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.