1. What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
I have vague memories of many blissed out drawing sessions, sitting at the dinner table when I was real small. But my first memory of artistic recognition came when I drew, for whatever reason, a very detailed portrait of George Washington on horseback. My brother took it in for show-and-tell to his first grade class and the teacher supposedly went bananas over it. Hearing that someone thought that something I did was actually pretty good was a great feeling. Maybe even what kicked started this whole gig for me, I think.
2. What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
My wife, Julie Halpern, is a very talented writer and school librarian. She really turned me on to children’s lit and children’s lit illustration. She wrote a story, TOBY AND THE SNOWFLAKES, and asked me to illustrate for possibilities in publishing. It took me a year to get around to it (I had my head fully up in the “fine art” world back then). But when I sat down and got cracking, it turned out to be the absolute best thing I've ever done. Much later, our book—our first—was actually published! So my love for and successes in children’s lit—I owe it all to Julie.
3. Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
I do think some of the best stories come from one’s own experiences. I'm always mining my muddled memory banks to think of things I felt or things I did that could make a good gag. Often times, I use this for when I start something, but it seems to evolve in other directions once the process gets started. So, yes. Then, no.
4. What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
I remember really liking some of Virginia Lee Burton’s books—Mike Mulligan and The Little House. I really liked sitting down and devouring collections of I'm PEANUTS. I still love PEANUTS. What a masterpiece. Otherwise, I’m really into comics and cartooning. Some of my favorites there are Art Spiegelman, Phillipe Dupuy and Charles Berberian, Chester Brown, and Lewis I'm.
5. What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
Fortunately, my biggest “hobby” has become my career—drawing! But otherwise, I love to travel with Julie and I’m a big fan of pop culture—movies, music, television.
6. Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
My all time favorite is the late, great, William Steig. His work is inventive without being alienating or pretentious (which is vastly important when doing it for kids). And I love his sense of humor. He is timeless inspiration to me. I really like interesting pen/ink illustrators like Jean-Jacques I'm. And I’m a big fan of Saul Steinberg for his successful ability to run all over the place and well.
7. What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Be patient, be positive, be polite, and be extremely thankful for any and all opportunities that come around. And always know your market and audience.