I love when we get the opportunity to feature an author and their book on multiple blogs on the same day. Today is one of those days. Before you read my interview with author Diane Kredensor be sure to get to know her a little better first by reading her Nerdy Book Club post.
Now that you’ve read her Nerdy Book Club post, be sure to check out the book trailer for her new book Ollie & Moon, Fuhgeddaboudit!. Mr. Schu is debuting the trailer today on his blog.
Since reading Ollie & Moon: Fuhgeddaboutdit!, I can’t help picturing how Diane Kredensor would draw them into a picture of my classroom during independent reading. Sometimes I picture them curled up with their favorite book reading next to each other. Other times I picture them causing trouble by the drinking fountain.
I’m honored to interview Diane Kredensor today. Her books Ollie & Moon and Ollie & Moon: Fuhgeddaboutdit! feature Diane’s lovable characters superimposed atop photographs.
1.Diane, I am very curious about your process. Can you tell me a little bit about how an Ollie & Moon story goes from idea to book?
For me, it begins with the characters. The character drives the story. Once I’ve got a character that I know really well, I can put them into any situation—looking for a surprise in Paris or playing a game of dare in Hawaii—and I’ll know exactly how they’ll react. Even though Ollie and Moon are big-eyed cartoon cats, they are really 6-year old kids. Best friends. They are both goofy gagsters and they love to make each other laugh. So in the second book, Ollie & Moon, Fuhgeddaboudit!, I played around with what would happen if Ollie bet Moon that she couldn’t make him laugh. From there I chose where I wanted this bet to happen—New York City! Then I started to sketch out some funny gags that Moon could do that are directly related to NYC—funny things with hot dogs from a street vendor, subway dancing, or chicken mimes near Central Park. Once I feel pretty confident that I have a strong idea, then I start working on my manuscript and fine-tuning the story and dialogue. And if I’m lucky enough to sell the manuscript then it’s off to the races and I then sketch out the entire book. I draw the characters digitally in a program called Flash. I’ve been drawing digitally for about six or seven years now. It was a tough transition, and it took me a while to actually get rid of my drawing table, but now I can’t imagine working any other way. Once I have the photos for the backgrounds, I digitally paint over my sketches in Flash and then I pull my characters into Photoshop and marry them with the photography. Voila!
2. I’m always curious to hear how author and illustrators collaborate. Since you are both the author and the illustrator, I’m dying to know what working with photographers Mike Meskin (Ollie & Moon Fuhgeddaboutit!) and Sandra Kress (Ollie&Moon) looks like?
It worked out perfect that Sandra was the photographer for the first book. I had to figure out how best to approach a book with illustrations and photography. Since she’s a dear friend, a professional photographer, and she lived in Paris at the time, it was a great fit. I started by sketching out the basic shot I wanted on each book page. Then Sandra would try to find a location in Paris that matched what I had sketched. Once I reviewed her shots, I’d sometimes have to ask her to go back out and get a different angle or even a whole new location. Then when I had the shot that I liked, I would pull it into Photoshop and finesse it. Usually playing with color and tint, taking out elements, adding new elements, all the while trying to keep the authenticity of the photo and hoping it didn’t look like it had been altered. Working with Mike on the second book, the process was basically the same, just a lot smoother since I had already been through it once. It’s always easier the second time around because you’ve worked out the kinks. The key element for both of them was that they lived in the city that they shot. This is a long process, that could span over several months and having the ability to run out and reshoot something at a moments notice was extremely helpful.
