The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Daniel Errico
Daniel Errico is former mechanical engineer. He left his career at an investment bank to create freechildrenstories.com. In the years since, he has produced multiple number one best-selling children's ebooks with B & N and has books in stores nationwide through Sky Pony Press and Schiffer Publishing. His works have been made into books, best-selling ebooks, animated films, apps, and even plays. He is also the creator of the award-winning Hulu Original Series, The Bravest Knight. Throughout, his stories have been available online to encourage literacy and free media for kids.
Daniel’s the author of about 30 books, including The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, illustrated by Shiloh Penfield (2019), The Journey of the Noble Gnarble, illustrated by Tiffany Turrill (2013), and The Journey of the Marmabill, illustrated by Tiffany Turrill (2013).
His newest picture book, Don’t Hug the Quokka!, released June 7th.
Hi Maria! Thanks so much for the thoughtful questions!
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 started my career as a mechanical engineer, then worked in finance for a bit, before fully embracing what I really wanted to do: write for kids. I began by writing and illustrating a story a week for my site, freechildrenstories.com, and have been writing full-time for 12 or 13 years now. I will always be a fan of picture books first and foremost, but I really love the directions that a middle-grade novel can take you. I'm also truly enjoying writing for kids' shows. Sounds like a current version of the "serialization" which Dickens and others used to do. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I was diagnosed with OCD when I was around 11. It was much less known and talked about at the time so my family and I had to learn a lot in a short period of time!
Interesting. I'm glad it is better known and addressed now. What was your inspiration for Don’t Hug the Quokka! ?
I've been wanting to write a kids' book about consent for as long as I can remember. And the more I learned about quokkas the more convinced I became that they would be the perfect subject for a story about hugs! Nothing like a "cute and cuddly" critter to make you want to hug it. How many drafts, or revisions, did Don’t Hug the Quokka! take from idea spark to publication?
It was a pretty straight-forward path for the Quokka from idea to publication. The exact wording for the repetition involved a little back-and-forth, and rhyming meter always requires some adjusting, but overall there were very few revisions. The most debate actually occurred over where to put the page breaks and how the spreads should be broken up. There was also a last minute title change due to a similar title in the publisher's spring catalogue! Oh my! But I think you got the perfect title for this book. What was the hardest part of writing Don’t Hug the Quokka! ?
Generally speaking, the hardest part was navigating a serious subject with an age-appropriate approach. I wanted the book to be engaging and light-hearted, but also memorable. That meant trying to create a fun interaction for kids with a message that would stick. It was also important to be precise about which example situations the Quokka experienced. I think you succeeded. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or what was favorite book as a child?
What a dastardly question! If you're making me choose, I will say that my favorite author was Tolkien and my favorite illustrator was Quentin Blake. My favorite book was Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman.
I suppose I should say I'm sorry, but that's a great answer! And also a hint at why you're dexterous with rhyming. When you first saw Mia Powell’ illustrations was there anything that surprised you? What is your favorite spread in the book?
Text © Daniel Errico. 2022. Image © Mia Powell, 2022.
The colors were a wonderful surprise for me. I hadn't yet envisioned a color scheme for the story, and the choices she made were so bold and charming that I was immediately impressed. I genuinely do love every single spread, but I'm particularly fond of the final spread, where the quokka exhibits enthusiastic consent. Who couldn't hug a face like that? What's something you want your readers to know about or gain from Don’t Hug the Quokka! ?
Everything I'd like readers to gain from the Quokka has been written (more effectively and eloquently than I ever could!) by Karen Rayne, PHD in the "Note to Parents and Caregivers" in the back of the book. Karen has written a wonderful note with lots of information and suggestions. How are you staying creative these days? What are, or have you been, doing to keep being inspired?
The business side of the industry takes up more of my time than I'd like, but I'm fortunate in that I have the time and space to write fairly often. I find a great deal of my inspiration comes from quiet nights or new sights! There you are, rhyming again. I hope you get many quiet nights and some truly amazing sights. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I'm working on a middle-grade novel that has a much different tone than my previous works. It breaks format and style constraints (à la Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) in a way that's been a ton of fun for me to write. I'm also working on a few shows with some exciting partners that I will hopefully be able to share more about soon. Ooh, that sounds fun! We'll have to keep an eye out for it. What have you learned from your writing journey so far?
Writing is all about truth, and my journey has taught me the value of that in all aspects of my life. It's helped me learn to communicate better, appreciate the unappreciated, and find the unique joy of flow. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?
I spent years living in Brooklyn, NY, and Prospect Park will always hold a special place in my heart. It was designed by the same landscape architects as Central Park (Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux) and has magical secrets all around.
Thank you Daniel for stopping by to share about yourself and your newest picture book.
Be sure to come back Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Don't Hug the Quokka!
To find out more about Daniel Errico, or contact him: Website: https://www.freechildrenstories.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/pajamabooks Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pajamabooks Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pajamabooks YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzDNvVPBsCe7l3BvXY60Irw