Books that blend humor and facts are some of my favorite and Julie Rowan-Zoch has perfected this combination with her author/illustrator debut, I’m a Hare, So There! releasing on March 16. I loved hearing about Julie’s process and writing journey in today’s interview.
KC: Congratulations on your author/illustrator debut! Where did you get the idea for I’m a Hare, So There?
JRZ: My agent liked a jackrabbit character I drew so much she encouraged me to write the story. I started looking at the flora and fauna of deserts that had a jackrabbit with black-tipped ears (I thought that would be the most striking!) and the Sonoran Desert had both the Black-tailed Jackrabbit AND saguaros! Bingo! After that the idea basically took a walk, as did Jack! Revisions were made, but I got lucky with this one!
KC: What has your journey to becoming a published author/illustrator been like?
JRZ: Probably average: long and bumpy! I started late in 2011 with the encouragement of a friend who was learning to be a Creative Coach to join a writer’s group (SCBWI) and get critique partner(s). My local critique group has evolved so much over the years – not easy living in a smaller city! But all of the effort has been beneficial. In 2012 I joined 12x12in12 Picture Book Challenge and am still a participant – my 10th year! Community has meant EVERYTHING to me! I was asked to illustrate 3 board books for a local press which all released in 2014, and had my picture book illustration debut in October ’20: LOUIS, written by Tom Lichtenheld (which just got picked for the 2021-TLA 2×2 List! Yay!)
KC: That’s wonderful! Congratulations! I’m a big fan of 12×12 too and have been a member for six or seven years now- I can’t remember! Can you share a little bit about your writing and illustrating process for this book? I imagine there was some research involved.
JRZ: I am a pantser,but as I mentioned, the research started pretty much right away so I could choose characters found in the Sonoran Desert and were striking to draw. I love when facts are shared as a side-dish, and especially with humor, so I had to know them before I could just do what pantsers do best! After the manuscript was submitted the editor asked if I would like to include backmatter (which surprised me though it shouldn’t have) and she made the suggestion to include even more similar-but-not-the-same creatures throughout.
KC: Informational fiction books are some of my favorite books to read, especially if they have humor, and this book has SO much humor! As an author/illustrator, do ideas tend to come to you visually first via a sketch or doodle? Or do you find most of your ideas are inspired via other avenues?
JRZ: All of the above! I am a very visual thinker, so I see images from snippets I’ve read or heard, from a conversation, a film, or even a tweet! And sometimes it’s just the sound of a phrase that gets the gears moving. BUT I recently watched an animated film and felt compelled to pause it just so I could draw! I hope that sketch turns into a story too!
KC: Ideas really are everywhere, aren’t they? What are you working on now/next?
JRZ: I wish it was a story that had already sold, just because it would fill me with purpose during Corona! But I am revising and drawing for a few different manuscripts right now, and since New Year’s I’m finding it much easier to write again too.
KC: This has been such a tough year. I’m happy to hear that you’re bouncing back! What advice do you have for aspiring kidlit authors and illustrators?
JRZ: Yes, read, write and draw – there is no way around that, but I like to suggest classic picture books as well as market-fresh, listening to the commentary from film-makers on dvds, exposing yourself to art that is not “just” illustration (LOVE IG!), and to pay attention: look at the edges of flower petals, smell the bark (Ponderosa pine is a must!), and count all the colors in clouds as the sun sets. And listen to Beethoven – that guy was revolutionary!
*GIVEAWAY!* Julie is giving away a copy of I’m a Hare, So There! Comment on this post by March 22nd to be entered in the giveaway. (U.S. participants only)
Julie Rowan-Zoch Author, illustrator, bookseller, and activist: Julie Rowan-Zoch grew up collecting freckles and chasing hermit crabs in NY, and spent years slicing rich breads in Germany before waking up to 300 days of blue Colorado skies. If she doesn’t answer the door, look in the garden! Julie is on Twitter @JulieRowanZoch, Instagram @jzroch and her Blog.