Was it hard to get started as a children’s book author?
When I started making children’s books, I was working in and around the publishing business in New York. I was lucky enough to know a few people in the children’s book world who were looking for projects. And our graphic design work was paying the bills, so I was able to move gradually into being an author and illustrator. We were lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
How do you and Steve work together?
We've collaborated in our design office for many years. When we began working on children’s books, it was never hard for us to have a conversation about what form a book should take. It has always felt easy and natural. Often, I have an idea for a book and take it to Steve. We toss the idea back and forth, and it may evolve into something quite different. We research the topic, talk about it, and if we decide it’s a good idea we write a proposal and submit it to our publisher. Once it’s accepted, we get to work.
I do most of the image research, pulling potential subjects from books and web sites. We talk about things to include and make pages and pages of lists and notes. These notes will become the basis of Steve’s rough text. I make lots of sketches on a graphics tablet. This is a quick way to explore many different subjects and compositions. I’ll decide what creatures to include on each spread, do sketch layouts showing size and position, and figure out where the text should be placed.
The next step is to build a dummy — a handmade book with fake text and rough sketches of the art. I usually make several dummies. We send the ones that work off to our editor and art director, who ask questions and make comments. I refine the layout, and Steve begins work on the actual illustrations, using my sketches as a guide. After the text has gone back and forth a couple of times and our editor has reviewed it, I include it in the layout. As Steve finishes the illustrations, I scan them and place them in a digital page layout program. We make one final color dummy that shows what the actual printed book will look like. The final step is a mechanical — a digital file for the printer with final edited text and art in place.