Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Q&A with "Sloppy Joe" author Dave Keane. Uh... that's actually me!

Last week I blogged an interview with Denise Brunkus, the illustrator of my picture book "Sloppy Joe." Well, I thought it only fair that I share the interview I did for "Sloppy Joe." Not to toot my own horn, but this is good comedy.

1.) Are you as messy as Sloppy Joe?
Well, I think “messy” and “sloppy” are really two different things. Messy means you make messes everywhere. Sloppy can mean a lot of things: you’re careless, or unorganized, or not striving for perfection—even having poor penmanship is considered sloppy. So to answer your question: I am sloppy and messy.

2.) Who inspired you to write this character?
Well, I grew up with six brothers, so there were seven rowdy boys in the Keane house. And let’s just say we weren’t famous for being tidy. My poor mom! There were dirty socks, empty glasses, and toys everywhere. Sometimes she’d say in frustration, “I’m raising a pack of wolves!” I think that was rather unfair to wolves everywhere.

3.) Why does Sloppy Joe love to catch frogs?
When I was a boy, all the kids in my neighborhood would ride their bikes to the creek near our elementary school and catch frogs. Lots of frogs. And tadpoles, too. We’d bring them home by the dozens in coffee cans and try to catch bugs and worms to feed them. We’d eventually get distracted, so they’d hop away. No surprise that my street had a ginormous frog population.

4.) Did you have a bearded dragon, too?
Nope. Always wanted one though. I had an aquarium with fish, I had red-eared slider turtles, and a hamster. I borrowed my friend’s snake once, but I lost it in the house at some point—but DON’T tell my mom, she still lives in that house! Today, my own family has a dog, a guppy that seems to be starving all the time, and a tortoise that seems very wise and very bored at the same time.

5.) Did you try to help your dad around the house like Sloppy Joe?
Ha! That’s a good one. Never. When it was time for chores, we hid. I usually climbed all the way to the top of a tree and ditched. My brothers and I would do just about anything to get out of chores, even scrambling out the window when we heard our parents shout, “Time for chores, boys!”

6.) Sloppy Joe likes grilled cheese sandwiches. Do you? What’s you’re favorite sandwich in the whole wide world?
Well, occasionally I’ll chow down a grilled cheese sandwich with my kids, but it’s not on my Top 10 Sandwiches list. My favorite sandwich? Pizza. Okay, I know that’s not officially in the sandwich category, but I fold each slice over when I eat it, so it sorta looks like a sandwich. What can is say, I LOVE pizza!

7.) So do you burp, and slouch and put your elbows on the table at the dinner table like Sloppy Joe?
Of course. Why wouldn't I? Next question.

8.) What inspired you to write Sloppy Joe?
Well, I talked with my editor, Margaret Anastas, about this book quite a bit. We agreed that the character had to be sort of the “anti-girlie-girl.” Most importantly, I wanted to write a book that was funny. I wanted the main character to be sloppy, but basically well-meaning. Most boys aren’t all cute and buttoned-up, like you see in movies and read about in books. They laugh at their burps, leave their shoes on the stairs for everyone to trip over, and they’re experts at making farting noises with their armpits, which is exactly the spirit I was trying to capture.

9.) What’s your favorite part in Sloppy Joe?
My favorite part in the book is when his friend’s mom won’t let Sloppy Joe come in their house. That’s a true story about one of my friend’s mom. I also used that same idea in my Joe Sherlock chapter book series: Lance Peeker’s mom never lets Joe Sherlock come into their house, which Joe Sherlock thinks is totally odd. All the weird stuff that happens in your life is useful when you’re a writer!

10.) What was the best part about writing this book?
Getting to meet and become friends with the book’s illustrator, Denise Brunkus. She’s hilarious. And when we weren’t talking about Sloppy Joe, she was giving me advice on the book I was illustrating at the time, called “Monster School.” She was a big help! And she’s a big crack up, too. I was glad I got to meet in person when we went on our two-week book tour across the country. That was the first time we met! I’m in California and she’s in 3,000 miles away in Massachusetts, so we're not likely to bump into each other at the grocery store! If I did, I'd buy her a grilled-cheese sandwich…or a bearded dragon.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Q&A with "Sloppy Joe" illustrator Denise Brunkus

I had the pleasure of having my picture book Sloppy Joe illustrated by Denise Brunkus, who's mucho famous for illustrating the Junie B. Jones series. I even got to do a two-week, cross-country book tour with Denise, who I learned is a rock star at every elementary school between Texas and New Jersey. She's also a funny and interesting creative type who loves nothing more than answering silly questions.

