Author-illustrator Ethan Long likes a good breakfast, such as Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream and lots of bacon. But overall, he tells me, “these days, since I am a 46 year old man and I can get chubby pretty easily, I make it a point to consume a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins and a glass of orange juice every morning.”
I’m going to say we splurge this morning during our breakfast interview and have some of those Belgian waffles. One must always splurge.
Plus coffee. Gotta have coffee.
As you can see, if you scroll down to the bibliography at the very end of this post, Ethan is a prolific children’s book author and illustrator. He received the 2013 Geisel Award for Up, Tall and High, released by Putnam. This is an interview I intended to post at the end of last year, but things got busy. Better late than never. At least now, we can hear about which new books are on the horizon for Ethan in 2015.
Without further ado …
Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?
Ethan: I am an Author/Illustrator, trained as an illustrator and self-taught as an author. That answer seems too short, but my goal is always to stay as succinct as possible with my writing.
Jules: Can you list your books-to-date? (If there are too many books to list here, please list your five most recent illustrated titles or the ones that are most prominent in your mind, for whatever reason.)
Ethan: [See Ethan’s complete bibliography at bottom of post.]
Jules: What is your usual medium?
Ethan: Everything I do ends up digital in the end, but I try to stay flexible on how I want the story/art to look in print. I may have vintage postcards on my mind, or classic cartoons, or wet ink splatters.
Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?
Ethan: The difference? The difference is in the amount of sarcasm and anger I show. Chapter books can show characters being angry with each other, or annoyed, or jealous, but for board books, happiness and safety is key.
Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?
Ethan My wife, Heather, and I live in Orlando, Florida. We’ve got three kids and do a lot of stompin’ the grounds. Orlando is the home of the Valencia orange, a beautiful downtown area (which is close to where we live), and some red-shorted mouse character who Must-Not-Be-Named.
Jules: Can you briefly tell me about your road to publication?
Ethan: I snail-mailed illustration promo cards for nine years until I got my first book in the year 2000. Was that brief enough?
(Click to enlarge)
Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?
Ethan: http://www.ethanlong.com. It’s the only website you will ever need to visit.
Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.
Ethan: They are wonderful, and inspiring, and exhausting. The kids are usually great. The adults are amazing and supportive. The traveling takes me away from the family and the studio, but I spend too much time at home anyway, so it’s a good thing, always.
Jules: If you teach illustration, by chance, tell me how that influences your work as an illustrator.
Ethan: I teach here and there, and it never fails: When I’m helping a student work something out, it dawns on me that I should be taking that advice myself. Also, it’s nice when you’re lucky enough to get a student whose eyes light up at something you’ve said or done. There’s usually one of them in every class.
Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?
Ethan: I have a few books coming out by the end of the summer: HI!, a board book published with Abrams/Appleseed; In, Over and On the Farm, the follow-up to the Theodor Seuss Geisel-winning Up, Tall and High; and a Halloween book with Bloomsbury called Fright Club. I am also developing some animated projects, based on my books, with productions companies. We recently pitched some original properties, and my partner will be taking them to Kidscreen at the end of February. Always something going on.
Okay, we’ve got more coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Ethan for visiting 7-Imp.
1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?
Ethan: For the writing, the ideas come in all shapes and sizes, but overall, for it to be a good idea my wife has to say “that’s cute.” I try to just go with the flow. The harder I try to make something work, the worse it gets. When I just sit down and spit something out and put on some music and just sit and play with it and see where it takes me, those are the best things.
But for the craft of writing and illustrating, there is the rough draft or sketches, the revised draft or sketches, and the final draft or sketches. Then the real work comes of making things fit into dimensions and layouts. Consistency is key with illustration. If a character is wearing a green shirt on one page, he should be wearing that same shirt on the next page. And his finger count should match throughout. Always.
2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.
Ethan: I work in a very small space and try to keep everything contained. Despite my ability to juggle enormous amounts of projects, I actually work on one thing at a time. I work until it looks good, then send it out for review, then while I am waiting for that to come back, I pick up and work on something else. It all happens on my small desk on my laptop. I have tried many set-ups over the years, but the smaller the better for me. Less to maintain and clean.
3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?
Ethan: I was heavily influenced by TV and comics as a kid. Books were still apart of my life, but more when I was really young. Curious George, Harold and the Purple Crayon, anything by Dr. Seuss — except Yertle the Turtle. Not a fan of Yertle.
4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)
Ethan: I would love to chat with Mo Willems about the craft of writing and how he handles his big-time, off-the-charts fame, but his agent keeps me away from him.
If I weren’t married, I’d go for beers with Gary Baseman, then head out to pick up chicks.
As for the red wine, I’d pick Eric Carle, because he seems to have led a full life, and I would want to hear his stories.
5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?
Ethan: I listen to everything. But I do have a playlist called “Ethan’s Bumpin’ Grinds,” which has all my favorite rap and hip-hop, including Destiny’s Child, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Beastie Boys, and a song by Blackstreet, called “No Diggity.”
Yes, I listen to music all the time. I have a playlist called “Rock out Jams,” “Jazzy Beats,” and “Calmer Favorites,” depending on my mood. I also listen to a lot of alternative, because there’s always something new. My three new favorite bands are Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, and Milky Chance.
6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Ethan: I used to write a column called “College Nark” for my local paper, The College Park Community Paper. We live in College Park, Orlando, and my column tattled on people who ran stop signs, left dog poo in people’s yards, and drove too fast, as well as many, many other things.
7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.
Ethan: I wish more interviewers would ask to arm wrestle. Especially the females, because then I could win easier. BOOM! Yeah, I said it, females.
