13 November 2014

THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS - Interview (with both the author and illustrator) and GIVEAWAY!

THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS written by Bil Lepp and illustrated by David Wenzel is a bit of a throwback to the sweet sort of folklore that I would have stared at for hours as a kid. A greedy king wants everything, while a humble king respects the little things in life. Eventually the two sensibilities come to a head. I’m thrilled to have Bil and David here today to talk about their creation…

Q. Bil - THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS reads like a classic. How did the idea come to you and how long have you been telling the story?
I have been telling The King of Little Things for about ten years. The idea came from my son. One day he asked if I wanted to play Kingdoms. He then proceeded to collect his subjects- the Tonka Truck dump truck, the Tonka Truck firetruck, the T-Rex. All the big toys. He said, "I will be the king of big things." He then handed me a marble and a jack and said, "You can be the king of little things." I said, "What a great idea for a story! Play by yourself...cat's in the cradle..." and I went to my office and wrote the tale. The orginal version was closer to 2500 words then the 700 some words the story is now. I told that version for years before the book came out, so my oral version is a bit longer than the book version.
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Q. David - What was your reaction when you read the manuscript for the first time? Did the images come to you easily?
The artwork for King of Little Things was definitely in my wheelhouse. I have been recognized for my whimsical approach to many subjects, but particularly those with a Medieval theme. So envisioning the characters was very enjoyable. Once they were fleshed out, I developed the various concepts for each spread, and I had to give that some real thought. The book has a King character that conquers other lands and I wanted my art to not glorify that in any form, so I tried to think of visuals that implied rather then exemplified the military aspects of conquering. I still had plenty of chances to illustrate pompous generals and inept knights. A secondary theme of the story Bil wrote were the many small and little things that make up our world and I really enjoyed sneaking as many of those tidbits into the art as I could.

Q. Bil - You are a well-known storyteller. Was it challenging to turn this story into book text?
I was amazed by the editing process. I had, obviously, wonderful editors. There were times when lines were cut from the tale that I hated to see go, but I just kept telling myself that the folks at Peachtree know what they are doing. One of the most fascinating aspects was seeing, on certain pages, how the layout of text and the illustrations work in conjunction. For example, on the page where the big king is wearing all the hats and crowns and the text mirrors the movement of the hats.
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Q. David - I’ve heard illustrators refer to some texts as “illustrator candy.” Were there lots of illustrator notes or was Bill’s text simply mental candy for you?
I guess Bil's provided me with a small bowl of illustrator candy. I usually do a lot of preliminary character work on this kind of project. Between Bil, Loraine, the art director, and Margaret, the publisher, we had agreed on the two king characters before I started to develop the layouts. I was really free to interpret Bil's words and the suggestions I received on my sketches truly enhanced the final versions.

Q. Bil - What was the message you wanted to relay in THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?
I feel as if I say more here, I will take away from the point. :-)

Q. David - Most of the illustrations are loaded with tiny details. How long did each piece take you and what was your method?
Thanks for noticing all of the"little things". I spend a lot of time developing the layout so each page works with the entire story. basic simple shapes at first. I compiled several lists of little things that I wanted to include and the sky was the limit since Bil had already designated items like rust, fungus and pickles as subjects of the King of Little Things. So I used my lists to plug in as many extra little things as I could. Once the sketch is done I do a value study in PhotoShop and then transfer the sketch to 330 lb. Fabriano soft press watercolor paper. I then go over the sketch in a black colored pencil and then watercolor it.

Q. Bil - What was your path to publication with THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?
I was very fortunate that Carmen Deedy heard me tell The King of Little Things at a storytelling festival. She asked if I would be interested in the story becoming a picture book and I think I responded with a resounding, "Duh, of course!" Carmen shepherded me through the process and I am grateful that her love of the story led to its eventual publication. I know I grew impatient at times during the process, but Carmen was there to assure me that the process worked. And, after earning all these great reviews, accolades and awards, I must confess, she was correct. When David came on board I was even more excited. Even his initial illustrations, rough drafts, were so delightful, and insightful, that I knew he was going to make the book a real success. I had been with the story a long time, and had grown used to it, but David's art helped me see the story in a whole new way. I have heard of writers being dissatisfied with the illustrations, but that is not the case here. David's devotion to the details and the illustrations turn a good story into a great book.
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Q. David - You’ve been in the illustration business for a long time. Any advice for those struggling on a similar path?
I guess all illustrators get asked this question. There is no easy answer. My son Brendan Wenzel has been carving out a great career in children's books and I think his path is more recent and more relevant then the one I started on many years ago. He has always had really great ideas for books and he had to work in several other illustration fields before he caught on with children's books. He worked doing story boards, making props, animations, and other art related jobs. He kept his eye on his goal and explored every opportunity to get his work out there. He put one of his pieces in an art show in California, it was seen by Angela DiTerlizzi, and she connected with him to illustrate her new book, Some Bugs. I think it's important for aspiring illustrators to understand you build a career piece by piece and always strive to move forward and try to think of set backs as inspiration to get you to the next level.
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Q. Bil and David - Are you doing anything special to celebrate the release of THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?

Bil: I'm hoping that this book leads to more oppotunities for David and I to work together again. The book actually came out a year ago, but we are celebrating the anniversay by going to the PEN Awards ceremony to receive our PEN/Steven Kroll Award.

David: We've been together in NY a couple of times to promote the book and attend the Irma Black awards at Bank Street College. We would like to celebrate more with each other and libraries and bookshops that would like us to come by.

I wish you both much continued success!

Peachtree has kindly agreed to send one free copy of THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:


apple blossom said...

This sounds like an awesome book thanks for the chance to win a copy

Yvonne said...

This would be a wonderful book to share with my granddaughter who is the Queen of Little Things.

Mrs. B. said...

Looks lovely. Want.

apple blossom said...

I'd love to share this with the students I teach thanks.

apple blossom said...

the illustrations look awesome thanks for the chance to win

Traci VanWagoner said...

This book looks like a ton of fun. I love fantasy and kings and things, and I love those illustrations. Thanks for sharing this with us.

AnimalAuthor said...

I recently read this book--it was fantastic and I enjoyed hearing about the writing and illustration process!

Scattered Brain said...

What a wonderful looking book. Would love to read it with my children

sevenacresky said...

Awesome... can picture books get more beautiful and rich?

Yvonne said...

Love the illustrations.


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