Friday, December 5, 2008

Max Eaton Interview!

So if you haven't checked out the incredibly adorable Max and Pinky books, written by Max Eaton, you NEED to! They are great pictures filled with cute illustrations and lots of humor...and I got an interview with the author/illustrator! For more info on any of the books, click on the book cover image to link to Amazon.

And onto the quite humorous interview....

Thank you so much for doing this interview Mr. Eaton, I'm honored to have you on my blog! Before we get started, I would love for you to pick a place to eat, where we will have our "interview." We can be eating pastries in a French bakery, candy canes at the North Pole, or funnel cake at an amusement part. Your choice!

I like the polar idea, but let’s make it Antarctica where we’ll be surrounded by thousands of fiercely territorial penguins. And we’ll be eating ramen noodles. Preferably oriental flavored. Here we go.

Can you share with us what led you to the world of the wonderful Max and Pinky?

Max and Pinky were created in a tiny unfurnished, post-college, pre-know-how-to-cook (this ramen actually tastes strangely familiar), currently-trying-to-figure-out-a-living apartment in Dillon, Colorado. The first few sketches were of a little bald kid without ears who was going to go hiking or skiing. I decided he’d need some sort of companion and ended up drawing what looked like a cross between a gumdrop and a pig’s head. I knew the kid would be named Max, less because he was supposed to be a younger version of me and more because all of my favorite characters growing up were named Max. Such a little narcissist! So Max was an easy one, but I thought at first that his pig pal was going to be named Binky because of some childhood memories.

When my brother and I were little, my parents used to take us on endless road trips each weekend. The kind of road trip where we ask “Are we headed home yet?” and my parents would respond “We’re technically always headed home.” Never a good sign. Anyway, my brother and I would get bored as all heck and start taking it out on each other physically (as brothers will do), so my dad would try to keep us distracted. Stuff like stopping in the middle of a rickety covered bridge pretending the car had died and then saying, “Whoa, did you feel that? I think I felt something. Whoa! There it is again! I think this whole bridge is going to go! The car won’t start! Oh, geez! The doors won’t open! Boys! Help!” It usually got our minds off of hitting each other pretty quickly. Another thing he’d do was pretend he was getting pulled over by the police, roll down the window and tell the officer that he wasn’t speeding or swerving, it was some character named Binky in the back. “I swear ossifer, Binky was driving. We just switched seats. Honest. It was Binky.” This one was less terrifying than the bridge move, so he’d really milk it and we ate it right up. This is why I named the little pig head Binky for a while. Or at least until I realized that there might be a more obvious name for a pink pig.

Did the story or the illustrations come first in your mind?

My characters are always the first to show up, and it’s usually after a little bit of doodling. Max and Pinky weren’t any different. I started drawing a little bald guy and then a little pink pig, and it kind of took off from there. I spend a lot of time just drawing two characters looking at each other and then coming up with something for one to say to the other. The majority of drawings on my blog probably fall into this category. After I’ve done a bunch of these cartoonish meetings, I start to develop little trends and quirks in their personalities and stories begin to present themselves. The whole beginning of Best Buds is made up of these sorts of little situations.

How long did each book take you to complete?

The entire process of making a Max and Pinky book usually takes about a year. Sometimes the actually story line comes pretty quickly, but it can take months and months to work out all of the little details and subtleties. Then once you and everyone at the publisher are satisfied you go to final art work where the entire book is redrawn and colored. Of course, there are then usually a few more changes to be made. You get proofs from the printer, and slight slight changes can be made there. Finally, you wash your hands of the entire thing and wait for the release date. By this time you usually haven’t even thought of the book for months and months, because you’ve been working on something else. So it’s a pleasant surprise to hold it in your hands and see this perfect little final product. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting that first bound copy. I always want to tear it all apart to see the binding, but I’m told that that’s frowned upon at most libraries. I try to set a good example for kids.

The buzz surrounding these books is pretty big! How are you dealing with all this fame?

Fortunately, most of my jokes also involve sarcasm, so I recognized this one right away. Ha!

Do you have any other titles in the works or books soon to be published that you can tell us about? Go ahead, talk them up!

I’m always working on new picture books, but my most exciting project right now is a couple of graphic novels for about the seven to nine age group called The Flying Beaver Brothers. It’s about Ace and Bub, a couple of beavers that surf, ski, skateboard and skydive by day and find themselves caught in strange adventures by night. I’m having a great time with these two characters, but getting very little gratitude from them in return. All of this attention has really gone to their heads.

Who are some of the authors and illustrators you take inspiration from?
Ernest Sheperd’s illustrations in The Wind in the Willows and A.B. Frost’s illustrations in Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings are my two favorite sets of art by far. I think simple pen and ink lines make up some of the most beautiful art your can produce. For that matter throw in all of Edward Gorey’s work. I used to love his Gashlycrumb Tinies (talk about getting a kid’s imagination going) and later on I couldn’t resist the covers he did for John Bellairs’ novels. Those were great books, by the way. Scared me to death! But other than checking out artwork, I don’t spend a lot of time reading picture books. I’ve found that there are so many good books out there right now that when I sit down at the library or bookstore to check them all out it tends to tie me up creatively. It takes a long time to shake them all out of my brain, so I end up avoiding a lot of books in my own genre by reading their polar opposites (forget penguins). A lot of Hunter S. Thompson, Cormac McCarthy and poetry by Robert Service. Great stuff for the kiddies.

Finally, if you could have any job besides being an author/illustrator, what would you do?

I think I would have been a pretty good settler a few hundred years ago. Unfortunately, Tucson is fairly well populated at this time.


Staci said...

Great interview!! Thanks!

Corey Schwartz said...

Not surprised he's so funny. His books crack me up :)