Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a suburban housing development called Flanders, NJ. The whole neighborhood was comprised of four different styles of house.
What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
My grandma claims that shortly before I turned two, she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. My answer was “art supplies.” While I don't remember that, as it was quite a long time ago, I do remember very clearly how obsessed I was with drawing superheroes when I was about four.
What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
I have wanted to be a children's book illustrator (and/or author) ever since I took lessons from author/illustrator Robert J. Blake, back when I was in middle school. Not only did I learn the basics of drawing and painting from him, I also got to see weekly progress on whatever book he was working on at the time.
Being that my two favorite pastimes are and always have been drawing and reading, it made perfect sense for me to pursue something that would allow me to do both.
Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Sometimes. More importantly, I think working on children's books inspires me to think about my childhood more than I would otherwise. It keeps me young at heart, I think. This may or may not help with my work, but it certainly helps to keep me a happy person.
What were some of your favorite books when you were a child? What about adult titles?
My all-time favorite book as a kid was The Sailor Dog. I still have my copy. I also loved Dr. Suess and Richard Scarry. As an adult, I still read a lot. Some favorites include David Copperfield, Catch-22, books by Graham Greene, Tom Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut, Wallace Stegner, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, and the list could go on and on. I read a lot.
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
Any time not drawing or reading is pretty much spent with my family. Hiking, cooking, playing in the yard are the main activities.
Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
I am mainly interested in good drawing. Whether I'm looking at illustrations or fine art in a museum, I enjoy seeing the work of someone who is really, really good at what he or she does. I usually prefer to look at sketches instead of finished pieces of art, because it allows you to see the thought process of the artist. I also like seeing an artist who's not afraid to branch out and try different styles. Some of my favorite artists include Isabel Bishop, Michelangelo, Edgar Degas, and John Singer Sargent.
What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Being able to do what you love as a job is a huge privilege. It takes a lot of work and persistence, but you also have to let yourself relax a bit and not force it. Don't try to come up with a “style.” Just draw and eventually a style will develop on its own.