I had the great pleasure of hearing author/illustrator Peter Brown speak at the SCBWI National conference last summer. Peter was interesting, funny and inspiring. Being a nutty dog person myself, I found his picture books based on Chowder, a dog like no other, charming and hilarious. I am so happy that Peter agreed to be interviewed.
When and why did you start illustrating and writing for children?
I made my first picture book when I was 6 years old. That book is called "The Adventure of Me and My Dog Buffy." It was inspired by actual events.
My dog Buffy ran away
one night, and it got me thinking about what dogs do when they spend a
night away from home, so I made a book about Buffy and I getting lost
and spending a night
in the woods together. I made a few other illustrated books when I was a child, and then moved on to other art forms for about ten years. Then when I was at Art Center College of Design, after dabbling in the animation world, I returned to making kids books. I studied writing and drawing and painting, and many other subjects related to children's books. I realized that with my silly sense of humor, and my love of painting, and with my "kid-friendly" sensibilities, making kids books would be a good fit for me. I haven't looked back since.
What is the most valuable advice you can give to a newly published writer?
Don't sweat the small stuff. Publishing is NOT a perfect business. There are going to be problems: your publisher will make mistakes, you will make mistakes, everyone is going to be making a lot of
mistakes! That's life. So do your thing, try to make intelligent decisions about all the different factors involved, and go with the flow. Micromanaging will cause you to lose your mind...and then you won't be in a good place to create your best work.
What is one of your favorite children’s books that you'd like to recommend?
Anything by Wolf Erlbruch! He has such a great touch with words and pictures. And he creatively tackles issues like making babies, and death...subjects I don't think I could touch with a ten foot pole.
What are you working on now?
I'm writing and illustrating a picture book tentatively called THE CURIOUS GARDEN. It's inspired by the Highline on the west side of Manhattan. It's about a curious boy who discovers a little wild
garden in the middle of the dreary city where he lives. He's never seen anything like it, and he decides to adopt the garden and become a gardener. With his help, the garden thrives, and quirky gardens begin popping up in the unlikeliest of places, and by the end of the book the city has completely transformed into a place where nature and metropolis coexist harmoniously, and very creatively. My summary makes it sound slightly syrupy sweet...I need to work on that
summary...but I'm hoping that through the subtle text and fun, detailed illustrations the book will be something very special. I'm still ironing out the book dummy, and will hopefully begin final
illustrations in September. THE CURIOUS GARDEN is due in stores in Spring 2009. I'm also in the very early stages of developing a third book in the CHOWDER series.
What is your favorite dessert and why?
Ooooooh, good question. First I'd like to say that whatever dessert is in front of me is my favorite dessert. But if you want something a bit more specific, I'd say my favorite dessert is some type of yummy bread pudding because a good bread pudding can rival any mousse or tart or gelato. My grandfather always loved bread pudding, but I'm pretty sure that my love of bread pudding is just a coincidence.
Peter Brown grew up in the small town of Hopewell, New Jersey. He was just a wee lad when “Grumps,” his artistic grandfather, introduced him to drawing and painting. By the time he reached high school Peter was filling up sketchbooks with drawings of animals from zoos
and local farms. Sadly, he also became the butt of many bad farm animal jokes. But Peter had the last laugh when those animal drawings helped get him accepted into the prestigious Art Center
College of Design in Pasadena, California. After graduating with Distinction from Art Center’s Illustration department he headed to Europe and spent a year traveling, working odd jobs, and making many well-dressed friends. He eventually returned to the States and landed
in New York City where he got down to business making his first picture books: Flight of the Dodo, Chowder and The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder. www.somebrownstuff.com