Friday, May 8, 2015

Interview with Andy Myer

The DMS was lucky enough to interview Andy Myer, author of the middle grade book Henry Hubble's Book of TroublesLizzy reviewed his story this week, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! So, without further ado... take it away, Andy! 


What inspired you to write Henry Hubble's Book of Troubles? How did you come up with the character, Henry Hubble?
Many years ago I wrote a humorous poem called “Menu for the Week,” that gave a fictional cafeteria’s list of amusingly gross food choices. A publishing friend of mine suggested that I use it as the genesis of a book. Henry Hubble’s Book of Troubles grew out of that proposal, but that early version was entirely in verse, and was intended as a picture book for young children. All the poems in the book related to items that fell out of Henry’s school bag on the first page. The project gradually evolved into the middle grade sketchbook-journal that’s now been released. I’m happy to say that some of the early verses still survive in HHBOT (Henry likes to write poetry in his spare time. No surprise, he has dubious success).
Henry Hubble is loosely based on some of my own middle grade experiences, so there’s a great deal of young Andy Myer in his character. However, a number of his “troubles” are true incidents that my wife brought home from the elementary school where she taught for 36 years. For example, the squirrel brought to school in a book bag was a real event! I just had fun with some of the particulars.
How long did it take you to write Henry Hubble?
It took me about a year and a half to create Henry Hubble. I had the competing tasks of both writing and illustrating Henry’s journal sketchbook. I’ve been an illustrator my entire career, and writing was far more challenging for me. I found the work moved more smoothly if I wrote large chunks of the manuscript before working on the drawings in that section.

Why did you choose the Red Sloth as Henry’s comic book hero? Can you tell us about the Red Sloth’s super powers? 
The aim of humor is often to take a widely accepted idea and turn it on its head for comedic purposes. Everyone expects a superhero to be powerful, swift, and have some incredible superpower that sets him or her apart from the rest of us. The Red Sloth is (no surprise!) incredibly slow, and has no particular extraordinary power whatsoever. He gets baddies to surrender by dangling over them for hours at a time, and boring them into submission by reading monotonous textbooks. Henry’s a kid who’s drawn to peculiar ideas, so I thought he’d be the kid to fixate on this unlikely comic book hero.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
My middle grade favorites were a mishmash of historical adventures (like Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts, and Michael Strogoff by Jules Verne), and the Danny Dunn series of “boy-inventor” books by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams, which were popular in the 1960’s and 70’s.
My favorite reading, however, was humor. That’s how I coped with the trials and tribulations of early adolescence. I read every humorist I could find, from Robert Benchley and Mark Twain to HH Monroe and Jean Shepherd. I just couldn’t get enough.
Perhaps my strongest influence for Henry Hubble was the wonderful English humorist Sue Townsend, who wrote a number of wildly funny and charming books about her middle grade “hero,” Adrian Mole. Like Henry, Adrian has a pretty skewed notion of the adult world, and an unerring talent for finding catastrophes.
When Henry’s diary is published to social media, Henry is horrified that everyone’s seen his personal thoughts. He gets back at the culprit with a little help from a friend and a sneaky plan. What is your advice to kids who have to face an online embarrassment?
I have to say, I’m grateful I was born too early for this kind of harassment. I was widely viewed as a nerd in junior high and high school, and my own teen years would probably have been made far more miserable by Twitter and Facebook. Clearly, the pervasive influence and anonymity of social media adds a whole new level of cruelty and abuse to the lives of kids who others perceive as “outsiders.”
Henry’s unusual answer to his harassment isn’t a likely solution for other kids. But I think the takeaway for young people who don’t “fit in” is to wear their freak flag proudly, and unapologetically. I like to think Henry has this quality of being a “defiant dweeb.” Of course, this is easier to say than to do, and a young person struggling to find his or her identity during these vulnerable years must find it horribly painful to come under online attacks from schoolmates. Still, if a young teen can find the internal strength and wisdom not to care, perhaps the torment will lessen, and eventually go away. And perhaps there are novel ways that adolescents can turn to social media itself to fight online bullying.
Where do you like to create? Do you listen to music while you are writing or working on an illustration?
Almost all of my writing and illustration is done in my studio in my home near Philly. I wish I had a more social setting to do my work, but unfortunately I’ve never found a satisfying and achievable way of making that happen.
If I’m working on my illustrations, I like to have music or a radio talk show like NPR’s Fresh Air on. I can even have the TV going, as long as it’s not a riveting thriller that requires my undivided attention. If I’m writing, I find that I need silence, or maybe some barely audible music.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
This is a moot question for me, as I couldn’t possibly live anywhere other than where I do now. I’m in the unbelievably lucky circumstance to find myself surrounded by my three grown daughters and their families, including my five grandchildren ranging from one year to 18. We have family dinners almost every week, and I get unabashed joy being in their company, and couldn’t imagine living elsewhere — unless everyone came with me.
But I understand the question, and I suppose I’d like to park myself for a while in Barcelona, where I spent a few very happy days about a decade ago. I thought the city was just beautiful, with incredible exuberance and an intriguing history. It’s the showplace for many buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi, whose architecture I find simply inspirational.
Antoni Gaudi  Casa Battlo
The path to publication varies from author to author. Every author has a unique story and one that other authors can learn from. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication or do you have any advice for new authors?
My path to publication was fairly arduous, one that took a very, very long time. I first began submitting children’s books in the 1980’s. I wanted to be an author/illustrator, so my book proposals had to be hard copy samples that I assembled, sometimes even bound. Just getting a few copies out the door for submission was extremely time consuming, tedious, and expensive.
My strength was as an illustrator, and I hoped that my drawings would overcome weaknesses in my plots or characters. Guess what?! Editors care about the stories. Notwithstanding my lovely illustrations, the manuscripts all came back. My submissions were so labor intensive I didn’t have either the time or emotional energy to redo them, and I set them aside to do other things (like struggling to earn a living).
Over the years, I learned digital imaging and design skills, which allowed me far easier ways to submit and revise projects. I also became involved with the wonderful Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). At their conferences, I had the opportunity to hear extraordinary writers talk about their craft, and listen to top editors’ perceptions about what makes stories and characters compelling. I returned to some of my early projects, and found some worthwhile and appealing ideas that I was able to resurrect with more sophistication and clarity. The stars finally aligned, and in 2010, I met my agent who quickly placed “Pickles, Please!” and who’s helped guide my career ever since.
My advice to new children’s book authors—don’t give up, and join SCBWI. Oh, and don’t take 28 years to get published. It’s a risky strategy—who knows what might happen along the way!
If you could befriend a character from any book, who would you befriend, why? 
I’d most like to be friends with Milo in Norton Juster’s classic book, The Phantom Tollbooth. Milo’s such an appealing character, and the world he journeys into is filled with so much imaginative richness and humor.
Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I’m working on a new book, a satire of the YA dystopian novels and movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent, that have become so incredibly popular. This is a new challenge for me, writing for an older demographic.
I’m also gathering material for a Henry Hubble sequel. It’s my hope that HHBOT will become wildly popular, and I’ll be asked to create the next chapters in Henry’s life!





