We've got another interview for you this week! We're delighted to share a conference call style conversation that the kids and I recently had with Aaron Reynolds, author of "Joey Fly Private Eye." It's been a lot of fun to put the kids in contact with creative folks, to let the kids pick their brains, and to simply talk about creativity together. Thanks for engaging with us Mr. Reynolds!
The portrait of Aaron Reynolds is by Gracie, who I think can now (with 3 in a row) be declared our official Bookie Woogie portraitist.
And with that, we'll get started...
Dad: So guys, tell me about "Joey Fly Private Eye."
Isaac (age 11): The story is a about this fly who is a detective named Joey Fly.
Lily (age 6): He's a good detective. Joey kept saying, "We've got to have proof!"
Gracie (age 9): The characters are all bugs. Bug world!
Isaac: Joey's sidekick is Sammy Stingtail who is a scorpion. Sammy is really clumsy.
Lily: He has a long tail and he keeps whacking, whacking, whacking everything! Sammy is learning to be a detective. But right now he's just cleaning up the office.
Dad: Does the office get very clean?
Isaac: It looks like a tornado went through the office because his tail keeps bumping into everything. He'll pick up one piece of paper, but he'll destroy fifty three thousand things while picking it up.
Dad: What kind of book is this?
Lily: It's a wordy book.
Isaac: It's a graphic novel.
Dad: What is a Graphic Novel, for any of our readers who might not know...
Isaac: It's like a comic book. Imagine a book, but when you open it up there are comics inside.
Dad: So how is that different from a comic book? It's longer?
Isaac: It's in a book - not a magazine.
Gracie: This is also a funny book. Puns! Bug puns! You know how some people say, "Life in the big city"? Joey Fly on the beginning page says "Life in the BUG city!"
Isaac: It's a mystery story too.
Lily: It's a detective book.
Dad: Have you guys ever read any mystery books before this? We have a lot of Nate the Great books...
Isaac: I've read Hardy Boys books too.
Dad: Good job guys. Now for our interview with Aaron Reynolds! It's nice to meet you... or, to meet your voice.
Aaron Reynolds: It's good to meet your voices!
Gracie: Guess what!
Aaron Reynolds: What?
Gracie: My dad's name is Aaron too!
Aaron Reynolds: I know -- coolest name ever!
Dad: This is the first time on Bookie Woogie that we're talking about a book we didn't read together as a group. None of the kids could wait to get their hands on it, so we each read it on our own. I'm assuming you guys liked "Joey Fly" since you devoured it?
Gracie: I read it, like, five times!
Aaron Reynolds: You did!
Lily: I read it two times.
Aaron Reynolds: That's awesome. What was your favorite part?
Gracie: My favorite part was when Joey was talking to the ladybug, Gloria. And Gloria tells Joey, "She had a funny look on her face, like she'd just found a fly in her soup." And then Joey says, "That hurt."
Aaron Reynolds: (laughter)
Gracie: That's funny!
Lily: Yeah, that's my favorite part too!
Isaac: I just like the whole book.
Gracie: Do you have a favorite part?
Aaron Reynolds: Oh man... that's a tough one. I think my favorite part is at the very end when Joey tricks the culprit into revealing herself. I thought it was pretty sneaky of him.
Dad: Earlier this week Isaac was trying his hand at writing a mystery story.
Aaron Reynolds: Oh, cool...
Dad: And he had a bit of trouble. What was the main problem you were having?
Isaac: I couldn't get all the clues to match up.
Aaron Reynolds: Yeah, that's hard isn't it? Mysteries are tricky. I think it's harder than writing a regular story.
Dad: Isaac had some good ideas for clues. He knew how they would reveal the ending. I think he just didn't know how to pace all the clues into a story.
Isaac: I knew a few of the clues pointed to one person. But I couldn't figure out how to get all the clues to do it.
Aaron Reynolds: I have trouble with that sometimes too. Sometimes I figure out the clues that lead up to the ending as I write. Other times I jump to the ending and think backwards... I reveal the whole thing to myself in my imagination and then think about all the things that the crook might have missed or left behind. I also don't want the clues to be obvious. When you find a clue, I don't want everyone who is reading the book to go, "I know what happened!" I also watch a lot of cool mystery movies. And when I see other people who do mysteries really well, it gives me some ideas.
