Welcome to my glob’s first interview!
I thought it would be fun to do a twist on the old interview and have my subjects interview themselves!
So once a month you might find an interview here in which an author/illustrator/editor/other friend of mine asks themselves the questions they wish interviewers would ask them.
Or you might not.
It all depends.
I could be working on a book instead.
Or off on a long research trip.
Or I might not have that many friends 😦
Interviewing is like fishing, you cast the bait into the water and then you wait. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. And interviewing yourself can be like that too. You have little control over what comes up, or who comes up. But your eyes brighten and your heart jumps at whatever happens, and you marvel at the beauty and miracle at the end of your line.
On the hook and making a big splash this morning is the award-winning author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino! He’s the BIG fish. He has more than three dozen, count ’em — that’s more than 36 books out, and counting! His books are beautiful and holding one makes you marvel at so many miracles — the miracle of sight, the pulse of life, the love of a parent, the rush of adventure, the vibrancy of color, and just the plain FUN of it all. I love his work and the retro feel of his books. Dan has also worked in television. When I asked him to interview himself two weeks ago, Dan was on his way to giving a talk at Pixar, but he said yes! And this is the interview he
conducted concocted on his flight to San Francisco:
Q- Did you always want to be a children’s book author and illustrator?
A- I didn’t really grow up with picture books in my house, so being a children’s book author and illustrator was sort of beyond the scope of my little universe of my childhood. I gravitated more towards comic books and comic strips and as a kid, wrote and illustrated my own comics and comic books and thought I’d end up being a cartoonist.
I’ve always had a great love of comedy and using the analog technology around me at the time, wrote and tape recorded comedy bits using music and sound effect records (yes, I actually bought sound effect records), so I entertained the notion of being a comedy writer. I also made super 8 movies and even considered animation as a career. My mother would take me to the library every week and I would take the same few picture books out over and over again. I would trace the drawings in them and read them over and over, but for some reason, books weren’t that accessible to me. For some reason, it was beyond anything I imagined myself doing as an adult.
After graduating from Parsons School of Design here in NYC, I did an enormous amount of freelance commercial illustration for magazines, newspapers, ad agencies, etc. It was only through the suggestion of a friend who had done a few children’s books that I met a children’s book editor. But once I sunk my teeth into books, I was hooked!
Q- Do you have any hobbies?A- No! I wish I did (laughs). I know I should probably take up a hobby like making birdhouses and whittling or become a Civil War buff or something, but I truly love writing and illustrating. It’s what I’d do at night and on the weekends if I was working at whatever other job I had, although I can’t imagine what that other job would be because I can’t really do anything else other than write and illustrate and maybe produce animated television, but that’s about it. I’m entirely useless otherwise. We all know that the end date of the Mayan calendar is coming up (12/21/12) and once the planet is nothing but smoldering rubble, you’ll need certain basic survival skills to stay alive, like how to make fire, construct a shelter and how to forage for food. I have none of those skills and will probably be the first chosen if it comes to cannibalism. In fact, I just may volunteer myself.
Q- You’re known for posting lots of photos of food on your Facebook page. What’s the deal with that?A- Well, I guess you can say that food is my hobby because I like to eat, but then so would be sleeping. I travel a lot and like to go to restaurants only the locals go. I’ve had incredible BBQ in Mississippi, deee-licious fried chicken in Texas, great dumplings in San Francisco’s Chinatown, pastrami right at home here in NYC and mashed potato pizza in Connecticut.
Q- You mentioned producing television. What have you done?
A- I created and produced two animated series, Oswald and Willa’s Wild Life. I also designed the Backyardigans characters.
Q- What do you like doing more, books or television?
A- I like them both because they’re entirely different experiences with entirely different results. When I work on a book, it’s just me, my editor and the designer. I consider my books the closest representation of my work and ideas, it’s my singular vision. With my television series, it’s sort of like a group project that I guide, but I want everyone to contribute ideas.
I think I use different parts of my brain when I work in these areas. I love doing both.
Q- What are you working on at the moment?
A- I have a picture book coming out on 10/16/12 called Kate & Nate Are Running Late, which I illustrated and a picture book I wrote and illustrated called Doug Unplugged (my first digitally done book), which will come out in February ’13, but those have already been completed. I’m about to start work on a few picture and board books, but the biggest project I’m currently working on is writing and illustrating a funny sci-fi middle grade novel (hopefully the first in a series) called Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza, which is scheduled to come out in Fall ’14. It’s (hopefully) going to be fully illustrated. I’m also about to start laying out a chapter book series I’ll also be writing and illustrating called Class Pet Squad, which should come out in Spring ’15.
Q- Do you do anything other than writing and illustrating children’s books?
A- Does it sound like I have time? Okay, maybe I eat and sleep occasionally (you know, my hobbies), but that’s about it. Oh, yeah, I also do loads of school visits and book festivals and speak at lots of book conferences. I’ve read at the White House and I just spoke at Pixar, which was fantastic.
I also read a lot. I’m usually reading about 3 books at a time and jump from one to the other.
Q- I take it you’re a high energy person.
A- I’m hyperactive and always have been. I have lots of energy and channel it through my work. I think I have a touch of ADD, which I try to make work for me. I’ve always been this way, even as a kid. I just always had this overriding need to express myself creatively, even when it wasn’t the most popular thing to do. I was pretty much the only kid in my school who could draw and had any interest in art of any kind, which made me kind of a weirdo, especially when everyone else was into sports.
Q- Is there anything else you’d rather be doing?
Q- Why not?
A- Mostly because I LOVE what I do and as previously stated, I have no ability to do anything else.
So there you have it, the fabulous, super-duper Dan Yaccarino interviewing himself — live — on SO YOU WANNA BE AN AUTHOR?
Thank you very much, Dan, for this yummyful interview!
You can visit Dan at DanYaccarino.com.
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