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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with John Hare

John Hare spent his youth in Kansas drawing comic strips about snakes, making spoof yearbooks to entertain his friends, and writing stories about a crime-fighting crocodile. After working as an art director and graphic designer, he picked up a brush and painted a scene for his son's nursery. That's when he realized he still wanted nothing more than to bring stories to life. A dad, illustrator, writer, armchair philosopher, self-proclaimed chef, latent runner, wannabee musician and all-around goofball John Hare lives in Gladstone, Mo with his wife and two children. He lives to get wrapped up in a good project and to give it the love and creativity that it deserves.

He is the author/illustrator of, Field Trip to the Moon (2019). His newest picture book, Field Trip to the Ocean Deep, releases tomorrow!

For some background information, check out earlier interview (here).

Welcome back John! Thank you so much for stopping back by to chat about your books and writing.

Thanks for having me, Maria! It’s great to talk to you again.

ME: So, where did the inspiration for Field Trip to the Ocean Deep come from?

JOHN: I knew I wanted the next field trip book to take place in another extreme environment - a location that would be crazy for a field trip in the present, but safe enough that a parent wouldn’t mind signing a permission slip for it some day in the future. And when it comes to hostile environments, I can’t think of anything much more extreme than the crushing pressure at the bottom of the ocean!

This would have been such a cool field trip! Did the core idea change as you started working out the dummy?

The core idea changed quite a bit. At first the main kid was a drummer instead of an aspiring photographer. The main sea monster changed too - it went from a terrifying trio of giant shrimp, to a very scary pliosaur, to a group of stooge-like cephalopods to a friendly pliosaur.

© John Hare, 2020.

I think of the deep sea as dark, primitive, and scary. My first ideas leaned a bit too hard into that scariness and therefore didn’t quite have the right Field Trip feel. Then one night it hit me and all those dead-end ideas fed into the way I wanted the story to go.

I have to admit, I'm glad you ended up this "monster." It's amazing how all the things that don't work help create what actually does. Were you planning to make Field Trip to the Ocean Deep while you were creating Field Trip to the Moon?

While I was working on the illustrations for Field Trip to the Moon, I kept wondering who the other kids were (other than our aloof little artist) and what kind of adventure they might find themselves in on a different field trip! So, I began to brainstorm ideas, but MOON was my first book, so I dared not assume I’d be getting a second! But I was hoping for sure. So, when Margaret Ferguson (my editor) asked if I’d be interested in making another I was thrilled!

Did you have to do many revisions? Were these big revisions or “minor tweaks”?

Once I had a version of the story that we liked, there weren’t many revisions - but there were a bunch of minor tweaks! Some on my editors end and a lot on my end. I think that’s because I was really proud of my first book, Field Trip to the Moon, and I just wanted to make sure the follow up was worthy.

I'm really glad they wanted another book, too. And I think this is a great sequel. Was your illustration process different between these two books? Did you use the same medium?

I used the same illustration process - acrylic paints on hardboard (like Masonite), but it was much more difficult. I knew exactly how I wanted the Moon to look from the moment I had the idea, and I knew how to get that look. For the deep, there was an atmosphere I wanted, but I wasn’t quite sure how to get there - so it took a lot of experimenting. I’m really happy with how it turned out. That atmosphere was very important to me.

I can imagine, especially as this is a wordless book. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Field Trip to the Ocean Deep?

So, I knew from the get go that I wanted this story to take place at the bottom of the ocean, but I know that the pressure down there is absolutely crushing and there is no diving suit in existence or on the drawing board that can take that kind of pressure - so at first I put the class in their own personal submersibles. But the problem was that the story is wordless, and the kid’s faces are obscured - so the story relies completely on body language. I was having a hard time getting body language out of the submersibles! I decided to go ahead and put the kids in bottom dwelling, deep sea diving suits… and that actually opened up some fun new directions for the story!

I think that's the glorious part of writing a fictional story! So, is it the same kid “stranded” on this field trip?

© John Hare, 2020.

This is a different kid from the same class. In fact, you can see him with his camera in some of the illustrations of Field Trip to the Moon! Along those lines, you can see our little artist friend from MOON boarding the bus on the cover of DEEP as well as on the last page. (l marked them w/ arrows.)

So, speaking of atmosphere and their suits, I love the spread with the class wandering the floor in deep dive suits and the iridescent squids! What was the hardest spread to create? Which is your favorite spread?

© John Hare, 2020.

Great question! The hardest (and incidentally my favorite) spread is where the school of squid is swimming over the heads of the class with the pliosaur hidden in the mix.

First time I looked, I was so enthralled with the glowing squid & the kids on the ocean floor, I totally missed him. Now, I see that sneaky pliosaur! Did you leave treasures in the illustrations in Field Trip to the Ocean Deep? Could you share a few with us?

I would say look closely at the first third of the book. It may seem like the sea creature just shows up, but he’s been watching the class from the time the bus started descending into the deep! And when the kids are safely on the bus at the end, the sea creature might still be trying to catch a peek.

It's an awesome last page! Your website shows the cover image for the Italian version. Will it be published in other countries as well?

I’m thrilled to say it has been picked up in Italy, Germany, France, and Korea!

How excellent! Are there any plans for another field trip? (Antarctica? Pluto?) And/or any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

There is officially another Field Trip in the works. This time we’re going to a lava-spewing Volcano! I do have an Antarctic Field Trip idea that I love, and so long as people keep enjoying these adventures, I definitely hope to get us back in space! Unrelated to Field Trip, I also have a story about a turtle who fancies himself a fisherman coming out in the summer of 2022.

Yeah! More Field Trip books. If you want a possible teaser for an Antarctic Field Trip, take a look at John's July 13, 2020 posting under "Musings and News" on his website. I am cruious about a turtle "fisherman" and can't wait to see that book. Thank you John for coming back.

Always a pleasure and thanks for having me again!

Be sure to stop by on Friday for the #PPBF post on Field Trip to the Ocean Deep.

For more information about John Hare, or to contact him:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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