Gracie: We watch Scooby Doo.
Aaron Reynolds: Scooby Doo! I love Scooby Doo.
Isaac: Because you are writing the story and it is a graphic novel, do you ever worry about how the pictures are going to come out?
Aaron Reynolds: That's a great question. The guy who illustrated the book - his name is Neil Numberman. He and I did not know each other until after the book came out, so we never worked together. We never spoke once during the creation of the book. So how the book looks was totally in his hands. And I'll tell you guys a secret. When I first saw his sketches of Joey, I hated them!
Aaron Reynolds: Ohhhh... I hated them. I thought to myself, okay, the main character you've drawn for my book doesn't even have a mouth. And he doesn't have pupils in his eyeballs! How are you going to do a main character like this for an entire 98 page graphic novel? How are people going to know how he's feeling? I was a little worried about it.
Dad: So did you see some actual pages? Or just some character sketches?
Aaron Reynolds: Character sketches. It was when the publisher thought they wanted Neil to do the book, but they hadn't decided yet. My editor wasn't showing me to ask "Is this okay." Because I don't get to decide. They decide. But my editor did go back to Neil and told him how I was feeling. So Neil made a sheet of the 50 emotions of Joey Fly.
Aaron Reynolds: He drew 50 different little pictures of Joey feeling different emotions. My editor sent that back to me and I was like, okay I'm sold. If he can make this character work in 50 different expressions -- and in each one I knew exactly how he was feeling -- then I'm sold. So yes, sometimes I do worry about the illustrations because I don't get a lot of control over it. But you learn to trust these artists who are in the mix... they're usually pretty good.
Dad: Ahh, those stinkin' artists....
Isaac: I like Joey. He's my favorite character.
Dad: Actually, right before the interview, mere moments ago, I was telling the kids that I loved the fact that Joey only has a little tube for a mouth and pupil-less eyes. I thought it was the coolest part of the whole book. But see, that's another artist talking.
Lily: Who is your favorite character?
Aaron Reynolds: I really love Joey. And I've also got a new favorite... Now, you guys haven't even seen it yet, but I've looked at the sketches for Joey Fly #2 --
Aaron Reynolds: (stunned pause followed by laughter)
Dad: (also laughing) Wow - all the air just got sucked out of the room here.
Lily: There's going to be another one? Yeah! There's going to be another one!
Aaron Reynolds: Number 2 is already written, and Neil is illustrating it right now. He's already done the sketches, and he's doing the final artwork right now. He'd better be doing it right now... today! And I'm already writing #3.
Dad: Yay - We were wondering if there would be more. That's good news!
Aaron Reynolds: So my favorite-favorite character is from the second book. His name is Harry Spiderson, and he's a brazilian tarantula.
Dad: We're going to have to hide that from Mom...
Gracie: She freaks out!
Aaron Reynolds: Doesn't like spiders?
Aaron Reynolds: I don't like them in real life either.
Lily: I'm not afraid of spiders. And spiders are even half poisonous.
Dad: Half poisonous? Which half?
Lily: The top half. If they bite you.
Dad: So is Harry a nice spider or a creepy one?
Aaron Reynolds: He's a good guy. He's actually the customer that comes to Joey for help. We think he's a bad guy at first because, you know, what do spiders eat? They eat flies. So we're a little worried about him at first, but he turns out to be okay. He's a little dramatic though. The whole story takes place in a theater, and he's the director of the theater company.
Dad: Gracie, you were on the stage recently, weren't you...
Gracie: Yes! I was doing a skit at my drama camp.
Aaron Reynolds: Very cool. Very cool. Before I became a writer I was an actor in Chicago.
Gracie: And you write plays.
Dad: Yeah, we did some looking online and found a few songs you wrote and some of the plays you were in.
Aaron Reynolds: You did?
Gracie: You had little red pointy horns!
Aaron Reynolds: (laughter) You saw that, did you?
Dad: You don't have horns in real life do you?
