It's not often that I get to sit and talk with an author face-to-face without some kind of external pressure, something that creates a subtle tension that can be tough to break. Usually, there's the gaze of a camera, or the formality of an official event (or, if it's a dinner, the delicate balance of maintaining interest in both the author and whatever is suspended on your fork), or the particular strangeness of a phone interview, when all nuances are lost to the void.
So it was a special pleasure to sit down with David Ezra Stein, author/illustrator of Caldecott Honor-winning Interrupting Chicken, while I was in Anaheim, CA for ALA 2012. We hung out for about 30 minutes at his hotel's pool deck and flipped through his new book, Because Amelia Smiled, talking about his original illustration style ("Stein-lining") and the motivation behind the book:
“Say somebody does something bad to you,” Stein explains, “like you’re trying to cross the street and they cut in front of you and won’t let you cross—which happens in New York all the time. So you can either carry that with you, carry that little scribbly cloud over your head for the rest of the day, or you could decide to go back to a few seconds before it happened, where you were just grooving along, having a good day, and then carry that energy forward instead of this grouchiness that affects everyone else you meet.”
The best part of the interview, however, was when he pulled out his composition notebook and flipped through his recent sketches and writings. Stein was an incredibly gracious, kind guy, but even this seemed to be, in all of the jet-lagged, California otherness, a unique moment of author-interviewer intimacy. Perhaps he shows it to everyone he talks to—I don't know—but I can promise an upcoming picture book with dinosaurs eating each others' heads.
Readers, what was the most fun you ever had talking to an author?