I loved to read. I can attribute some of the most amazing moments of my youth to the creative work of authors. Reading about adventures and travels to exotic locations proved to be a gateway out of the mundane. I loved how the written word was able to conjure entire worlds of thought that could be inhabited at a moment's notice. After imbibing fictional and non-fictional tales of daring-do, I would often doodle and sketch to augment my dreams of wanderlust. I could happily scribble away for hours upon hours, while thinking about what I had recently read.
What books influenced you most when you were growing up?
THE LORD OF THE RINGS and NARNIA had a huge impact on me, opening up gigantic inner worlds of imagination. I also loved THE LITTLE PRINCE, and later, WIND SAND AND STARS, by Antoine de Saint Exupery. This later book inspired me to travel the world and to see things with new eyes.
When you were a child did you ever have moments when you decided that you were going to be a writer when you grew up?
Yes, I had flashes of the idea, but I regularly battled a dire lack of confidence. I think it's very easy to feel that books are only written by smarter people than oneself. Overcoming that sentiment took me a long time. Also, I learned to be more comfortable expressing myself with visual arts, and therefore it wasn't immediately intuitive to me, how I might render my emotions with the written word.
When you went to college, were you already pursuing a writing career?
I spent nearly seven years trying to figure out what to make of my college experience. I wandered from major to major, hoping that my path would become clear. Most of my soul searching centered around the pursuit of art and illustration, since I was hot in pursuit of my own artistic style at the time. I think I was still pretty inhibited, when it came to writing.
If you didn’t write as a child, then when did you start writing and what inspired you to start?
During my college years I wrote many papers, but I was not thinking of the act as creative writing, so much as homework. Then, after I moved on from college, something started to click: Every creative project I wished to pursue involved either a pitch or a business plan in written form. I found myself writing all the time while dreaming up artistic endeavors, but I almost didn't realize that I was actively expressing my vision through writing. My focus was diverted away from the "art" of writing, and perhaps it was this little trick of perception that helped me overcome my lack of confidence.
What was your first job when you graduated from college?
I lucked out and was offered a great job doing freelance illustration for a big hardware company. The work was mind-numbing (it isn't too much fun to draw lawn mowers and sprinkler heads), but I didn't care at the time due to the fact that I was actually making money! I had worked for years on a number of tough, hard-labor jobs, and suddenly, my art was providing a flow of income. One can make money doing what you love? That really made me think about all sorts of new possibilities, and I even dared again to dream of writing and illustrating books.
How soon after that was your first book published?
It took me an entire decade after college to see my first book (SWORDS: An Artist's Devotion) published! I suppose one must be VERY patient with creative dreams. In the interim, I spent about 8 years making computer games for Blizzard North, working on the DIABLO game series. I had a wonderful time, and working for Blizzard was a huge learning experience. The decade of professional work helped to prepare me for the day when I would finally write and illustrate SWORDS.
When was SWORDS published?
SWORDS was published by Candlewick Press in the Fall of 2008, after two-years of full-time writing and illustration.
Do you write every day and do you have set hours that you work?
Yes, I worked just about every single day. My hours certainly varied, as I learned to deal with the pleasant chaos of working at home with my wife and children. I tend to claim the wee hours of the night as my time of solace and sanctuary, so I can really focus.
Do you work on more than one book at a time?
I only actively illustrate one book at a time, but my mind is always crunching on ideas for new projects. To capture these mercurial thoughts and inspirations, I make scribbled lists by the hundreds, and they tend to gather about my desk in ridiculous piles. For me, everything starts as a scribble on a post-it note or scratch pad. One can feel very uninhibited when scratching out sloppy ideas upon post-it notes!
What is your next book after SWORDS?
My next book is tentatively titled FANTASY: An Artist's Devotion. Just as SWORDS was my homage to the history of warriors and the story behind the sword, this book is my homage to the delightful genre of fantasy. I filled the book to the brim with colorful and fun content meant to conjure up daydreams of wonder and imagination. My hope is that both children and adults will enjoy it - since we all have room in our mental kingdoms for fantasy and adventure.
When is your next book going to be in book stores?
FANTASY: An Artist's Devotion, will be available in the Fall of 2010, published by the fine folks at Candlewick Press.