Aaron Reynolds: Not in real life. Ah, that's the bad thing about letting someone video you doing drama... You never know when it's going to pop up.
Lily: Gracie was a cowgirl.
Gracie: Yeah, in my skit I was a wrangler.
Aaron Reynolds: Cool.
Gracie: I still remember all my lines.
Dad: It didn't surprise any of us that Gracie took to drama pretty well.
Gracie: Which one is your favorite? Writing graphic novels, writing picture books, writing plays, or writing songs?
Aaron Reynolds: You know I like them all. They're all a little different. Right now I really love graphic novels. In a lot of ways it's like writing plays. When I write a graphic novel, I don't write a story like a regular book. I write a script.
Dad: Yeah, we were wondering what that looks like... how writing a graphic novel looks different than writing a picture book.
Aaron Reynolds: Gracie's script at drama camp probably gave the name of a character and what they say, and then the name of the next character and what they say. And also stage directions that tell where you walk and how you move. That's a lot like how it looks when you are writing a graphic novel. It's just 100 pages of a script.
Gracie: 100 pages?
Aaron Reynolds: You're right... the finished script is probably more like 60 or 70 pages once it had all the stage direction in it.
Gracie: Was "Joey Fly" fun to write?
Aaron Reynolds: It is fun to write. But you know what, I'm writing the third one right now and I'm not having fun. I'm having a hard time figuring out what I want to have happen.
Gracie: You're writing it right now?
Aaron Reynolds: Well, not right now, not while we're talking.
Lily: Oh, you mean like in this part of the week.
Aaron Reynolds: Yes. These days.
Lily: Gracie writes songs too.
Gracie: Yeah, I usually only write Jesus songs. Except once when we were at Disney World, just quick off the top of my head I made up a song about a kangaroo and a turtle which I do not want to sing right now.
Aaron Reynolds: But now that you said it, I have to hear it! Let's hear it!
Gracie: It's embarrassing!
Isaac: Sing it!
Lily: Sing! Sing!
Gracie: It's embarrassing - no!
Dad: Well, what if Mr. Reynolds sings you a little something? Then will you sing for him?
Aaron Reynolds: Oh my goodness. Alright, I'm embarrassed too, Gracie. Neither of us have to sing.
Aaron Reynolds: Sometimes we creative people are actually pretty shy.
Dad: But it's fun -- we get to hide behind other characters, right?
Aaron Reynolds: This is true.
Dad: I was wondering what other graphic novels you like. Are there any other ones that you take inspiration from.
Aaron Reynolds: I love Babymouse. Do you guys know Babymouse?
Gracie: I LOVE Babymouse! They're my favorite books ever!
Lily: Me too. But I also like Joey Fly.
Aaron Reynolds: Well if I rate up there with Babymouse, then I'm very happy. Because Babymouse is awesome. There's also a series called Jellaby. Have you seen Jellaby?
Lily: Yeah! I love Jellaby.
Dad: These guys are very into graphic novels.
Gracie: Oh yeah!
Aaron Reynolds: Owly? Do you guys like Owly?
Gracie: Yeeeeeah. I love Owly.
Aaron Reynolds: And there's a new series -- the second book just came out -- it's called Amulet...
Isaac: Oh yeah.
Lily: AW! I love Amulet!
Gracie: Whenever we get an Amulet book, everybody races to see who can finish it first. And there's always fighting about who can read it first.
Aaron Reynolds: Did you guys just get the second one? It's so good.
Dad: Yeah, we have it sitting right here on the table next to us... from the library...
Gracie: We love, love, love Amulet.
Lily: We already finished book 1 and book 2.
Aaron Reynolds: Did you? I got book 2 and just finished it a couple weeks ago.
Dad: It sounds like Mr. Reynolds has the same taste in graphic novels as you guys.
Dad: Anything else you guys want to say as we wrap up?
Isaac: Thank-you for letting us interview you!
Lily: And thank-you for writing Joey Fly.
Gracie: It's a cool book.
Aaron Reynolds: Oh, you're welcome. I'm so glad you guys like it! I can't wait for you guys to see the second one.
Lily: I can't wait!