46 comments:

  1. Thank you both so much.
    Defiant dweeb strikes a very loud chord with me. How I wish I could have done it. How I wish I could do it now...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elephant's Child- So glad you enjoyed this and could relate. :) ~L

      Delete
  2. What a fun interview! I loved hearing about your path as an illustrator and writer - and having to physically create books for submission. Kind of reminds me of being trained in the Navy as an old-school photographer with winding film on reels in a darkroom!

    But what a great book idea for kids connecting them to the pitfalls of social media while being themselves too.

    And I love Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth - good friend pick. Good luck with Henry's story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I look back and realize how long this journey's been, I'm kind of shocked. Still better late than never.
      I hope Henry's tale offers a little encouragement to young people growing up in the social media age. So glad I missed that!

      Delete
  3. Haha, I love the Red Sloth superhero! Very neat. Andy's illustrations remind me a bit of the ones found in Roald Dahl's books, which I love. I should get this book for my son. He's a little young yet at 3, but I bet he'd love it when he's older.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roald Dahl's illustrator was Quentin Blake, one of the greats. I will happily accept any comparison to him.
      Oh, and by all means get the book now! Your son will thank you for it when he gets older.- Andy Myer

      Delete
  4. the cover and concept is fantastic! I too need quiet to write lol. Humor influenced me most too...I love books with a funny twist! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beth Ellyn- I like the cover a lot too! Funny books with a twist are such fun. Thanks for visiting! :) ~L

      Delete
  5. Great questions and answers, thank you for an insightful and fun interview

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracy- So glad you enjoyed it! :) ~L