1.) So are you sloppy or neat? Have you always been that way?
Well, I started out neat and have pretty much been neat my whole life. But then Sloppy Joe introduced me to the perks and benefits of “sloppy,” so I have since lightened up on the neat thing.

2.) What's the single best thing about being an illustrator?
THE ART SUPPLIES!!! I have tons of colored markers and pencils, piles of beautiful papers and sketchbooks, colorful paints and pastels galore! And because I am “Boss” of my studio, I can have as many art supplies as I want. Ha!

3.) What is the hardest thing for you to draw? What's the easiest?
Hardest thing? Well, I'd say horses, but then, to be fair, I'd also have to admit that I am not good at drawing cars, airplanes, buildings, and straight lines. But years ago, I needed to draw a horse in one of my illustrations. I panicked! My 10-year-old daughter saved the day; she drew the horse for me. As for the easiest thing for me to draw........dots! I love drawing dots. And I am a pro! Dots everywhere.

4.) Did you want to be an illustrator when you were young?
When I was young I didn't even know what an illustrator was, but I did know that I liked to make art. And that's what I've been doing all my days. When I was a kid, I was always imagining, drawing, coloring and making things... artwork, puppets, Barbie clothes. And it is still what I do. Well, not exactly, because I HAVE stopped making Barbie clothes.

5.) What was the best thing about illustrating Sloppy Joe?
I'd say the best thing was getting to talk to the author of Sloppy Joe, Dave Keane. I don't usually get to talk with the authors of the books I illustrate: in the publishing business authors and illustrators are kept apart. But this time, our amazing editor, Margaret, believed it would make a better book if Dave and I talked throughout the creative process. So we talked and exchanged ideas, and I do believe our book is better because we did.

6.) What is your favorite page in Sloppy Joe?
I really like the picture of Sloppy Joe slouched in the chair with his lunch. although I must say that my favorite thing in Sloppy Joe is Sloppy Joe himself! I really had so much fun drawing him and making him move and react throughout the pages of the book. What a guy!

7.) Have you ever drawn so many frogs before? Do you feel you are now a frog expert?
No, never. Truth is, I do not particularly care for real frogs, so I am totally surprised at how many frogs I DID draw. Better yet, I am even more surprised at how much fun I had drawing them all. Maybe it's because my frogs look funny and friendly and not too slimy. Once I started drawing them, I couldn't stop. Frogs EVERYWHERE! But I am no expert. I only wish that real frogs looked more like MY frogs. Then maybe I'd like them more.

8.) Do you have a dog like Sloppy Joe has? Frogs? A bearded dragon? Crickets?
No, I don't have a dog like Joe's, nor do I have a bearded dragon. I didn't even know that bearded dragons existed until I read the Sloppy Joe story. (I had to Google "bearded dragon" to see how to draw one!) As for frogs, yes, I have frogs— way more frogs than I drew in the book! I live in the woods and so do they. Having frogs for neighbors is okay, as long as they stay in the woods. But every so often they decide to come OUT of the woods. And don't you know they come out and sit along the path that leads to my studio. They think it's real funny to jump out to scare me when I walk by. Yeah...real funny.

9.) Do you like grilled cheese sandwiches? How many could you eat? What is your favorite sandwich in the whole wide world?
Grilled cheese sandwiches are tasty enough, so I can definitely eat one, two if I am totally starving. But my favorite sandwich in the whole wide world? That would be a baloney sandwich. Yessir. Baloney on squishy white bread served with real chocolate milk. Dee-licious! I always have it on my birthday, which, by the way, is Barbie's birthday, too, although I don't know what her birthday meal would be. (P.S. Can you find the baloney sandwich that I put in the book?)

10.) If you were not illustrating children's books, what do you think you'd do for a living?
Oh, I'd be working in a beauty salon. For sure. And if that didn't pan out, I'd be a cowgirl, as that would give me the opportunity to wear fringe, yodel, and sit around the campfire playing the harmonica after the round-up.