One question: Are you eating while you're reading this?
You might want to reconsider. Eating while reading the following interview may result in choking, turkey-lodging of the trachea or accidental spewing of food across friends and family.
You have been warned.
Let the interview commence!!!
Bob Shea is one of those author/illustrators that you can't really read out loud to your kid in the library. I mean you can - you aren't necessarily rendered mute when you hold his books, but you can't really get the same affect reading out loud in a quiet conservative library. You really have to give his books 110% when reading out loud. He writes BIG, not like 72 pt font BIG but FUN BIG. You see, Bob Shea has been able to blend enthusiastic bold images with exuberant story lines and with a sprinkling of adult humor. There is always going to be a moment when you're reading his books to your kids and they won't understand WHAT you're laughing at.
But you know.
So this combination results in loudness deemed unacceptable by librarians. Best bet, take them home to read or just buy your own!
Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:
Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, panic.
Which books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?
STINKY CHEESE MAN by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. I wasn't little at the time, I was sort of a grown-up. I was littler than I am now, probably by about thirty pounds.
Wandering around Waldenbooks (remember those? No?) the cover immediately caught my eye. Then I read the title and actually picked up the book. A pretty big commitment already. I thought to myself, "Are you really going to crack this open and do some bothersome reading here in public, on your own time? You know what's going to happen, it's never going to be as good as the cover. Just put it down and go get a soft pretzel."
I don't like to be told what to do, even by myself, so I opened it in defiance. It's perfect. I was fresh out of design school, so the typography blew me away. The type was as important as the illustration. The illustration was like nothing I had seen before. Back then there weren't a bunch of Jon Klassen's, Peter Brown's and Zach Ohora's running around making thoughtful, modern books. It was slim pickings at the time in the kids book world, this changed everything.
Oh, and it was FUNNY. It was impossible to find a funny book for any age. Have you been to the "humor" section of a bookstore? Painfully unfunny.
Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.
On my way to my son's soccer practice I saw some goats in yard. We don't really live in a goat's-in-a-yard kind of town, so it was unusual. also unusual are the goats. Ugly. I wondered if they knew how unfortunate they looked. I gave them my pity and moved on.
At soccer practice I started to notice a pattern of kids deciding who were the best at running, kicking, whatever. He was only six, so I thought it was odd that kids that age already felt the kind of insecurity and petty jealousy that i have woven into the fabric of my daily routine.
I thought about how hard it must be for those horrible goats to hang out with pretty much anything else.
Then i thought about the worst thing that could happen if you are a goat.
A unicorn moves in.
I thought up UNICORN THINKS HE'S PRETTY GREAT before we even got back into the car.
Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations?
Sometimes I hide my social security and PIN numbers in the books. Only a few have them though. So keep buying them until you find them. Good luck everyone!
Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?
Here's what I TRY to do. Lately I have been not keeping up on it though.
I wake up at 5am. First thing I do is meditate for 20 minutes. I stare at a candle and listen to new -agey music. It's embarrassing. I hope no one finds out. Basically, it's an exercise to clear my head and control the flow of intrusive thoughts. I'm easily distracted. If I do it for a couple weeks straight it seems to work. Otherwise it's a lot of candle staring.
Staring at a candle and listening to new age music wasn't emasculating enough, so I started making my own chai. This did two things. First, it gave me a ritual in morning that I had to focus on a task and practice patience. Second, it gave my wife a reason to make fun of me during the day.
"Are you having some chai?"
See what I mean?
Then I work, usually on writing something new until my son goes to school. Then I head into my studio and work on my whatever is in progress. Then I get coffee.
Somedays I ride my bike, or I try and run during the day. Until it gets to cold, then I just eat and complain.
I talk back to NPR as if it's talking to me and has genuine concern for my opinion. It doesn't. They sent me a nice hand crank radio once, but I have to send them money every month.
In the late afternoon it's harder to think of things. So I do non creative things at that time.
I'm not going to lie, sometimes I fall asleep in a chair. All that chai and candle staring takes a toll.
Around six I head home.
I used to be able to work more at night, but lately I am too tired.
Your humor is very evident in your books - Do you write more for adults and hope children will see the humor or what??? Basically how have you found the magic combination of being both humorous for both adults and kids??
Short answer is that I'm simply the vessel through which God works.
Long answer is, "beats me."
Wait, the second one was shorter.
Uh, you know, I am really just trying to keep myself entertained. I wish it were more impressive than that. My sensibility is appreciated by adults and accessible to kids. It's just my personality. I'm glad kids and adults both like it.
Sometimes I go too far and I write a book that only adults would like and I throw it in a drawer. I had one where two adorable teeny tigers are unwitting participants in a crime spree. They are let go because they are so cute.
Sure, this is how life really works, attractive people enjoy advantages people like me can only dream about. That's life. We shield our kids from the important lessons and set them up for a lifetime of disappointment, resentment and regret.
Yeah, I'm just kidding. I did write it, but figured no one would want it.
Make sure to check out Bob's new book -
Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don't Play with Your Food!
It's published by Hyperion and is out in January!
Bob Shea has written and illustrated over a dozen picture books including the popular Dinosaur vs. Bedtime and the cult favorite Big Plans illustrated by Lane Smith. Little Brown, Hyperion, HarperCollins, Random House, Simon and Schuster and Dial have all published his work. They are all still in business. Bob got his start at Comedy Central where he make up stuff and they went along with it. It was great. His characters and animations have appeared on Nick Jr, Playhouse Disney and PBS Kids.
Bob spends his days writing, drawing and having “conversations” with NPR.