How did you decide to become a children’s writer?
I became a children’s author and illustrator because I’ve always seen myself as a creative person. Life got in the way and I became a lawyer, but eventually I just felt compelled to spend my spare time expressing myself artistically. It was less a conscious decision and more just a natural inclination to create.
How did you learn to make things out of felt?
I taught myself how to needle felt expressly for the purpose of illustrating children’s books. When my twin brother, Jack, came up with the idea for a board book series abridging classic novels into just 12 words and 12 images (Cozy Classics), I really wanted to help him execute the idea. I knew we needed a signature style that would stand out, so I had to think outside the box. I had heard of needle felting, so I jumped onto YouTube and taught myself the technique.
When did you start writing children’s books?
I started about a decade ago, shortly after my kids were born. I became immersed in children’s literature again and it seemed liked a natural genre for me to explore artistically.
Where do you get your inspiration for your books?
My brother came up with the idea for Cozy Classics because he teaches creative writing at a university in the United States. We created Star Wars Epic Yarns because we’re lifelong Star Wars fans. And I came up with the idea for my new picture books, Great Job, Mom! and Great Job, Dad!, while I was walking my dog around the neighbourhood, thinking about all the unpaid jobs that parents do!
On average, how long does it take to write and create a book?
It’s hard to say, since I’m often making books around a day job. But I would say that it takes me anywhere from four to eight months to create the art for a children’s book. However, the whole artistic process from conception to writing to publication is a painfully long process – sometimes up to three years!
What was your favorite children’s book while growing up and why?
As I child, I adored a curious little book called Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins and Eric Gurney. It had this driving rhythm that I loved. And I was fascinated by all those monkeys!
Who’s your favorite children author and why?
My favorite children’s author and illustrator is probably Chris Van Allsburg (Jumanji, The Polar Express, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, etc.). He is just so incredibly gifted as an artist and a compelling storyteller to boot. If I could take my name and slap it on someone else’s books and claim them as my own, I would lay claim to Chris Van Allsburg’s body of work for sure!
What was your favorite scene to create?
I loved creating the LIBRARIAN shot in Great Job, Dad! I took books off my kids’ book shelves and created 1:6 scale miniature versions and filled the scale-model bookshelves. The image is not only a nod to bedtime in my family, it’s an homage to the whole children’s book world.
Who was your favorite character to create?
I loved creating Chewbacca. Everybody loves Chewbacca!
What are the steps you take in creating a book?
First, I generally needle felt most if not all the characters in a book. This usually takes a few months. Then I will build a scale-model set or scout a location, then take a photograph. Then I will repeat this process of set-making / location scouting / photography until the book is complete.
Out of all the books you created, which book is your favorite one and why.
My favorites are probably Great Job, Dad!, because it stars me and my kids, and Star Wars: A New Hope, because the movie had such an impact on my life. It was such an honour to be able to bring my artistic style to the Star Wars universe.