I’m a ninth generation Vermonter and in that tradition spent my childhood exploring woods, damming streams, building tree houses, and pretending that I could understand what squirrels were saying. Looking back, I think my parents allowed my brother and me a reckless amount of freedom (“Where were you last week?”) and they were dangerously tolerant (“If the squirrel told you to flood the neighbors’ basement, then who are we to argue?”). This made me more self-sufficient and capable in a world that demands a proficiency in snow-fort making and raft construction.
But despite a childhood spent mostly lost in the woods, I managed to devote a good amount of time to writing and drawing. Horses were a popular subject for me, which is probably why Chuck, the slightly disgruntled equine, has managed to sneak into each of my books so far. Talking squirrels, and disgruntled horses? Where am I going with this? They ask you to write these things and give you no guidelines! No structure! Let’s try an interview format. I’ll ask the questions:
Maxwell: Maxwell, how do you come up with your stories? Maxwell: Well, Maxwell, all of my stories come from a large amount of doodling. I like thinking of characters in a scene doing something funny. Like a groundhog telling Max and Pinky that he can’t find his keys. Maxwell: That’s not funny. Maxwell: It’s just an example. Once I draw a scene that I really like, I think of a story to go around it. Let’s say this groundhog has lost his keys, so maybe Max and Pinky help him look for them so that he can get to his doctor’s appointment on time. Maxwell: I wouldn’t tell your editor about this one. Maxwell: I’m just making it up for the interview. Maxwell: Maybe you should prepare for these things a little better. Maxwell: Anyway, my process is kind of backwards and the initial drawing rarely ends up in the final book, but it’s how I work. Maxwell: Now, your next book is The Adventures of Max and Pinky: The Mystery. Maxwell: Yes. Maxwell: Sounds mysterious. Maxwell: It is. You see Max and Pinky are trying to paint their barn red, but every night someone or something paints it a new crazy color. Maxwell: Crazy color? Maxwell: Crazy color. Maxwell: You’re going to have to be more specific. Maxwell: Would you believe me if I told you plaid? Maxwell: No. Maxwell: Well, it’s true. But Max and Pinky can’t take it anymore, so they set out to solve the case and find the mysterious painter! Maxwell: Right. Next question. Is it true that you once got your arm stuck in a bike rack? Maxwell: What? Maxwell: And they had to get a janitor with a hack saw to cut you out? Maxwell: Where are you getting this? Maxwell: And you wet your pants because you thought the hacksaw was for your arm and not the metal bars? Maxwell: Are you starting rumors? Nobody wants to hear about this. Maxwell: But you cried right? Maxwell: Do you have anymore questions? Maxwell: So a few tears then. But moving on, what advice do you have for kids who would like to become authors and illustrators? Maxwell: My best advice is to start now. Whatever you want to do, whether it’s writing, drawing, or helping out kids who have somehow lost their bathing suits while swimming at the public pool– Maxwell: Hey! Maxwell: –it’s best to start practicing and having fun with it right now! Maxwell: Well, thanks for the interview, Maxwell. This has been fairly self-destructive. Maxwell: That’s what the squirrels tell me.