Mike Austin is an award-winning illustrator and author. Originally from Pennsylvania, Mike now lives in Hawaii with his wife, illustrator Jing Jing Tsong, their two kids and a dog named Prudence.
For what age audience do you write?
I write and illustrate picture books for young readers age four to 100.
Henry: It’s good to know I’ll be able to enjoy your books for many years to come.
Tell us about your latest book.
JUNKYARD is about two Munching Machines who work together to clean up a rusting, stinky junkyard and turn it into a beautiful park for everyone to enjoy.
Henry: Sort of a mashup of Transformers and BAG IN THE WIND.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope that readers will take a moment to think about the positive changes they can make in their own community then roll up their sleeves and make it happen! Start by planting a tree!
Henry: My easy reader, TWIGNIBBLE, shares this theme of being good stewards of the earth.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Getting the idea from my brain to the paper. It always seems to get stuck in my elbow! Also expressing my ideas in both a visual and verbal sense. I illustrate my own stories, and that gives me a lot of freedom, but sometimes it can get overwhelming. Thankfully I have great editors who keep me from going off the deep end.
Henry: That’s a great mental image of an idea traffic jam at your elbows.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
What a thrill it was to walk into the local library and see a little kid sitting on his dad’s lap reading my book! That was very inspiring.
Henry: Nice. “Excuse me sir, would you like that book autographed?” “Umm, it’s a library book…”
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“Just do it!” You could spend your whole life talking about your great ideas, but if you never go for it then what’s the point?
Henry: Very true. I also like the related quotes:
“Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I have to clean my studio and get everything organized before I begin any new project. It’s too hard to concentrate if I have other jobs piled around my desk and floor.
Henry: Then it’s fortunate you don’t work in my home office.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?
The ability to fly! And time travel! Wait, that’s two… how about to fly through time and space! YA BABY!
Henry: You travelled back in time to change your superpower wish. Well played, sir.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Surf! There is a surf break just down the road that my wife and I try to go to every day. It’s the best place to organize my thoughts. I bring a crayon with me to scribble notes on my board if I think of something brilliant while bobbing around in the ocean.
Henry: Scribbling notes on your surfboard!!? Love it!
Where can readers find your work?
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.