Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Superstar Interviews: J.R. Krause



Welcome to my new monthly interview feature! As an Illustrator, especially one who is a longtime member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I am blessed to have a large circle of wildly talented friends, who are fellow artists, writers and designers. And I’m so excited to be interviewing them and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.


This month I am chatting with the superstar Illustrator & Animator, J.R. Krause, whose first picture book, POCO LOCO, has finally been released! Hooray! Like so many of my other Illustrator cohorts, J.R. and I first met through our mutual friends in SCBWI, chatting and sharing artwork and book dummies at numerous conferences and get togethers.

J.R. graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and moved to Los Angeles to work in animation. Which he has done ever since, having worked on numerous televisions shows, including The Simpsons, Futurama, King of the Hill, Drawn Together and The Critic.

You know you can't wait to read this!

Poco Loco waffle craziness!

Q) I hear your new picture book, POCO LOCO, is out! Tell us ALL about it.
 (You can buy it here!)

A) Many moons ago my wife Maria and I created a mouse named Poco. He invents wacky things like yo-yo pants and a shower-bed. In this book one particular invention wreaks havoc, but also saves the day. We wrote many manuscripts over several years. One had the phrase “¡Ay, Poco Loco! He’s one crazy mouse!”. We liked the read aloud quality and wrote the final story around that refrain.

POCO LOCO is a bilingual picture book and includes a Spanish glossary. Marilyn Brigham acquired it at Two Lions/Amazon. Both Marilyn and art director Veri Soki were great to work with! We’re all very happy with the book and POCO LOCO has been getting great reviews. I’d like to give a shout out to Mary Kole, my former agent, who was an integral part of POCO LOCO becoming a book.

What silliness is afoot now?!

Q) What were the unexpected challenges and rewards of collaborating on POCO LOCO as a husband and wife team?

A) This question is interesting because it makes me think of our book like a child. Like a child the book stems from who Maria and I are as individuals. POCO LOCO took many years. Our relationship allowed us to develop an idea over a long period of time. As for unexpected challenges from our collaboration, I'm happy to report there were none.

"Ay, Poco Loco!"

Q) How has your background in animation informed your children’s publishing projects?


A) Many aspects of animation translate directly to making picture books. Animation begins with a script and my book ideas begin with a manuscript. An animated production then goes to the design and storyboard phase. It’s the same as creating characters and settings for a book dummy. Most of my animation friends are interested in picture books, graphic novels and comic books. The common thread is telling stories in a visual way with sequential art.

Q) Who, what and where does your inspiration come from?


A) Right off the bat I think of museums! I’m lucky to live near downtown L.A. Several renowned art museums are very close by. I also read lots of picture books, probably over 2,000 to date. Some of my favorites include MIRROR MIRROR, THE SNOWY DAY, BIG RED LOLLIPOP and CAPS FOR SALE. I try and look for inspiration everywhere; movies, music, nature, books, you name it! I’m also fortunate to work on The Simpsons, which is a very creative and fun place to be. I’m surrounded by incredibly talented animators from all over the world. And, of course, my two young daughters are an endless source of inspiration.

J.R.'s perfect Sunday with his girls! Getting cozy with cacti!

Q) Describe your most perfect Sunday.


A) My perfect Sunday would begin as most of my Sundays do, making pancakes for my family. In the afternoon we’d go to The Huntington Library and Gardens. For me, it’s the crown jewel of Los Angeles. It’s an all day experience, with unparalleled botanical gardens and several world-class galleries. Very inspiring! They also have a fantastic children’s garden. In the evening we’d drive into the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, which is an Asian foodie mecca. Maria and I love Asian food and over the years we’ve explored many restaurants there. Din Tai Fung and Ocean Star have become two family favorites. My perfect Sunday would conclude with our family piling into bed and sharing a great picture book, of course!


Q) What are you working on now and what can we expect to see from you in the future?

A) Two Lions / Amazon made an offer for a Poco sequel. I have two other picture book proposals, both very different from one another. My agent, Jennifer Mattson, will be submitting the first of these very soon. If there’s any news, I’ll post it on my website.

Thank you for thinking of me and giving me the opportunity to be a part of your excellent blog!

Thank you, J.R! It was a pleasure, and Bird Meets Worm would like to give you a big superstar "Congratulations!" for your new superstar picture book, POCO LOCO! (Now everyone, go out and get your copy and get ready to laugh! Ha!)

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