What influenced you to write Ellabug?
What is the message in Ellabug?
Our families make us who we are and regardless of what others think, we should celebrate and enjoy the craziness and uniqueness that makes us!
Tell us about the main character and the other characters that she encounters.
Ellabug is a rough and tumble kind of kid. She is curious and headstrong. Her family annoys her but deep down she knows they are harmless and fun loving creatures. The ants, though, are very different. To her they seem like they have got it all together. They are organized, orderly, and, ultimately, very focused on their work - everything that Ellabug's family is not.
In creating the characters I tried to create visual clues that'd let the reader 'get it' quickly. Her boots imply her rugged individualism. The ants are the antithesis of Ellabug and are therefore modeled on a stereotypical image of German performance artists. I saw them as somewhat stern and very alike, in their neo-beat black turtlenecks. The other characters in the family - the supporting cast - are all rendered in a scruffy yet (hopefully) lovable manner. I wanted them to be the visual equivalents of well-loved, well-worn stuffed animals.
The illustrations are beautiful! Were you formally trained as an illustrator?
I have been cartooning much of my life. But I am formally trained as an industrial designer and architect - both professions require gratuitous amounts of drawing and sketching. I started taking illustration seriously just a few years ago. After receiving some attention for a drawing I did for the New Yorker, my co-workers at the University of Idaho, who prior saw me as a serious, theory-drenched bookworm, were very positive and encouraged me to pursue it more vigorously. I love all forms of visual storytelling and I see how all my education and training have lead to this current obsession with illustration.
A lot of readers don’t know about your incredibly cute Youtube video. How difficult was it to create that and what has been the response to it?
I did some 3D animation in architecture school so I understood how it should work but this was really my first attempt at 2D animation. I took the original drawings and in the computer application Photoshop made multiple layers of certain parts then moved them in a crude, stop motion kind of way. Photoshop is not really meant for animation and it took forever to create with fairly mediocre results. I have since invested in actual animation software. I can't wait to do another video.
As far as reception, there have been over 650 views of the Ellabug trailer. For a YouTube video that doesn't include adorable (real) animals being tickled or extreme ironing, I think it has done well and serves its purpose.
My kids want me to add that they did the voiceovers and that my direction and the thousands of takes it took were not too damaging to their self-esteem (see what I mean about a wicked sense of humor).
Bonus feature! Here's an experiment that didn't make the final cut of the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdqAJbpaYoc
(Note from Diversion Press: After you play the experiment video over and over and stop laughing, the next video is the actual Ellabug video. Check it out!)
Do you focus mostly on children’s books or do you write other genres?
I am an academic in my other life so I write about my fascinating (*stifles a yawn*) research on creative communities. I am currently writing a book chapter on authorship in the digital realm, for example. With that said, I prefer visual storytelling. This summer I hope to get traction on a possible web comic or graphic novel and another children's book project.
What are the best and worst parts of being a published author?
Best part: Seeing the book on the shelf at a bookstore or at the library next to my heroes and childhood favorites.
Worst part: not having the time to travel and properly promote the book. I have enjoyed the few readings and school visits that I’ve done. The story resonates with kids and adults alike so it usually leads to good conversations.
What would you like potential readers to know?
About Ellabug: Readers can submit drawings of themselves and their family as animals. I like to post them on the Ellabug blog. You can see a few at:
They are very funny. One boy drew his mother as an atom. Another made himself as a cockroach!
About writing and children's books: have fun and write because you want to tell a story – not because you want recognition or wealth.
About stuff in general: don't eat from tin cans that are warped, buckled, or from a company called Botulism Farms.
Is there a question that you would like to leave up for comments or responses?
I am curious as to how many in your audience have Kindles, Nooks, and other e-readers.