Last September I read Jonathan Auxier’s debut novel, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, (loved it and reviewed it here), and in October I got to meet Jonathan at Wordstock (if you don’t know what that is, go here).
He was such a nice guy (he even drew an aero-cat for my husband) that I wanted you guys to get to know him. So, I asked him a few questions, and today (trumpet fanfare), I get to share with you his answers!
Also, because I like you so much and because I loved the book so much, I am giving away a copy of his book to one lucky winner. But more about that later!
Elizabeth: What were some of the influences that shaped Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes?
Jonathan: I have long been fascinated with books containing unique worlds—that’s something that children’s literature does best. Growing up, however, I often got frustrated with classic children’s books that spent so much energy inventing imaginative spaces but overlooked basic plot. Twelve year-old me thought the brilliant worlds found in Alice in Wonderland, Water Babies, and Road to Oz deserved better stories … why-oh-why couldn’t Robert Louis Stevenson or Arthur Conan Doyle have written books set in Oz? In part, I wrote Peter Nimble to be an answer to that question.
E: Okay, so Peter is a thief, the greatest thief that ever lived…but he is also kind, selfless, and a hero. How did he learn the difference between right and wrong? How do you address themes of morality without talking down to your audience?
J: One of the central messages of the book is that a person can’t just choose between being “good” and “bad.” Peter Nimble is a hero, but he’s also a scoundrel—and it’s not until he learns to embrace both parts of himself that he can succeed. That respect for deviant behavior is something I see repeated throughout children’s literature. From Peter Pan to The Great Brain, history is full of stories that celebrate young troublemakers.
E: When you started to write Peter Nimble did you know where the book was headed or did it surprise you?
J: Generally, I like to outline stories before I sit down to write them, but Peter Nimble had a slightly different process. I basically winged it. Every day I wrote a chapter and then spent that night dreaming about what would come next. I did that for a month straight until I had a book. It goes without saying that the first draft was a complete mess, but buried deep inside the plot holes and spelling errors, it felt like there was a story worth revising. And revising. And revising.
E: What was your favorite illustration? Could you talk about the relationship between your writing and drawings?
J: I love to draw, but I’m not terribly confident in my work. That said, there were a few drawings from Peter Nimble that I think add to the story. One of my favorites is the picture of Sir Tode and Simon flying across the chasm toward the Winds of War (much credit goes to Abrams designer Chad Beckerman, who really helped with the framing of that picture).
To answer the question about the relationship between writing and drawing: most of my stories start with sketches from my journals. In the case of Peter Nimble, the whole thing began with a drawing of a blind baby floating in a basket, a version of which now adorns the first chapter.
E: What is your philosophy on writing books for middle grade, and will you continue to write for this age group?
J: I don’t have a specific philosophy about writing for young readers—I just aim to tell stories that interest me. However, I would say that children’s literature has the unique trait of operating on multiple levels because it’s designed to appeal to two distinct audiences: adults and children. This goes beyond “silly stuff for the kids / clever stuff for the grownups.” When adults read a children’s book, they enter into the space of childhood. Similarly, children are searching those same stories for glimpses of adulthood. I think that a lot of meaning can be found in the play between those two worlds, and that’s one of the things that makes children’s literature so great.
Thanks Jonathan! You’re the best!
If you’d like to learn more about Jonathan – his life, his writings, his adventures – head over to his website at http://www.thescop.com
The GIVEAWAY: I am giving away one copy of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.
(Cheers were heard throughout the land)
To enter: Just leave a comment on this page with your favorite classic children’s book. Do you love Alice in Wonderland? Winnie the Pooh? Treasure Island? Just give a shout out to your favorite and you’ll automatically be entered into the drawing.
One entry per person, please.
Where do you comment? There is a speech bubble with a blue number next to it at the top of this post. Just click on the blue number and you can leave a comment.
Winners will be announced on Sunday evening.
Tell your friends!
This giveaway sponsored by the little reviewer. No one gave me this book. I bought it at Powell’s and now want to give it to you. I’m nice like that.