Jules: What is your favorite word?
Ethan: It’s a swear word that starts with the letter “f.” Sorry, kids.
Jules: What is your least favorite word?
Ethan: Sucks, as in that “sucks.” Especially when my kids say it.
Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Ethan: A day off, but I take too few of them.
My wife’s smile.
Jules: What turns you off?
Jules: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)
Ethan: Same as my favorite word. But I’ll throw around the “c” word now and again, believe it or not.
Jules: What sound or noise do you love?
Ethan: A cat’s purr.
Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?
Ethan: A dog licking itself.
Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Ethan: Disc jockey.
Jules: What profession would you not like to do?
Ethan: Daycare manager.
Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Ethan: “You did good.”
- Me and My Big Mouse, 2014, Amazon/2 Lions
- Clara and Clem Under the Sea, 2014, Penguin
- Scribbles and Ink: Out of the Box, 2014, Blue Apple
- The Wing Wing Bros. Geometry Palooza, 2014, Holiday House
- Max and Milo The Mixed-Up Message!, 2013, Simon & Schuster
- Scribbles and Ink: The Contest, 2013, Blue Apple
- Clara and Clem In Outer Space, 2013, Penguin
- The Wing Wing Bros. Carnival De Math, 2013, Holiday House
- Chamelia & the New Kid in Class, 2013, Little Brown
- Scribbles and Ink: Doodles for Two!, 2012, Blue Apple
- Max and Milo Go To Sleep!, 2013, Simon & Schuster
- The Wing Wing Bros. Math Spectacular, 2013, Holiday House
- Scribbles and Ink, 2012, Blue Apple
- Clara and Clem Take a Ride, 2012, Penguin
- Pig Has a Plan, 2013, Holiday House
- Soup For One, 2012, Running Press
- It’s Pooltime!, 2012, Blue Apple
- Up, Tall and High, 2012, G.P. Putnam
- Chamelia, 2011, Little Brown
- The Book That Zack Wrote, 2011, Blue Apple
- The Croakey Pokey, 2011, Holiday House
- My Dad, My Hero, 2011, Sourcebooks
- Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors, 2010, Blue Apple
- One Drowsy Dragon, 2010, Scholastic/Orchard
- Bird and Birdie in: One Fine Day, 2010, Tenspeed Press
- Tickle the Duck!, 2005, Little Brown
- Stop Kissing Me!, 2007, Little Brown
- Duck’s Not Afraid of the Dark!, 2009, Little Brown
- Too Many Kisses!, 2009, Little Brown
- Have You Been Naughty or Nice?, 2009, Little Brown
- You & Me: We’re Opposites (illustration only), 2009, Blue Apple Books
- Muddy as a Duck Puddle (illustration only), 2011, Holiday House
- Fritz Danced the Fandango (illustration only), 2009, Scholastic
- One Little Chicken (illustration only), 2007, Holiday House
- Greedy Apostrophe: A Cautionary Tale (illustration only), 2009, Holiday House
- Tortuga in Trouble (illustration only), 2009, Holiday House
- Trollerella (illustration only), 2006, Holiday House
- The Zombie Nite Café (illustration only), 2007, Holiday House
- Count on Culebra (illustration only), 2010, Holiday House
- Halloween Skyride (illustration only), 2006, Holiday House
- Fiesta Fiasco (illustration only), 2010, Holiday House
- Oh Yeah! (illustration only), 2003, Holiday House
- Stinky Smelly Feet (illustration only), 2004, Dutton Children’s Books
- Mañana Iguana (illustration only), 2003, Holiday House
- The Day My Runny Nose Ran Away (illustration only), 2002, Dutton Children’s Books
- The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever! (illustration only), 2008, Scholastic Book Clubs
- The Best Thanksgiving Ever! (illustration only), 2007, Scholastic Book Clubs
- The Spookiest Halloween Ever! (illustration only), 2009, Scholastic Book Clubs
- Bunny Race! (illustration only), 2010, Scholastic Book Clubs
- The Confe$$ion$ & $ecret$ of Howard J. Fingerhut (illustration only), 2002, Holiday House
- Snarf Attack, Underfoodle and the Secret of Life: The Riot Brothers Tell All (illustration only), 2007, Holiday House
- Drooling and Dangerous: The Riot Brothers Return (illustration only), 2008, Holiday House
- Stinky and Successful: The Riot Brothers Never Stop (illustration only), 2009, Holiday House
- Take the Mummy and Run! The Riot Brothers Are on a Roll! (illustration only), 2010, Holiday House
- Super Schnoz (illustration only), 2013, Albert Whitman
- Stick Dog (illustration only), 2012, Harper Collins
- Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog (illustration only), 2013, Harper Collins
- Stick Dog Chases a Pizza (illustration only), 2014, Harper Collins
- Wuv Bunnies From Outers Pace (illustration only), 2008, Holiday House
- Countdown to Summer (illustration only), 2009, Little Brown
- My Hippo Has the Hiccups (illustration only), 2009, Sourcebooks
- The Tighty Whitey Spider (illustration only), 2010, Sourcebooks
- Galaxy’s Greatest Giggles (illustration only), 2008, Sterling
- Nuttiest Knock Knocks Ever (illustration only), 2008, Sterling
- No Boredom Allowed! Paper Games and Puzzles (illustration only), 2009, Sterling
- No Boredom Allowed! Nutty Challenges and Zany Dares (illustration only), 2008, Sterling
- Funny Mummy (illustration only), 2010, Sterling
- The Summer Camp Survival Guide (illustration only), 2010, Sterling
All images are used by permission of Ethan Long.
The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, copyright © 2009 Matt Phelan.