Mike Boldt has been illustrating children’s products for the last 14 years. He made his author-illustrator debut with 123 VERSUS ABC (HarperCollins), which was a 2013 Kids’ Indie Next List selection as well as an Irma Black Award semifinalist. The sequel is COLORS VERSUS SHAPES.
For what age audience do you write?
Generally my writing has been for picture books so far, so people think it’s mostly for kids. However, I try to create stories that I feel anyone would enjoy, no matter their age. I have plans and ideas for stories outside of the picture book world as well, so we’ll see what the future brings.
Henry: Readers, stay alert for Mike’s possible middle grade sci-fi project, SHAPES VERSUS PREDATOR: What Happens When An Alien Hunts Shapes
What do you hope readers will get from reading COLORS VERSUS SHAPES?
More than anything, I hope readers get a smile from reading my books. If they learn something along the way it’s a bonus, but I want to create an enjoyment of reading that leads to discovery and inspiration that will come from doing more of it (my books or other folk’s)!
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
The illustration side of things seemed to come more naturally to me over writing. While I seem to be able to create ideas fairly easily. It’s transforming those into stories – good stories that people really enjoy – that I find the most challenging.
Henry: Well, I can’t draw worth beans. So, any time you want to collaborate…
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
One lesson I’ve learned is perseverance. Publishing is a difficult gig, and I’ve run into many challenges and rejections. You really have to keep at and work hard if you want to make it. The few overnight success stories are just like lotto winners – not many.
Henry: So true. It takes talent, hard work AND perseverance. But the only way you will be defeated is if you stop trying.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I’ve had many. I love visiting schools and seeing the passion in the students to create and tell their stories. I see it almost every time I’m at a school. It inspires me.
Henry: Ditto. And receiving “fan mail” from students. ☺
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
If you treat your writing like a hobby, that’s all it will ever be. If you treat it like a career, it’s probably what you’ll end up with.
Henry: Sound advice. I would add: Don’t give up your day job until your writing income is substantial.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
My good friend Dan Santat once said to me “The answers are in the sandbox, you have to dig them out” in reference to figuring out a story. It really stuck with me.
Henry: Dan is wise and funny. I had the pleasure of meeting him at last year’s SCBWI LA Conference.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I don’t really have any rituals – maybe that’s strange?
Henry: Yes, it is. I shall email you some strange ritual suggestions for your consideration.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I would love many superpowers, but I suppose if I could have one, it would be to understand and figure out the way people think. People are complex, and just when you think you have something understood, they completely throw you for a loop.
Henry: Can’t be done. Just when I think I have my wife understood, she completely throws me for a loop.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
I grew up a huge fan of Bill Peet and Bill Watterson, so those two for sure. They were huge inspirations for me wanting to tell stories and draw. For the 3rd, I’d probably go J.R.R. Tolkien, whose books are my absolute favorites.
Henry: Wikipedia helpfully told me that Bill Peet joined Disney in 1937 and worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Jungle Book, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmations and The Sword in the Stone. THEN he went on to become a children’s book author and illustrator, with 36 published titles.
Bill Watterson is, of course, the genius behind the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, which is required reading for any woman interested in understanding how boys (and men) think. If you don’t know who J.R.R. Tolkien is, well, then get out of my blog!
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Can I say Hobbits?
Henry: Yes, you definitely can. “I like half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve!” – Bilbo Baggins
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I like to draw. But that’s still related to books. So outside of that, I really enjoy playing board games with friends, LEGO with my kids, relaxing with my wife, and ice cream at any time.
Henry: My older son is a LEGO fanatic and, well, ice cream…
Where can readers find your work?
Readers can find my work in most of their bookstores and libraries (and maybe by request) OR there’s always online options too. My own website (mikeboldt.ca) also has a list of all the books I’ve written or illustrated and where you can get them.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.