20 November 2014
John Rocco's BLIZZARD - Interview and Giveaway!
John Rocco has a new book out called BLIZZARD - a mostly light book because of all the snow. It’s a wonderful follow-up to his Caldecott honor-winning, mostly dark book, BLACKOUT, which I also adored and talked to John about HERE. In BLIZZARD, John relays a story from his own childhood when forty inches of snow buried Rhode Island back in 1978. I can so relate to this story because of my own similar experience… an ice-storm in Georgia in the 70s that left me and my family sleeping by the fireplace where we cooked our food, boiled our water, and kept warm for days before things got back to normal. So, I’m thrilled to have John back to talk about his latest picture book...
Q. Hi John, You’ve done it again! You’ve taken a quiet little moment of life and made it big and beautiful - congratulations!
A. Thanks so much Elizabeth! I think the quiet moments are the most interesting.
Q. Truly, you’re creating a niche of pulling those odd little moments from life, a blackout, a snowstorm, and turning them into something magical. How do these stories develop for you?
A. Well, with Blackout, the story was developed through interviewing many people in Brooklyn and New York City about their individual experiences during the blackout of 2003. What was interesting to me were how many of them had similar experiences, and that became the thrust of the book. Blizzard on the other hand had developed from my daughter continually asking for stories about my childhood. This was one of them. This book is almost a diary of that week when I was little. When I told my father about the new book I was working on, he shipped me all the newspapers from that week in 1978. He had actually saved them!
Q. I love the contrast of the dark book versus the light book. Was that intentional?
A. Well, I guess I could have called it WHITEOUT, but I like the fact that they both begin with B. But yes, almost everything is intentional in my books. The things that aren't are usually the best. You know, those happy accidents? I do think they make a nice pairing for story time though. In Blackout, the main character goes through an emotional arc, from being bored, to scared, to curious, to surprised and happy. I tried to use color, and the lack thereof, to help amplify his emotions. With Blizzard I was dealing with an event that most adults at the time did not find fun at all. In fact, it was a pretty big ordeal. But us kids thought it was fantastic and magical and…and…THERE WAS NO SCHOOL FOR A WEEK!
Q. I’m sure the lighting in BLACKOUT was a challenge. Were there any particular lighting challenges in BLIZZARD?
A. The biggest challenge for me with Blizzard was to figure out where and when to let the white of the paper feel like the snow, and where to use watercolor washes to indicate some atmosphere. I think finding that balance was the most difficult.
Q. Was it truly you who made the trek through the neighborhood on snow shoes fashioned out of tennis rackets to get to the store and purchase emergency supplies?
A. Yes, it was. In fact I remember that my sisters racket was a white Christ Evert model, and mine was a light blue Bjorn Borg model. Recently, at a book signing in my old home town, the woman who owned that store with her husband came by and said hello. It was surreal. I screamed out, "I JUST PAINTED OF PICTURE OF YOU!" The one big change I had made was that when the snowplows finally came it wasn't hot chocolate everyone was drinking in the street, it was whiskey. My father had told me that when the snowplows finally started up our road, our next door neighbor ran out and planted a bottle of whiskey in the snow. They stopped the plow and everyone came out for a toast.
Q. What was your fondest memory from that time?
A. I think building all the snow forts and tunnels in our front yard. My sister and I were like gophers, digging through that snow.
Q. Did working on this book bring up old memories for you? How was it to work with that?
A. It's interesting you ask that. My parents separated when I was about 18. My sister and father both moved to California shortly after that. So now, almost thirty years later, I re-created the world where we were all together again. Drawing all the details of our living room; the wood stove, the conch shell on the mantle, the Andrew Wyeth print on the wall, my mom's rocker, my dad's chair…it's all there. It was strange and fun and a little emotional for me.
Q. I know you’ve shared before, but for my readers who don’t know, can you share your illustration method?
A. First I create a tonal drawing, and then I scan it into the computer and color using a combination of digital paint and water color washes and textures that I bring in as well.
Q. We’re heading into the snowy season. Any words of wisdom to those who might have a similar experience?
A. Most importantly, I would say, stay safe and enjoy the time you get to spend with your family.
Q. Thanks and I wish you much continued success, John!
A. Thanks Elizabeth!!
Here I am with John (far right) at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville this past October:
Check out this great book trailer for BLIZZARD! (The link will take you to Vimeo.)
FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR!
Thursday, November 6 Mundie Kids
Friday, November 7 Kid Lit Frenzy
Monday, November 10 The Children’s Book Review
Tuesday, November 11 The Kids Did It
Wednesday, November 12 OC Mom Media
Thursday, November 13 As They Grow Up
Friday, November 14 Curling Up With a Good Book
Monday, November 17 Ben Spark
Tuesday, November 18 Mr. Schu Reads
Thursday, November 20 Elizabeth Dulemba
Disney has kindly agreed to give a free copy of BLIZZARD to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below.