Book Blog Tour: Joe Kulka

>> Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Here at Gratz Industries, we're happy to be part of a Book Blog Tour for a number of authors this summer, beginning with Joe Kulka (left), the author/illustrator of Wolf's Coming. Here are five questions with the wolfman:

GI: Give us the twenty-second blurb about Wolf's Crossing.

JK: I think the good folks at Lerner did a fine job summing it up on their website so I'll cheat and paste in their description here:
As a distant howl echoes through the forest, animals quickly stop what they're doing and run for home. Look out - Wolf's coming! As the shadowy figure gets closer and closer and the day draws to a close, the animals shut the door, pull the shades, and turn out the lights. Soon the wolf's glowing eyes appear at the window and the front door opens . . . But things are not as they seem in this suspenseful, clever story, and it's the reader who's in for the biggest surprise of all!

GI: Wolf's Coming! is the first picture book you've written and illustrated, but you've illustrated many more books by other authors. Can you tell us more about the collaborative process with authors?

JK: It does vary but most of the time it's pretty much a solo effort. A lot depends on the publisher. Some don't want any direct interaction between author and illustrator. I enjoy initially seeing the manuscript with little to no illustration notes. I like to be able to interpret and, ideally, enhance the text. I think that is the job of the illustrator - to bring a second view point to the story and help tell the story. If I happen to come up with a unorthodox way of looking at the story - and honestly that is what I strive for - I will run the idea by the editor and art director with a request that they let the author know what I'm planning. I never want to have an author hate what I do with their story. It's always nice to know that the author likes what is being done.

GI: As an author now of picture books, do you find you think about your story first visually or verbally? Did you have scenes and illustrations in mind and build bridges to them with story, or work from strictly from a pre-written manuscript?

JK: Both. There are times I will be sketching and I like the way something looks - a character, or a setting, that I think would make for interesting elements of a story. But when it's time to get the story going I sit down and start writing. I usually keep going until I have a rough version completed. I may let it sit for a while if I'm not too happy with it and then start sketching again. Sometimes those sketches will spur a different direction or new idea. Then I'll go back and revise the story. It's usually at this point that I'll make a very, very rough dummy. Essentially a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper with 32 squares on it that I'll put some scribbles on. This gives me a quick overall feel of the breakdown of the story as it would appear in book form. Then I can see where I may need to adjust the pacing or maybe be able to tell some/more of the story just through the illustrations. By now I have pretty decent grasp on the story and work on fine tuning the text. Last step would be putting together a full dummy with fairly clear sketches and sending it out for consideration.

GI: Tell us about the choices you made for Wolf's Coming! As an author/illustrator, you were in the enviable position of choosing thesubject matter you'd be illustrating. Why forest animals? Why that setting?

JK: The story evolved from a game I used to play with my 6 year old son when he was 2. I'd take him fishing with me and when it was time to go he'd usually be lagging. So being the good father that I am, I decide to scare the bejesus out of him and tell him there's a wolf in the woods so we'd better run back to the car. Don't worry, it was always done in fun. He loved it. We used to hide in his bed and pretend the wolf was outside his bedroom door.

So using that as a starting point I came up the story for Wolf's Coming!

I briefly played around with the idea of there being human children in the story but it just seemed to make more sense for them all to be animals. Since they were all animals I wanted to keep the setting in the woods but still give them an anthropomorphic feel.

I've always been a huge fan of the old Warner Brothers/Tex Avery cartoons so of course I had to put Wolf in a suit and tie. It also serves as a clue that maybe since he is so dressed up that just perhaps Wolf is well aware of the surprise planned.

GI: If you could steal any other illustrator's career, whose would it be?

JK: That's a tough question. There are so many illustrator's careers that I want to steal or at least be able to steal their drawing ability. J.C. Leyendecker would be my top choice I guess. Nobody could draw like that man and he was pretty darn successful for many decades. N.C. Wyeth would be a close second. Of living illustrators, I wouldn't mind having David Wiesner's career, or William Joyce's or Chris Van Allsburg's.

Thanks Joe! Good luck with Wolf's Coming!

You can follow Joe's Book Blog Tour on Elizabeth O. Dulemba's blog, Ruth McNally Barshaw's blog, and later this week on John Nez's blog (Thursday) and Dotti Enderle's blog (Friday).


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