I’ve been looking forward to this for some time, and I hope you have been, too. Mikey Brooks is the multi-talented author and illustrator of some of the most adorable children’s books I’ve seen in a long time. Mikey earned his BS in Creative Writing from Utah State University. Illustration has always been one of his loves. His art has been seen in many forms, from picture books to murals for community art productions. He creates full-room murals and loves to doodle on almost anything. He also manages a bakery where he is a cake artist and decorator. He author/illustrated Bean’s Dragons, ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, and Trouble with Bernie. He also illustrated Bongo Flo and Ocelot Scott, both by Carolyn Quist, and Lucius and the Christmas Star, by Jim Long. He’s had poetry and personal essays published in university sponsored literary magazines 2007-2009, and was awarded 3rd place for his personal essay, Waiting for the Morning Sun to Rise, in the Utah Arts 23rd Annual Writing Competition, 2011. He has a wonderful wife and two amazing daughters. I had a lot of fun a couple of weeks ago learning more about Mikey and his work:
At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be an artist/illustrator/author? Was it something that’s been a part of you since early childhood, or did you discover it later?
Art and writing has always been a part of my life. Ever since I can remember I’ve been drawing and telling stories. I tried to take art classes but I never did very well in them because I always had my own way of doing something. My writing really took off after I got married. I had written a couple novels before we met but my wife really encouraged me and got me to realize my writing was more than just a hobby. I decided to get my degree in writing and I went to Utah State University, which offers a wonderful Creative Writing Program. The plan was to get my Masters so I could have teaching to fall back on, but babies change plans. We had our first daughter a semester before I graduated and I am glad we did. No amount of schooling could have helped my writing as much as my girls have.
How much inspiration do your two little daughters provide for your art and stories?
A lot! You know kids are really the best people to be around when you write for children. They have such wild imaginations and they are pure in heart so nothing has a limit. Spend an hour with my girls and you’ll have met dragons and unicorns, flown with fairies round the moon, rescued a princess from pirates, and fallen in love. The minds of children have no boundaries to what they can create. If you play along you can discover stories you never dreamed of as an adult.
Have your wife or daughters ever been your models for particular pieces? If so, how do they feel about that? (The artist who did my recent book covers has tagged his wife and kids as models more than once!)
Yes! My picture book, Bean’s Dragons, is actually about my daughter and her imaginary friends. Even the name Bean is my daughter’s nickname. I had a blast creating this book because it was about our family. I tried to incorporate my youngest daughter in the story as well. You’ll see here in the background discovering the dragons that only the kids can see. They absolutely love the book. My oldest knows that it is her in the story and when we first got the proof copy delivered she made me read at least a dozen times. I have plans on making a series of Bean books that incorporate her little sister Sprout. The next book will probably feature a box that can turn into a rocket ship.
How much influence were your daughters in your choice to work in children’s and MG fiction? Do you think that might change as they grow?
They have been the influence in my picture book writing. I don’t know if I would have ever written a picture book if it weren’t for them. I have too many stories to keep up with and every day I get more. In my middle grade fiction I haven’t yet brought my children into the story. I tried once, but when you are writing a story about nightmares it’s hard to incorporate your young ones. I have used my wife into a few books. I draw on her for one particular character in my Dream Keeper series. I hope one day to have those books published so I can share the influence she has given to me.
How do you connect with authors to become their illustrator? How does that work–or does it differ from one project to another?
I got with Jim Long to create Lucius and the Christmas Star by a referral in my online writer’s group, Authors’ Think Tank. He had been looking for an artist that fit his vision of his book, and his daughter was best friends with an author I interviewed for my blog. With Carolyn Quist, I actually have been a longtime friend of hers. She is my honorary mom! I illustrated Ocelot Scott for fun and had a book made up for her as a birthday present. It wasn’t until a few years later we released it as a picture book. I love her stories. They are wild, imaginative, and full of wacky rhymes. But most of all I love the animals she uses in her stories. I had fun with Bongo Flo. I mostly depend on referrals and my website for connections. And I hope that visits on blogs like yours can help me get better acquainted with authors looking for an illustrator.
I hope so, too! What projects are you working on right now? Care to give us a sneak peek?
Recently I released the first installment in the ABC Adventures Series. Magical Creatures is a fun book about an explorer who discovers fantastical creatures and letters that go with them. It’s fun and educational. I am currently working on the second book in the series, ABC Adventures: Cooking with Kids. This was inspired by my wife, who operates a fabulous recipe blog www.ourcreativekitchen.blogspot.com. She has taken on the role of author of this one, sharing fun recipes that are great to cook with children. My wife has always been an advocate of family activities in the kitchen. We hope this book can help bring fun, food, and unity to every family with kids.
Cake decorating is an art in itself–working with a really yummy medium! How does that compare to illustrating?
I’ve managed a local bakery for over ten years and have been able to decorate a lot of cakes. I’ve done just about everything from fancy wedding cakes to birthday cupcakes. It is fun and a great way to show off. Most people think of girls as being the only ones to decorate. I like it when a customer says, “You did this?” It helps my fragile male ego inflate just a little more than usual. I don’t know if it helps that I’m an illustrator, but I think it’s fun to create art that is not only three dimensional but you can eat it too.
Any other thoughts or feelings about your career that you’d like to share?
I just want to encourage everyone to check out my books. I know you’ll love them. If you have kids, they will love them too. What I like most about writing for children is that it is such an essential stepping stool in developing a child’s reading potential. Picture books are fun, but they are also a necessity. We need more picture books! They help kids learn concepts of story in both words and art. I’d encourage writers who have thought about writing a picture book to do it. It is hard–picture books seem harder to write than any other–but they are worth it. There is nothing better than watching a child’s eyes light up with excitement when they read your story. Best wishes to all, and thanks so much, Diann, for this wonderful interview.
You can learn more about Mikey Brooks and his works at: www.insidemikeysworld.com, or on his blog at: www.writtenbymikey.blogspot.com. You can find Mikey on Goodreads at: http://www.goodreads.com/InSideMikeysWorld on Twitter: @writtenbymikey on Pinterest at: http://pinterest.com/writtenbymikey/ and on Facebook: as Mikey Brooks, or email him at: insidemikeysworld(at)gmail.com
Here is a little bit about Mikey’s books:
Have you ever had a dragon in your house? How about a dozen? Bean is a little girl with an imagination that is creating quite a mess. Although Bean loves each of her dragons, she forgets how untidy they can be when having so much fun. When Bean’s parents discover what’s happened in their short absence, Bean finds herself the blame of the dragons’ giant mess.
You can find more about Bean’s Dragons at: http://www.insidemikeysworld.com/beans-dragons/
This is the first installment in a series of ABC adventures featuring Professor Vontriponmybottom, a heroic explorer determined to share with children the alphabet through exciting and fantastical means. In Magical Creatures you will find all sorts of enchanting beings such as: B is for Bigfoot, M is for Mermaid, and O id for Ogre. The professor shares fun facts about each creature he encounters and never shies away from getting a picture with them. This book is sure to educate and entertain young readers and their parents.
You can find more about ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures at: http://www.insidemikeysworld.com/abc-adventures-magical-creatures/
Thanks, Mikey, for being my first guest and sharing your insights about your work!