      Delete
  6. Very interesting interview. Red Sloth superhero makes me smile:)
    Have a wonderful weekend:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ToTylkoJa- Hope you have a wonderful week and weekend too! Glad the Red Sloth superhero made you smile. :) ~L

      Delete
  7. Great interview! I have to say the book the author is working on right now does sound interesting!

    betty

    ReplyDelete
  8. I do enjoyed this interview... he seem so down to Earth... I worry so much for children born in this era of social media... I think they have enough to deal with... they don't need added abuse from their peers. The book sounds good :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Launna- I agree with you that growing up with social media is tough. It adds more layers to an already difficult time for so many kids (growing up isn't easy). Glad you like the sound of this book! :) ~L

      Delete
  9. I love the name, Henry Hubble!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sherry- Isn't it awesome? :) ~L

      Delete
  10. Wow! Twenty eight years to get published that is dedication I like the sound of the lunch poems. This just looks all around fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heidi- It is dedication for sure! This is definitely a fun read! :) ~L

      Delete
  11. The title hooked me. And if that wasn't enough, I like the Red Sloth. What a unique character.
    Great interview. Enjoyed meeting you, Andy, and learning about your writing. Best of luck with your adventures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beverly- Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree with you about the title. It does catch the reader's attention. So glad you enjoyed meeting Andy and learning about his writing. :) ~L

      Delete
  12. I love that Myer got a lot of Henry's experiences from his teacher wife. I can't believe that kids get into that much trouble. I know they do, but a squirrel!?
    The Red Sloth sounds awesome. Boring people to submission is an awesome super power and really funny too.
    Myer's is so lucky to live so close to his family. I really wish I could live near my brother forever, but I know they have different aspirations in that regard.
    Hmmm... I'm interested to see how the satire of YA dystopians will turn out.
    Wonderful interview girls!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Adriana- It is always fun to learn where the inspiration behind a book come from. Teachers must have a lot of stories to share with writers! I agree with you that it would be nice to get to live near our families forever. :) Glad you enjoyed the interview! :) ~L

      Delete
  13. Love the name Henry Hubble and Red Sloth as a super hero makes me smile. Wonderful interview and congratulations on your books release.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brenda- I am glad the names made you smile and that you liked the interview!

      Thanks so much for sharing in the excitement of our upcoming release. :) ~Stephanie and Jess

      Delete
  14. I think it's really cool that this novel originated from a poem initially, but it is even cooler that lots of the occasions in here are also based off true stories of what Andy did and also other kids. That always adds in elements of humor. As well as the sloth, the idea of him being super without having an actual power is an admirable one. I guess we can all be super just being ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Olivia- I liked finding out about the books origins as a poem because that is what happened with my book too!

      Being ourselves is a pretty cool super power. :) ~Jess

      Delete
  15. What a great title! You have me hooked already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cate- I think it is great too! :) ~L

      Delete
  16. Aquele pré shampoo é incrível! Estou adorando.

    Não conhecia o Andy Myer. Achei bem interessante a entrevista!

    Ótimo sábado, Jess!

    Beijo! ^^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amanda- So glad you enjoyed the interview! :)
      ~L

      Delete
  17. I love the idea behind this...and the illustrations are awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I love humorous MG and that title is wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Medeia- Humerous MG is a lot of fun! :) ~L

      Delete
  19. Thanks for this fascinating interview. I will definitely be checking out this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rosi- So glad you enjoyed it! Happy reading! :) ~L

      Delete
  20. The illustrations are awesome. And love the title. Congratulations on the release.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nas- I think the illustrations are super fun and the title definitely pops out! :) ~L

      Delete
  21. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Andy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting, Armchair Squid! :) ~L

      Delete
  22. It's always a pleasure to meet a fan of Robert Benchley. I love his sense of humor and Dorothy Parker's. Writing and illustrating. Can't even imagine doing both.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. TBM- So happy to hear you enjoyed the interview! Writing and illustrating sounds like a lot of work. :) ~L

      Delete
  23. Wow, 28 years! The tenacious willpower of writers and artists always impresses and motivates me to keep going. The story about bringing a squirrel to school is delightful. Best of luck to Andy with all his books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Claudine- I was impressed by the 28 years of dedication too! Glad you enjoyed learning about Andy. :) ~L

      Delete

Thank you for stopping by and commenting. We love to hear your thoughts! Fairday's Blog is no longer accepting awards. We appreciate all the nominations that we have received and are honored to have been mentioned! Happy Reading!

Twitter Bird Gadget Twitter Bird Gadget