March 25, 2014
I've always wanted to make picture books.
Two years ago, I was contacted by the art director at Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins asking me to come in and pitch some ideas. Naturally, I was thrilled. I had quite a few one-book stories on reserve, but they were clearly looking for a cat character that would sustain a series. They had seen one of my drawings of a dancing cat buried deep within one of my online galleries, and at the meeting, the publisher asked if I could spin a story around her. Meanwhile, my lovely wife Julie, who studied literature and teaches English, had been brainstorming story ideas about a city cat who goes on misadventures. I suggested that Julie write the story, and they agreed. And so the exciting process of crafting a story and dummy book began.
Making a children's book is quite a departure from my solo career of turning around socio-political drawings to adrenaline-driven deadlines, and seeing the results published the next day. But our collaboration has been an amazing experience. Our trust and respect for each other's ideas has been the key to the making of the book. We have two small children, and so although creating the time to work together has been a challenge, we couldn't have asked for better inspiration.
When the dummy was finished and presented, the publisher gave us exciting news: they loved the book and offered us a two book contract. And thus, Little Lola was born.
The first book will be shipping out to bookstores April 2. We are learning as we go, about marketing, school visits, reviews, promotion on social media, etc. It has been, and continues to be a great ride. With the help of the uber-talented, Mr. Zimm- whom I have known and respected since the freelancer bullpen days at The New York Times- we have a website ready at LittleLolatheCat.com. And the book received a positive review from Kirkus here and an unexpected boost from Amazon, whose editors selected it as one of the top 20 picture books of the season. We are indebted to our wonderful publisher, Virginia Duncan (also our fine editor) and talented art director, Paul Zakris for their guidance and support. And to everyone at Greenwillow, where it feels like home.
What follows is a selection of art from the book.