Where did you grow up?
My dad was in the military, so we moved all the time. I was always the new kid at school. Before I reached high school, I lived in Texas, Colorado, Florida, Japan, New Jersey, and Illinois.
What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
I’m not one of those people who wanted to be a writer since I was, like, four years old. I don’t remember writing as a kid, but I did love to draw, though I wasn’t very good. I had an active imagination though, and used to play a game called D&D that had me constantly making up new worlds and adventures. Looking back, this was probably great training ground for my writing.
What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
As an adult, I love kids’ books. I never really read much as a kid…I didn’t really discover books until fifth grade. My parents weren’t big readers and we didn’t have books in the house. Then, one day, my fifth grade teacher read “Ramona the Pest” to us out loud. It changed everything. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. From then on, I had a love affair with books and spend all my time in the library, making up for lost time. That continued on into my adult years. So, when I began dabbling in writing, it was kids’ books that I connected most with.
Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Sure, some, I guess. I think I’m mostly just a really immature adult. That helps.
What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
I can’t say what has influenced my work, because I never imagine myself in the same league with some of my favorite authors. But I loved (and love) Roald Dahl, Madeline L’Engle, Jon Scieszka, George Saunders, E.L. Konigsburg. I’m also very visually inspired and influenced by certain illustrators like Gris Grimly, Yuyi Morales, Wayne Anderson, Lane Smith and Laurie Keller.
I think it’s easier to allow myself to be inspired by illustrators than writers, especially when I was starting out, because I was always scared I’d copy another writer’s style or approach. I didn’t want to do that…I wanted to find my own voice. But when I see a picture that puts a particular story or character voice in my head…well, it’s not copying. It’s just inspiration.
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I love food, both cooking and eating, and this comes out in many of my books.
What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Write what makes you happy, not what you think other people will like. It’s amazing that this works, but it does. It is this ability that makes what you write unique, appealing, and worth reading.