Guys! This is a very exciting day! I have not one but two great clients who have book birthdays today. The first book I’m going to talk about is a book very close to my heart–THE KRAKEN’S RULES FOR MAKING FRIENDS by debut author-illustrator, Brittany R. Jacobs. It’s the story of a lonely Kraken who is TIRED of not having friends, and turns to another sea beast–a great white shark–for advice.
This book actually has a pretty unusual back story. It all started one day when I was in a PaperSource, and I noticed a table filled with Kraken-themed things. The Kraken is a mythical octopus-like sea beast and I thought to myself, Okay, this thing is in the zeitgeist and it would make a good picture book hero. After a quick Amazon search, I saw there were no Kraken picture books out in the world yet, so I tweeted out my interest using #MSWL and reached out to the wonderful ladies of SCBWI-Western Washington, who put a call out for Kraken picture books for me on their blog. From there, I received about 40 submissions — and Brittany’s was my absolute favorite. Her lonely Kraken just looking to make friends captured my heart, as did her sense of humor and art style. We eventually found a home at the super cool Brooklyn-based indie, POW! (the kids imprint of powerHouse Books), known for its beautiful, art-forward books. It’s been a long swim in the publishing waters, but our beloved Kraken has been officially released!
Brittany is a great client–creatively talented, a super hard worker, and just a delightful person. I love having her on the MLM team! I think her career is just getting started and I’m so excited to see it flourish.
What inspired you to write THE KRAKEN’S RULES FOR MAKING FRIENDS?
Back in January of last year I received an email saying that you were looking for picture book dummies based on the mythological sea creature, the Kraken. There were several author/illustrators submitting, so this was kind of like a sudden-death situation, or really I should say “sudden-life” because whoever’s dummy you liked the best got the deal and would go on to be published. I had been trying to get published for 6 years, so of course I jumped on this opportunity and threw my hat in the ring. We had a little over two weeks to write, sketch and render our Kraken picture books, and – spoiler alert! – I got the gig! So, long answer to a short question – it was YOU who inspired me to write The Kraken’s Rules For Making Friends 🙂
What was your favorite part about writing/illustrating the book?
My favorite part was watching the story come together in the early stages of the storyboard. I typically start out with an ending, and work my way backwards to fill in the gaps. When a story is in the conceptual stage, there is room for all sorts of shenanigans, and very often I found myself laughing out loud as I “discovered” how the Kraken learned to make a friend. I hope that the fun and laughter that I had while creating this book translates to the page and, in turn, to the reader/listener.
What was your least favorite part about writing/illustrating the book?
Do you know those scenes in movies where the main character is forced to do something over and over and over again, in the hopes of perfecting the movements? No matter how painful, they must keep going and going and going? If they were to make a movie about the process of creating this book, the bulk of it would consist of me sitting at my work station drawing and redrawing and redrawing the same 16 spreads over and over and over again. There are NO MORE WAYS to draw a shark! I have drawn ALL THE SHARKS!! But they were right, there were more ways to draw a shark, or a knitted Koi suit, or a school of fish. But it was a painful, and LONG process of getting it right. Looking back, I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, and – despite my own feelings of frustration – I turned out a new shark when they asked for one, or came up with a new pun, or redrew an entire spread. The edits were my least favorite part, however they were the most important. I’m a better author/illustrator because of it, and for that I am grateful.
Where and when do you write?
I have this fabulous little moleskin notebook specifically made for storyboarding, and it is outside with this notebook where all of my stories begin. I think visually – along the lines of a movie playing in my mind – therefore I sketch out the thumbnail illustrations first. Then, I go back and whatever isn’t conveyed in the illustrations, I write out. With a background in writing curriculum and programming for children, the writing portion of the books comes very naturally to me and is done quite quickly. I start out outside with a notebook because I feel most at ease when I’m in nature and have the most room to think. Thankfully I have two dogs that shadow me wherever I go, so it doesn’t seem strange at all that I spend so much time standing in fields and forests 🙂
Where and when do you illustrate?
For some reason, the Witching Hour seems to be one and the same with the Illustration Inspiration Hour. I have one heck of a wonky schedule thanks to this, but alas, art cannot be forced, leaving me at the mercy of when the mood strikes – which, as I mentioned, happens to be in the dead of night. There’s a theory that people are more creative at night due to the frontal lobe being “checked-out” allowing the rest of your brain to function at higher capacities, which would explain things. I work digitally, and have my work station set up in a spare bedroom that overlooks the back garden – again, nature is a big support system of mine.
What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?
The editorial process was pretty painless. I was pleasantly surprised to get the text nailed down rather quickly. The art took longer.
What was the most surprising part about the art direction process?
So many edits–more than I thought possible. The best piece of advice I got from the art director was to limit my color palette to two colors. This transformed the feeling of the book, and really made it shine!
Who are some writers or illustrators who inspire your work?
I am a huge fan of animators, specifically the storyboard artists. I love to look through the Pixar “Art Of” books and see what the conceptual art looked like while they hashed the story out. I’m inspired by the lovely Sir Quentin Blake, Benji Davies, Ryan Green, Mark Anthony, Brittney Lee, and the list goes on and on.
What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book writers and illustrators?
Thicken-up your skin, and when the rejections are coming in, just keep going… and going… and going! Persistence is a key quality, and if you can master it in the beginning then you’ll be ready to hash it out in the editorial/publication process. I had a whopping 287 rejections before I got noticed, and have added quite a few more to the pile–even since having one book to my name. I attribute much of my journey to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, so if they’re not already a member, then I would suggest they get on the SCBWI bandwagon. Attend the conferences, regional events, and local meet-ups. Networking is important, and it just so happens that the Kid Lit gang are some of the best people on the planet, and they know how to throw a wicked party! The overall BEST piece of advice I can give, isn’t my advice at all. I once heard an author (forgive me, I don’t remember who it was) tell a room of pre-published writers/illustrators that the best thing you can do for your writing career is to try as many new life experiences as possible. Learn a new language, see a play, hike in the woods, travel! If you’re open to new things then it will make you, and the stories you tell, that much more dimensional.
Read more about Brittany at www.brjacobsart.com
. She has cool printable coloring material on her website.