24 April 2014
HERE COMES DESTRUCTOSAURUS! written by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard - GIVEAWAY!
Aaron Reynolds and Jeremy Tankard have come up with a story many parents will relate to: HERE COMES DESTRUCTO-SAURUS! How many little ones can destroy a clean room in a matter of minutes - much like an enormous monster can destroy a city? Destructo-saurus tears down buildings, throws trains, ROARS and creates general mayhem. I'm thrilled to have BOTH Aaron and Jeremy here today to talk about the book's creation...
Q. Aaron, I don't know that you'll remember, but we met briefly at the Decatur Book Festival last year when you were touring for CARNIVORES. (Hi!) You so obviously have a strong grasp of what makes a good picture book. Did the idea for this one come to you from your own childhood or do you have your own Destructo-saurus?
A. Hi there, Elizabeth! Honestly, the idea came from a love of monster movies first and foremost. I was playing with the idea of Godzilla wrecking things in typical Godzilla fashion, but instead of people running, he was being scolded for it. As it developed, I realized he was acting a lot like some toddlers I've met!
I hate to say it, but the idea was also inspired by watching us adults during our less stellar moments when relating to kids. Parents, teachers, baby-sitters...we're all guilty of really NOT LISTENING when a kid is upset and just chalking it up to terrible behavior, when, in truth, the kid isn't terrible, they're just sad or mad about something completely legitimate!
These two ideas kind of collided, and the story began to take shape around this toddler-esque monster.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
Q. Aaron, after the great reaction to CREEPY CARROTS and so many others, you are really on a roll! Does it feel like things have taken off for you?
A. I feel incredibly thankful that my recent books have received such a great response from kids and grown-ups alike. Sometimes the perfect storm of great story, great illustrator, and great editor all comes together, and I feel so lucky that such a storm has hit on my last several books. It also feels like perhaps my craft and voice as a writer has really hit its groove...I hope that's true anyway. All I can do is continue to do my very best to make the kind of books that I would love to read as a kid and hope that the response continues to be strong!
Q. Aaron, do you have a philosophy behind plotting out picture books or how to approach them in general? I'm sure my readers would love a peek into your magic touch!
A. You'd like to think I'm that well thought-out, wouldn't you? Unfortunately, the reality is much messier than that.
I feel like I have no shortage of ideas, so I'm lucky that way. I have more ideas pop into my head than I'll ever be able to write in five lifetimes. Sometimes, they actually get a bit noisy and pesky up there in my brain, which is annoying. So, to help quiet things down, I have something called an Idea Rock. It's just a large rock that I keep in my office. Whenever I get an idea for a story, I'll write it down on a napkin, or a post-it, or a scrap of paper, and I put it firmly under the Idea Rock. This rock has hundreds of ideas under it. It's my way of telling myself “The idea has been captured, it's not going anywhere, so you don't have to think about it anymore.” And most of the time this works. I forget about the idea, knowing that I can always go grab it from under the rock if I want to write it or develop it further.
But occasionally, an idea won't get out of my brain, even after putting it under the Idea Rock. It sits there, simmering in my brain, slowly taking shape, sometimes over the course of a couple years, until it's begging to be written down. Those are the stories that I go on to write into books. Much of the plotting and structure of the story takes place in my mind before I ever put pen to paper.
CREEPY CARROTS sat in my brain for 2 years as just a nugget of an idea. I was intrigued to write a picture book horror story, something that shouldn't have worked, in theory. That nugget of an idea sat there and simmered, slowly taking shape for a long time before I ever sat down and wrote it.
Q. Aaron, I heard an author once say she wrote "illustrator candy" text, which is why she'd worked with so many great illustrators. How do you approach the image side of your work? (Because you've truly worked with some greats!)
A. I HAVE gotten to work with some great illustrators. And I love that idea of “illustrator candy”. But the truth is, I try not to think too much about the illustrations, I try not to get too specific of a visual idea in my head, because I know in the end that I won't have a lot of control over that end of things. I know some authors that really get tied up in knots over the fact that they don't have a ton of say over the illustrations, but I've really come to peace with that and let it go.
My feeling on the subject is this: 1) Write the best, funniest, quirkiest, goofiest story I can. 2) Work with an editor that I really trust – somebody that I know gets me and has a vision for my books.
When I do that, the illustrations usually wind up in the hands of somebody wonderful, somebody who does things with my story far beyond what I could imagine. So far, it seems to be working.
Q. Aaron, I know you're friends with Peter Brown and Dan Santat now (illustrators of CREEPY CARROTS and CARNIVORES) - have you created a boy's club of cool creators?
A. I wish I could say we hung out all the time in a special clubhouse just for cool guy illustrators, but we rarely get to spend any time together. Dan lives in Los Angeles, Peter lives in New York, Jeremy lives in Canada, I live in Chicago. So any dreams of secret handshakes and “no girls allowed” signs would be logistically challenging. However, it's always a blast when we bump into each other at a conference or on tour and do get to kick back a margarita or two.
Besides, let's be honest...there's a ton of cool chick creators to hang out with too.
And thank goodness for that. 'Cause girls smell a lot better than we do.
[[e: Thank you for that, Aaron!]]
