Describe your new book.
My latest book, Flotsam, began with the idea of connections between kids across time and space about a shared secret that only kids know. Visually, it started with an image of a kid finding something strange and wonderful washed up on the beach. That something became an old box camera, which reveals secrets under the sea and those who share the secret. And it's got lots of cool fish.
Describe your most memorable teacher.
I was very lucky to have Bob Bernabe as my high school art teacher. Careful readers will find his name in my book June 29, 1999. He encouraged me to pursue my own ideas and projects in class basically creating my own classes. This chance to find my own direction was the best possible preparation for going to art school where self-motivation is essential.
What is your favorite literary first line?
"Call me Ishmael." From Moby Dick. I didn't call the camera in Flotsam the Melville Underwater Camera for nothing.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Although it was obvious that I was going to be an artist when I grew up, deep down there was something else I longed to do to be a late night FM disc jockey. Spinnin' those stacks of wax and piles of platters for your listening pleasure.
What's your favorite holiday and why?
Unquestionably, Halloween. My whole neighborhood mobilized for it, prepared for weeks. The night before, Mischief Night, and Halloween night belonged to us kids. It was unrivaled freedom and creativity. Ghoulishly costumed, running through the leaves in the dark, crisp autumn air it's a feeling that returns to me every Fall.
Why do you write books for kids?
I write books for one kid me. They are the kinds of books I would have loved to read as a kid. I still do.
What was your favorite story as a child?
I loved to hear my mother read James Whitcomb Riley's poem, "Little Orphant Annie," at bedtime with the covers pulled to my eyes. She read the refrain with real gusto; "An' the goblins will get you if you don't watch out." It was deliciously scary.
Name the best Simpsons episode of all time.
Hardest...question...EVER! I will, though, pick a scene. It's from one of the Treehouse of Horror episodes. It's Armageddon, the day of Reckoning. The Flanders ascend to Heaven on a shaft of light. Marge looks on and says, "Hey, what about us?" She pauses, and then adds, "Oh, right. The sins." Suddenly, stairs open into a pit of flames. Homer sniffs, exclaims, "Barbeque!" and runs down. Joyously, he cries, "Hot dogs! Hamburgers!" And then he screams in horror, ?German potato salad! Nooo..." Priceless stuff.