When I recently read Caldecott winner Eric Rohmann’s new book, BONE DOG (Roaring Brook Press, 2011), I was blown away by it! It is the perfect pairing of two stories: a boy’s loss of his beloved pet, and a Halloween adventure. (Not a combination that I would have thought of!) I couldn’t help myself, I contacted Eric and asked if he would mind answering a couple of questions for me to post on my blog. Here are his answers. Enjoy!! (And do visit Eric’s site at: http://www.ericrohmann.com/pages/books/bk_bone-dog.html .)
1. I am fascinated by how you managed to meld the death of a pet with a Halloween adventure story. Which came first—your idea about the pet, or for a skeletal Halloween adventure?
Most of my stories begin with a picture. Bone Dog was born of a rough ink drawing of skeletons dancing in the night. There is something inherently goofy about skeletons and I’ve always delighted in drawing them. From that first image I began to write a romp about a kid on Halloween night. And this is where the creative process begins to get murky– I made more drawings which prompted changes in the story and that initiated more images… you get the idea. When I first considered Ella’s death I paused, but in the end realized that to tell the story as something more than a romp– to make the book about how kids react to the loss of something they care about– I needed to stay with the idea of her passing. No one was more surprised than me by what the book eventually became.
2. I love your artwork—as do many people. Is there a tug of war within you between visual art and writing? Which comes first when you think of a story? Which comes more naturally to you?
I think that answer one also answered question 2 (always a picture first).
I’m 54 years old and have been drawing since I was two. It’s hard to make a drawing, but it’s always always familiar territory. I may not know what the drawing will look like in the end, but I know how to begin. Then it’s a matter of drawing and erasing until you arrive at something you like.
3. After you won the Caldecott medal in 2003 for MY FRIEND RABBIT, did your life change much?
As you can imagine, suddenly people who had never looked at my books gave them a glance. More kids became aware of the book and started looking at other books I’d made. I spent most of the following year speaking about the book and about my process and even started two other books. I realize that the award gave me a burst of energy. Looking back now, there is no doubt it was career changing. I’ve always liked what I do for a living so I would have made the books no matter what, but the award allowed me to make the books I wanted to make (with the encouragement and enthusiasm of my editor, of course).
4. (Now the really important question!) Suppose you wake up early in the morning and discover your refrigerator open. Inside is a neatly placed pair of tiny shoes. What do you do?
Get a ladder. Climb into the refrigerator. Retrieve my shoes and ask myself once again why I bought such a huge fridge. (HAH! I love how Eric turned this silly question of mine around. An artist’s perspective!)
(I’m also reposting this link to a lovely interview with Eric by author Kathie Appelt. See below.)