Q. Aaron, can you share your path to publication into the publishing industry?
A. My path to publishing success is paved with rejection. Lots of rejection. Long before I ever had my first book published (CHICKS AND SALSA, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books), I spent five long years pursuing the goal of publication. During that time, I wrote many stories that will never see the light of day, and collected many rejection letters from publishers. 390 rejection letters, to be exact.
I know, because I kept every one. I keep them in an overflowing bin marked “Rejections”, because they are a wonderful reminder to me that the path to success is paved with a willingness to fail, and then get up from that failure and keep trying. But they make me thankful for every success that happens in my publishing journey, because they remind me of a time in the journey when there were no successes. I'm a great example of Einstein's law that says “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”
I love telling kids that story when I do author visits at schools, because they are shocked. They think that success just happens. That if you're not good at something immediately, you give up. Nope. It doesn't work that way. Just sticking with it...just picking yourself up, dusting off, and doing better next time...that's everything.
Thanks Aaron! Now switching gears to Jeremy...
Q. Jeremy, what images came to mind when you first read the text for HERE COMES DESTRUCTO-SAURUS? Did they come easily?
A. What came to mind immediately was Godzilla destroying Tokyo. I immediately saw a very cinematic-looking book, which is quite different than I normally approach drawing. I also saw an opportunity to put my rusty perspective drawing skills to use. The trick was to come up with a suitable monster who didn’t really look like Godzilla but still respected the obvious comparison with the classic movie. Hence drawing lots of influence from T-Rex in my monster design. Mine is sort of T-Rex meets toddler, which is sort of a realistic take on toddlers if you think about it. Hmm…
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
Q. Jeremy, I love your bold shapes and colors. What influences do you attribute that to?
A. I spent a lot of time looking at the SELECTIONS FROM THE MANGA: THE SKETCHBOOKS OF HOKUSAI (not sure if I’m remembering the title correctly). Hokusai’s deceptively simple drawings of people were a HUGE influence when I first discovered them in university. I found the process of simplification got easier when I used a thicker line that allowed for less detailed rendering. The heavy lines pose some big challenges and force me to stay focused on the most important details, like gesture, body-language and expression. It’s just a very different way of thinking about your subject and it has taught me to look at the big picture more often.
As for colours: I LOVE colouring my art. It is easily my favourite part of the art-making process. I used to work with very muted and earthy colours but realized that I only did that because I was afraid of using colour. So I began using paint “straight from the tube” (whether acrylics or digital it didn’t matter). I figured I’d overcome the fear then take a step back and work with a more rounded palette. Instead I discovered that I LIKED the bright colours and have never looked back.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
Q. Jeremy, being a digital artist myself, I couldn't help but notice some very sly techniques going on in your work. What is your method and how do you come up with those wonderful, beefy lines?
A. Sly techniques? I like that! I started learning Photoshop almost 20 years ago when I discovered the amazing Sandman covers of Dave McKean. Initially I enjoyed trying to mimic his photo collage style but began to get disillusioned with how digital my art looked. It was easy to see which filters I had used and which “tricks” I was trying. Basically the first thing anyone thought when looking at those drawings was “which filters did he use on this?” (to be fair the only people who were looking at them were my friends who were also trying to learn these techniques). That didn’t sit well with me — I wanted people to look first at the image and THEN wonder “how did he do that?” So I stripped down my Photoshop techniques to only the most basic and stopped using filters. Little has changed in the intervening years: I still don’t use any fancy tricks or techniques. I also still do most of my drawing on paper then scan into the computer to colour, collage and finish. In DESTRUCTOSAURUS I drew all of the background imagery with Corel Painter and all the characters on paper using a Pentel Pocket Brush.
Q. Jeremy, how did you break into the publishing world?
A. It’s a complete fairytale actually. I submitted my illustration portfolio to a number of publishers (I had no interest in writing back then). A number of them got back to me about working together but two said they would look at anything I did so long as I wrote it myself. Basically they said I could bypass all their submissions procedures and pitch directly to an editor. And so I began writing. After a number of pitches I wrote GRUMPY BIRD and the rest is history.
Q. Jeremy, can we see your studio and what is a regular day for you?
A. I don’t really have a regular day as my childcare schedule can be erratic. Generally I try to do a bit of drawing every day — always some drawing just for myself before I settle in to the next illustration job. I always draw in a sketchbook when I’m getting started, never on the computer (for no good reason, just easier I guess — fewer distractions). But usually my days look sort of like this: I take my son to daycare; come home and make tea; check email; look at some books; then I look at what needs to be done today; do some warm-up drawings; get started on the art or writing for the day; lunch break; continue with work; fetch son; make dinner; family time; bed.
And yes, here is a photo of my drawing board. It’s not the whole studio, but is the most important part.
Q. Both, how can people help you celebrate the release of HERE COMES DESTRUCTO-SAURUS!? Do you have any special events planned?
A. BUY THE BOOK! And whenever possible, buy it from an Indie Bookstore, 'cause let's face it, they are on the endangered species list and that must be stopped. [[Here, here!]]
Also, if you like our books, tell your friends about them on Facebook and Twitter posts, complete with book cover pictures. This really helps!
And come see us if you find out we'll be at an event near you. I'll be at the TLA conference in San Antonio, the LA Times Festival of Books in Los Angeles, and the Printer's Row Book Fair in Chicago in the next couple of months. Come see us!
Chronicle Books has kindly agreed to give a free copy of HERE COMES DESTRUCTOSAURUS! to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win - enter below.