Aaron Reynolds is a New York Times Bestselling author, and has written many highly acclaimed books for kids, including HERE COMES DESTRUCTOSAURUS!, CARNIVORES, the JOEY FLY – PRIVATE EYE graphic novel series, and the Caldecott Honor Medalist CREEPY CARROTS! He has a passion for kids’ books and seeing kids reading them. He regularly makes time to visit schools where his hilarious hands-on presentations keep kids spellbound and increase carrot sales. Aaron lives in Chicago with his wife, 2 kids, 4 cats, and anywhere between zero and ten goldfish, depending on the day.
For what age audience do you write?
I write picture books for kids ages 4-8 and graphic novels for kids ages 8-12.
Tell us about your latest book.
HERE COMES DESTRUCTOSAURUS! is about a giant Godzilla-like monster. He barges into New York City…he’s banging into bridges, he’s smashing into buildings, and the narrator thinks he is just terrible. But then the narrator discovers the reason he’s doing it…well, it’s not so terrible after all.
Henry: Kaiju are oft misunderstood.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I try to write books that have multiple layers, that will appeal to kids AND the adults that read to them. So, I hope that kids will laugh and relate to Destructosaurus’s plight, but I also hope adults will crack up from the situation…hearing themselves in the narrator’s ineffectual moments of trying to “parent” Destructosaurus and be reminded that terrible behavior and just being upset sometimes look a lot alike.
Henry: We’ve all been there…
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
It sounds silly, but it’s the basic premise of coming up with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Every grade school kid is taught that a story needs these three things, and they’re right. But figuring them out is HARD! I’m an idea guy…I have lots of ideas. But turning them into actual stories that have a compelling beginning, a strong story arc in the middle, and a super-satisfying ending…that’s the stuff that gives me the cold sweats.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
It’s not just your book. You’ve got to let go sometimes and trust your editor, trust your illustrator. As an author, I don’t have all the power to control every aspect of the book. I’ve got a vision and I need to bring that strong and compelling vision to my words and my story…but then I need to be able to let it go and trust these other talented people that are in the process with me.
Henry: That is a great lesson. I have to restrain myself from filling my manuscripts with art notes.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Be okay with lots of patience and lots of rejections. It took me five years of hard trying before I got my first sale. During that time, I received hundreds of rejection letters from publishers. But that process grew me and made me better. If you want to be an author, throw your whole self into it, but know that it’s usually not a quick and painless process. Be ready to put in the time and get the rejections…it’s just part of the process.
Henry: We need the skin of an armadillo and the determination of a pit bull.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
‘The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.” – Vincent Van Gogh
“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” – Daniel Burnham
“Revision is like wrestling with a demon, for almost anyone can write; but only writers know how to rewrite. It is this ability alone that turns the amateur into a professional.” – William Knott
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I have something called an Idea Rock. Every idea that I get about which I find myself saying “That could be a book” gets jotted down on whatever scrap of paper is handy. These ideas go under my idea rock, where they gestate. I have hundreds of ideas under there. They’re not all gold. But they are all captured.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Stretchy-powers, like Elastagirl or Plastic Man.
Henry: A unique and clever response – so many practical uses!
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, and William Shakespeare. There’d be lots of drinking and good-natured arguing. I think that dinner would be a rowdy blast.
Henry: Shakespeare wrote “Do you think because you are virtuous, that there shall be no more cakes and ale?” and “Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.”
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
These things only exist in literature??? Dang.
I don’t think I could pick one. I love all fantasy creatures…dragons, hobgoblins, elves, minotaurs, and even the less commonly known D&D creatures of my youth…Umberhulks, Rust Monsters and Bugbears (oh my!).
Henry: Yay! A D&D fan. Remember the dreaded Black Pudding?
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Reading, playing video games, watching movies, traveling, and cooking. I make a gingerbread chicken that will make you smack your mama.
Henry: I think you just coined a new phrase, “Well, invite me to dinner and smack my mama!”
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
I don’t want a tombstone or to be buried. I want a funeral pyre, like the ancient Greeks used to do. I try to live with as much fire as I can and I want to go out the same way, in a celebration and a blaze. Also acceptable would be putting me in a boat, launching me down the river and shooting a flaming arrow into the air which lands in the boat, so the boat goes up in flames as it floats away, like on Game of Thrones.
My wife informs me that neither of these options are happening and I’ll be buried like a normal person.
Henry: Will there be gingerbread chicken at the wake?
Where can readers find your work?
Everywhere books are sold. But get them at your local independent bookstore whenever possible. We need to support those guys! Great indie bookstores are an endangered species, and that is a real crime against our culture. Read all the time, and, whenever possible, get your reads from the indies!
Henry: Such as Mysterious Galaxy Books in San Diego.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.