal, anyway towards being in a state of constant inspireativity. From an artistic standpoint, I try to constantly “input stuff” in the hopes it’ll inspire me. For instance, I’ll read, visit museums, walk in the woods, cook—I even explored a couple of caves recently. Something that’s a little out of the ordinary or different. Wander. I work in new things of course but old and familiar things can also inspire me at the right time—movies I’ve seen before but that take on new meaning now that time has gone by. I also have a bunch of neat stuff in my studio that inspires me: toys, antiques, some of my childhood artifacts and so on. From a practical standpoint, paying my mortgage every month greatly inspires me. Last minute panic also inspires me.
Dylan: What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
Adam: I like to read urban fiction—vampires, Weres, Witches, Wizards. There’s usually at least two or three examples sitting on my desk. Yeah, guilty pleasure.
Scott: I’m not a fan of tuna salad.
Dylan: If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?
Adam: I’d still be doing something creative. I was an Art Director before pursuing this career, so I’d probably be doing that. Or a movie star. I think I’d make a great henchman. Like Oddjob from Goldfinger. I just need one of those cool hats. If anyone out there has one, let me know.
Scott: I’d be telling stories somehow—maybe singing American songbook standards. Have you ever heard a singer sing you a truly compelling and believable story in song? If done right, its remarkable; really powerful. That skill interests me. Tony Bennett can do it. Hardly anyone does it anymore—its almost a lost art.
Dylan: What can readers expect from you in the future? Any other pairings as an author/illustrator duo?
Adam: I have a busy schedule next year with four books coming out. The first, I Don’t Draw, I Color (illustrated by Felicita Sala) comes out March 21st. It’s about being creative in your own way, not worrying about what other people do. That will be followed by my second chicken book, Chicken in School (iIllustrated by Shahar Kober) in May, Wordplay (illustrated by Jared Chapman) a playground battle between Noun and Verb in July, and Idea Jar (illustrated by Deb Pilutti) next Fall.
While I’m not currently paired with Scott for another book, I would love to work with him again. (Heads to the desk to start writing.)
Scott: They can expect me to continue to do books that offer something unique to my readers. Maybe its offbeat, maybe its funny, maybe upsetting but ultimately all of them will offer some hope as a core message. That things will be ok. Just like I WILL NOT EAT YOU does. Would love another Adam pairing!
Dylan: Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
Adam: If someone dressed as a knight happens to come into your cave, maybe try not to eat them. You just might find something better.
Scott: I’d like to say thanks for reading and to keep reading this blog!
Would you like to bid on an original print from I WILL NOT EAT YOU? Visit the Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival auction at http://www.32auctions.com/plumcreek2016.
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