3. Your career is SO interesting. Can you tell me a little bit about your television career and how you came to be a children’s book author?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved a good story. It didn’t matter whether it was a picture book, an animated movie, or a story my Mom told me. After college, I had a short-lived career in advertising and then decided I wanted to be involved in storytelling, not product advertising. So I packed up my little Honda Civic hatchback and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Children’s TV animation. I spent 13 years in L.A., learning animation from prop and character design to storyboarding and directing on TV shows like Pinky and The Brain, Animaniacs, Hey Arnold, Oswald and Clifford the Big Red Dog to just name a few. I eventually made my way back to the east coast in 2001 and continued to work on shows for studios like Disney, Scholastic and Nickelodeon. Being in NYC, a publishing mecca, I was inspired to explore publishing and learn what it would take to create a picture book. I used to write and illustrate my own books as a kid, and I don’t think that passion for creating characters and stories ever left me. While animation is a wonderfully creative and collaborative art form, that I still love and continue to work in, I wanted to challenge myself to try something new. So I dipped my toe in, and sent out some unsolicited manuscripts and in return got many rejection letters. Eventually though, a producer that I had worked with in L.A. contacted me to tell me that he had struck a publishing deal with Random House to create a series of picture books by animation artists. That was my “in!” Ollie & Moon caught their eye, and the rest is history!
4. What have you enjoyed reading so far this year?
Well, I’ve been reading a lot of “caring for your baby” books because we have a new son, Charlie, who was born on January 23rd! I’ve also been reading a lot of children’s books (more than usual) because he gets a story a night. Me…Jane is the first book that popped into my head when I read your question. I love Jane Goodall. I love chimpanzees. And I absolutely love Patrick McDonnell. Barack Obama’s of Thee I Sing, A Letter to My Daughters surprised me. I found it very poignant. I got choked up while reading it to Charlie recently. We also just reread The Velveteen Rabbit. The “What is REAL?!” conversation between the rabbit and the skin horse makes me tear up every time I read it. I also enjoy anything by Chris Van Allsburg, my all-time favorite is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. It’s the perfect book for the storyteller in everyone.
And for some adult reading (not x-rated, just without pictures) I loved Tina Fey’s Bossypants and I just finished The Family Fang a novel by Kevin Wilson and it’s most excellent!
5. What books or series did you enjoy most as a child?
The two books that I read over and over again (and drew all over) were P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? and Go, Dog. Go! Still to this day, when I see that orange, white, and green cover with the dog in a racecar I feel happy. It’s simple, with expressive characters and filled with fun, sweet, and quirky moments.
My parents owned a big book of Norman Rockwell’s paintings. I used to lie on our living room floor several evenings a week and flip through that book, soaking in the paintings, and creating a story in my head that went with each image. Rockwell was a master storyteller. And to be able to say so much with just one image—he was brilliant.
Other picture books that made an impression as a child—Anything by Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Robert McCloskey… I could go on and on, really. The list of authors and illustrators that I’m inspired by, past and present, is endless. I think that speaks volumes about children’s books. See what I did there? Pun intended.
6. What does the future hold for Ollie & Moon?
I’m currently painting the final art for the third book in the series—Ollie & Moon: Aloha! This one is a comic reader, which is part of Random House’s Step Into Reading series for beginning readers. So it’s a little different than the first two, and I love the challenge of the new format. It’s mostly dialogue set in word balloons, and looks more like a comic book than a picture book. Because of my animation background, I’m used to drawing more poses to describe an action, so this format really suits me. In this story Ollie and Moon play a game of dare as they tromp around the islands of Hawaii.
I’ve also signed a TV development deal with Random House Children’s Entertainment so I’m looking forward to working these cats into a TV series. Of course TV development is a very long process, so it may be a while before we see anything on screen. But anything’s possible, so we’ll see what develops!
These little cats LOVE to travel and there’s a whole big world out there for them (and us) to see. By taking Ollie and Moon all over the globe, my hope is to show kids how big the world can be, and small the world really is (a kid in Scotland might hate trying new foods—just like Ollie!) Ollie and Moon are typical preschoolers facing the newness of the world just like any kids, but on a much grander scale. In children’s preschool TV speak that’s “Global Citizenship!”
Thank you, Diane! I really appreciate you taking the time to answering my questions. I can’t wait to share Ollie & Moon with readers.
DIANE KREDENSOR is an Emmy award-winning children’s television director and artist. She’s thrilled to set her second Ollie & Moon adventure in the city she calls home, where they make the best pizza pie in the whole world. Fuhgeddaboudit! OLLIE & MOON, FUHGEDDABOUDIT! debuts May 22nd from Random House Children’s Books.
I am giving away one copy of Diane’s new book Ollie & Moon: Fuhgeddaboutdit!