Interview: Barbara Jean Hicks, Sue Hendra, and Erin Clarke
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: House score music
There's a new picture book storming into towns - and kitchens! Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli is a brightly-coloured story about creatures who would rather chomp on real trees than those little green trees also known as broccoli. These tractor-eating, rocketship-munching monsters have had a long journey to publication, as described by author Barbara Jean Hicks, illustrator Sue Hendra, and editor Erin Clarke.
Little Willow: Barbara, how did this book come about?
Barbara Jean Hicks: MONSTERS DON'T EAT BROCCOLI has an interesting back story: My editor at Knopf, Erin Clarke, came across a book dummy in the offices of Random House England for a project by an author/illustrator that had been contracted and then not published. She loved the illustrations, but the text didn't quite work for her. When she got back to the states, she sent me a copy of the dummy and asked me if I could come up with a story for the pictures! Normally, a picture book story comes first and the editor looks for an illustrator after the text has been contracted, so this was highly unusual. I loved Sue's cheerful monsters, and there was a scene in the dummy with trees that reminded me of broccoli. Her original manuscript was about eating, too, but with a very different focus. I wanted her to be able to use the same or similar sketches to the ones she'd already developed because they were so much fun, so I wrote the text with food in mind,
rearranged the sketches to fit, and suggested a few others to make the book longer. Her pictures truly inspired the words. And it was great fun working the story backwards from the art!
Little Willow: Sue, were the original illustrations yours?
Sue Hendra: Yes, the original illustrations were mine. They featured monsters that I'd invented. I was sad when it looked like Random House in the UK didn't want to proceed with the project because then the monsters wouldn't get to appear in a story. When Erin said that she'd asked Barbara to write a story for them I was really excited. When I read it, I thought it was brilliant. Barbara's words are fantastic to read aloud. It's a wonderful text. I loved working on Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli and I'm so glad that those monsters got to have an adventure after all. I reckon they're glad too!
Little Willow: Erin, how did you acquire the rights to the book? How did you find a new writer?
Erin Clarke: Sue had written a text for a novelty book, the format in which the British publisher originally wanted to publish MONSTERS DON'T EAT BROCCOLI. I saw it as more of a traditional picture book and asked Barbara, with whom I had worked on her previous picture book, THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER KITTY, to try her hand at writing a text. I knew the tone and humor of Barbara's words would match Sue's illustrations perfectly! I should also mention that Sue is an accomplished writer in her own right. I am publishing her new picture book, BARRY, THE FISH WITH FINGERS, which she both wrote and illustrated, on our summer 2010 list.
Little Willow: Sue, what media did you use for Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli?
Sue Hendra: All the illustrations for the book were created with gouache paint. It's a very unforgiving medium to work with as it's hard to paint over the top of, so it's very frustrating when you make a mistake. Most of my illustrations are done on the computer. It's a lot faster than painting and I can easily correct any mistakes. When Erin saw samples of my painted and my computer generated art she said she'd rather I hand paint all the illustrations. It took a long time to complete all the paintings, especially all the dots that make up the broccoli, but when I look at the end product I can see it was all worth it.
Little Willow: What are your favorite media to work with, or your favorite styles?
Sue Hendra: I don't really have a favourite medium. I like making books on the computer and painting the illustrations by hand.
Little Willow: Who are your favorite artists?
Sue Hendra: I love Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and I'm a big fan of Axel Scheffler's work -- the expressions on his creatures really make me laugh.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17th: Elizabeth Bird for School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18th:
MONDAY, OCTOBER 19th:
Interview: Terry Pierce
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20th:
Interview: Little Willow at Bildungsroman
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21st:
Interview: Sherrie Petersen
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22nd:
Interview with Terry Pierce
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23rd:
Interview with Jaime Temairik and the Zombie in sock puppet form for Zombie
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24th: Podcast with Mark and Andrea at Just One More Book
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25th: Book Trailer animated by Cecilia Olivera-Hillway of Polar Twilight
Visit Barbara Jean's website.
Visit Class Act Creative.
(Sue, if and when you need a website, let me know!)