The Picture Book Buzz - Interview With Daniel Miyares
Daniel Miyares is a critically acclaimed picture book author and illustrator. He grew up in the foothills of South Carolina before studying at Ringling College of Art and Design. After graduating with a BFA in illustration he headed west to Kansas City where he now lives with his wife, their two children, and a dog named Violet, who gives them all a run for their money. He believes stories have the power to connect us all.
He is the author/illustrator of Night Out (2018), That Neighbor Kid (2017), Bring Me a Rock! (2016), Float (2015), and Pardon Me! (2014). AND the illustrator of Night Walk to the Sea: A Story About Rachel Carson, Earth's Protector by Deborah Wiles (2020), The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan by Amy Alznauer (2020), Come Next Season by Kim Norman (2019), Bambino and Mr. Twain by P.I. Maltbie (2019), A Chip Off the Old Block by Jody Jensen Shaffer (2018), Little Fox in the Snow by Jonathan London (2018), That Is My Dream!: A picture book of Langston Hughes's "Dream Variation" by Langston Hughes (2017), Surf's Up by Kwame Alexander (2016), and Waking Up Is Hard to Do lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield (2010).
For basic information on Daniel, see our earlier interview (here).
His most recent picture book, Hope at Sea: An Adventure Story, released November 9th.
Daniel, thanks for coming back to talk about your gorgeous new book.
It’s such an honor to get to do this. Thank you so much for the invitation!
What was the inspiration for Hope at Sea: An Adventure Story?
Hope at Sea began as this letter of encouragement for my daughter. She and I were talking one day after school. She was unpacking all the concerns from the day and I got this overwhelming feeling that I was never going to be able to protect her from all the storms of life. I figured the best I could do was to encourage resiliency in the midst of it all and a hope that brighter skies are out there beyond the clouds. That became the heart of the story.
That will definitely strike a chord with parents everywhere. Especially after these past couple of years. Do you see a thread among your author/illustrated books? How does Hope at Sea fit into that or is it a sort of outlier?
I’m not sure how good I am at assessing my own work, but I definitely see some through lines in the stories I’ve made. I have gravitated towards hero journey narratives as well as stories centered around boats and water. As far as HOPE AT SEA is concerned it fits right in with those ideas.
One way that I think it’s different than my other books is that it’s historical fiction. That’s a first for a book I’ve written. Also I am revisiting a theme that I haven’t since my book Float, a father/child relationship.
Wonderful on both fronts! Was Hope at Sea easier or harder to write and illustrate than your other books?
Honestly, I can’t say that any book I’ve made has been easy to do. They each seem to turn into their own hill to climb. I think that’s what is so exciting about the book making process.
Hope at Sea definitely had some unique challenges, especially when it came to research for the project. I wanted the story to take place in the mid 1800’s and be centered around a seafaring family. It was incredibly rewarding to do a deep dive on sailing and ship building during that time period. The drawing and painting approach I used for the book also was a labor of love. My pen and ink drawings were inspired by scrimshaw artwork.
You've certainly created stunning illustrations and a touching story. Many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in Hope at Sea? Could you share a few with us?
Text & Image © Daniel Miyares, 2021.
For sure! It’s funny how things evolve as you work on the book. Moments come and go throughout the editing process. Sometimes I land on elements that aren’t critical to a reader understanding the story, but they reinforce the intent in a compelling way. A few examples from Hope at Sea would be the playful seagull that keeps showing up, what Hope carves into a plank on the side of the ship, and I liked sneaking in the idea that Hope can draw quite well.
It's fun pouring over Hope's journal and drawings. Is there something you want your readers to know about Hope at Sea?
I mentioned this earlier, but I sincerely hope readers can be encouraged in the midst of whatever storms they might find themselves in. Also the endpapers for the book feature a lot of things I got to learn about while making it.
How many revisions did Hope at Sea take? Which was harder for this book - the writing or illustrating?
It took many revisions over several years. This story began as something almost completely different. I guess you could say it’s gone on an epic journey of its own.
Writing and illustrating each have their own challenges. The writing for this book needed to communicate a lot in a very concise way and the illustrations needed to immerse the reader in a specific time and place while allowing them to feel all that Hope and her family are feeling.
I am totally in awe of your illustration's ability to pull us so totally into the story. Without giving it away, how long did it take for you to come up with that amazing ending?
The ending was a critical part of my initial concept for the story. I didn’t feel like I had a story without that particular ending in place. The middle of the story took a lot more time to figure out!
Oh those mucky middles! I'm so glad you waded through it. So, do you know - how do they get the ship in the bottle? I love the cover page and the one where the girl holds the bottle by the window.
I do know how they get the ship in the bottle! You build it outside the bottle except the rigging is made collapsible. You slip it in flat and raise the masts and sails with strings once it’s inside.
Wow! That would be a sight to watch. It still seems so much bigger than the opening of that bottle! How are, or have you been, staying creative during these times? Have you found anything that helps you stay inspired?
It’s been extremely challenging for sure. I am grateful that I have had contracted projects to draw me out when I needed to be. I’ve also been trying to make small pockets of time to just make things that I’m not required to make. That tends to build creative momentum I think.
Creating anything for the fun of it drawing, cooking, crafts, etc. is a great way to recharge. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
There are a few. I have a wonderfully tender book that I illustrated called Midnight & Moon coming out in Feb. of 2022. It was written by Kelly Cooper and is published by Tundra Books.
After that in April my new book with the one and only Carter Higgins comes out. It’s called Big and Small and In-between and it’s published by Chronicle. I can’t wait. I am currently working on the artwork for a new book by the fantastic Anne Wynter.
These both look and sound amazing! I can't wait to see them. Especially Midnight & Moon - since I love horses. Last question, if you could meet anyone (real, imaginary, or deceased), who would that be? Why?
I would like to sit down with my grandfathers on both my mom and dad’s side. One I’ve never met because he died before I was born, the other is alive but he and my father haven’t been on good terms my entire life.
I hope you get that chance. Thank you, Daniel for stopping by again and sharing with us. It was a special treat to chat with you.
It is such a pleasure Maria! Thank you so much for the chance to visit.
Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Hope At Sea.
To find out more about Daniel Miyares, or contact him: