The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Annie Hunter Ericksen
Annie Hunter Eriksen grew up with a love of superheroes and remains a huge Marvel nerd to this day. She works as a freelance writer and lives in a small town in Ohio with her husband, two cats named Cosmo and Kiki, and a hedgehog named Pineapple.
Her debut picture book, With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee, releases October 5th.
Welcome Annie, it's wonderful to "meet" you and talk about your debut picture book.
Thank you for having me!
Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? How did you get started? What is your favorite type of book to write?)
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. My dad was the executive librarian at The Columbus Dispatch for thirty years, so a passion for reading and writing runs in my family. I’d write stories on our chunky family computer and my sister would sneak in and edit them. Nothing’s changed—she became an editor and here I am, writing children’s books!
I’m drawn to writing young adult stories because what’s more traumatic and fascinating than being a teenager? I’m still trying to figure that out! I have a full-time job, so any free time I can snag is spent writing or daydreaming about writing.
Funny how things work out. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
When I was a kid, I took writing classes at the Thurber House—the home-turned-literary-center of writer James Thurber.
That's cool. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
I devoured books as a kid, but the ones that became my favorites were those that I read as a teenager. Meg Cabot was my favorite author when I picked up The Mediator series and she still is every time I reread my sun-faded copies each summer.
Where did the idea for With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee come from?
I don’t know how or when I learned about Stan Lee, but it feels like I’ve always known about him and his superheroes and I’ve always been telling his story, whether people wanted to hear it or not. Like when the first Spider-Man hit theaters in 2002 and Stan popped in for a cameo, I whisper-screamed to the friends I went with “that was Stan Lee!”
I've always loved that he had cameos in the superhero movies! What part of Stan Lee’s story did you connect with?
There’s a part of his autobiography where Stan talks about being at dinner parties and dreading the question “what do you do for a living?” He didn’t want to tell people he was a comic book writer. Stan struggled with the idea that others were going into medical careers or building bridges and here he was, writing comic books. It really wasn’t until Stan came face-to-face with his fans when he truly realized the impact of his characters and stories.
Wondering if your one-true passion in life will have an influence or if you’re any good at it is a universal feeling. I can certainly relate to that. When Stan finally made a The Fantastic Four, that feeling dissipated. He’d made a story he wanted to tell. The insecurities fall away when you realize that if you can get just one kid excited about superheroes and the magic of being different, nothing else matters.
Oh my, what a dreaded question that is! And it does seem to make all the difference to impact that one person (agent, editor, or reader). How many drafts, or revisions, did With Great Power take? How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
With Great Power went through a lot of drafts. Luckily, my editor, Courtney Burke, was as much of a Marvel fan as me, so we brought the manuscript from a more academic and formal tone to one that was engaging and way more fun. The entire process, from drafts to publication, took about two-and-a-half years.
When you first saw Lee Gatlin’s illustrations for With Great Power did anything surprise you? What is your favorite spread in the book?
Text © Annie Hunter Eriksen, 2021. Image © Lee Gatlin, 2021.
It’s difficult for me to pick my favorite illustration, but I adore his spread of the Fantastic Four.
Text © Annie Hunter Eriksen, 2021. Image © Lee Gatlin, 2021.
There’s a page about Stan and illustrator Steve Ditko’s creation of Spider-Man, and Lee drew Peter Parker as a spitting image of Steve. It was visual evidence of how much Steve had contributed to Spider-Man, a fact that often is overshadowed by Stan’s legacy.
I'm so glad Lee did that. What's something you want your readers to know about or gain from With Great Power?
Everybody feels like a weirdo, but this is the perfect ingredient for an excellent superhero. It’s the empathy that we gain in feeling like outcasts that allows us to reach out to others, to choose good despite—and because—of your own experiences.
That's perfect! What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (either as a child or now as a writer.)
It’s the people in my life, those who’ve been there all along like my sister and dad, and those that I’ve had the good fortune of adopting as a second family, like my ridiculously supportive in-laws and college friends.
I find it impossible to not be inspired by the small town I live in—Wooster. It’s the epitome of the Midwest, where we all know each other’s names and ten minutes away is nothing but golden cornfields and green farmlands.
Adopted family and a small town are ones others haven't mentioned yet. Are there any other projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
Lots of die-hard fans are going to be asking about Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man who only gets a small appearance in With Great Power. It seems like Steve always gets just that—a small appearance. Right now, I’m working on giving him much more.
There are going to be a lot of excited fans when they hear this! How have you been staying creative these days? Is there anything that has helped “prime the well” for you?
Lots of writers, including me, have this intense apprehension of sharing their work. It’s a vulnerable experience. But my best friend started a writing group she dubbed The Writer’s Catfé, and that insecurity quickly dissolved. We cranked out short stories and poems once a week—nothing was ever “good” or “bad” because if you believed in a story enough to start it, then it’s worth finishing.
I adore that name! You're lucky to have such a supportive group. What is your favorite animal? Or one that you are enamored with right now. Why?
Ah, it’s a cat. My favorite animal is and always will be a cat. They’re introverts, they’re complicated, they’re adorable, and they’re grumpy. I’ve got two black cats and it’s only because of my reasonable husband that I’m not a crazy cat lady.
*Smiling* Thank you Annie for stopping by to share about yourself and your debut picture book.
Thank you so much for having me!
Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee.
To find out more about Annie Hunter Eriksen, or get in touch with her:
Website: (I’m behind on this one, I don’t have a website yet!)