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 Ocean Deep (2020) and Field Trip to the Moon (2019).
John’s newest picture book, Field Trip to Volcano Island, releases tomorrow!
Welcome back John! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat about your books and writing.
Always a pleasure!
This has been such a fun series of books! Where did the inspiration for Field Trip to Volcano Island come from? Did the ideas for this series come in the order in which you ended up publishing them?
Since I was a kid I’ve always been fascinated by the awesome power and dual nature of volcanoes. They can destroy mountains, bury cities, and create huge tsunamis - and at the same time they can create new land and make the soil fertile for new life. Volcanos are a reminder that the earth is alive and dynamic - inside and out (compared to some worlds like our moon and Mars that are thought to currently be geologically dead). Also I should mention my dad was a geologist so I’m sure that plays into my appreciation for Volcanos!
As far as the order of the ideas for this series - Moon and Deep were in order. For the third book I went back and forth between a volcano and Antarctica.
As I like both ideas (and the series), I selfishly hope you also get to Antarctica. Being the third book in the series, did you have to do many revisions on Field Trip to Volcano Island? Were these big revisions or “minor tweaks”? And which had the most revisions – the text or the images?
I went through 4 major revisions. In fact I might even call them versions instead of revisions because they were quite different. Once I landed on the story I wanted to tell, there were lots of minor tweaks to make sure that the images were telling the story clearly.
Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Field Trip to Volcano Island?
This is kind of funny - when I got the illustration proofs, I looked them over closely and thought they looked great. I showed them to my wife, Sherry, to get her thoughts. She got to a particular image and started giggling. She said, “It kind of looks like the lava monster is peeing here!” I looked at the image and thought “Oh no!!!” I immediately contacted Margaret (my editor) and told her my wife’s thoughts. She said “I know that’s not what’s happening but now I can’t unsee it!” Margaret then passed it on to the art director who said she didn’t see it at all - but she showed it to her kids who saw it and thought it was hilarious. On my end, I showed it to my critique group - half of which couldn’t unsee it, the other half thought it was much ado about nothing and said I should leave it. Ultimately, Margaret left it up to me as to what to do about it - so I decided to swap out the image!
That's funny! Interesting that so many didn't see it. So, as readers who’ve read the other books might remember, you foreshadowed the MC in Ocean Deep in the final spread of Moon. Did you do that again?
I did but it's not obvious. I imagine it to be the kid in the back seat looking at the pliosaur. Honestly, I just kind of picked a child visible on the last page of Field Trip to the Ocean Deep and thought “This is your adventure, kid!”
Lucky kid, that's awesome! I love that you found another way to wear a full body suit! The scene with the class focused on the geysers and mud pits, while the MC in this book is busily making a chain of flowers, is wonderful. What was the hardest spread to create? Which is your favorite spread?
The hardest scene to make is where they are crossing the rope bridge over the lahar canyon. (A lahar is a huge landslide/mudslide caused by an active volcano). I had something specific in my mind's eye for that image that I had a booger of a time manifesting in the actual art. Eventually I had to say “good enough” and move on.
© John Hare, 2022.
My favorite is not a big one - it's the 1/2 page illustration where the teacher is using her rock hammer to extract a sample of molten lava while the class is gathered around. In the image you can see the MC with all his flowers, the artist from Moon making a sketch and the photographer from Deep taking a photo. I just like the feel of it.
I like it too. But that caldera image is so impressive. Did you leave treasures in the illustrations in Field Trip to Volcano Island? Could you share a few with us?
Yes! Look at the lava monster’s smoke - sometimes it shows what he’s interested in! Also, on the title page you can see the submarine bus from Field Ocean Deep alongside the floating school.
I so want to go to this school! Are there any plans for another field trip? And/or any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I’m going to take a break from the Field Trip stories for a while and try some other things. That said, I’ve absolutely loved going on these Field Trips and wouldn’t mind coming back to them someday! Remember that Field Trip to Antarctica story I mentioned earlier? I’m keeping that one in my back pocket. It breaks the mold of the first three Field Trip stories and honestly it might be one of my favorites.
As far as other projects - I have a new book coming out with Green Willow in May! It’s titled A Mouthful of Minnows - and get this - it has words! I’m really excited for that. Currently I’m working on a new book for Holiday House and another for Green Willow, but it's just a bit too early for me to talk about them.
I really do hope you do a 'Field Trip to Antarctica!' But I'm also excited about your new book, too. And will keep an ear out for news of the other books. 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 love exploring the outdoors. Lately I’ve been enjoying our local conservation areas (Missouri has an incredible department of conservation!). As far as national parks go - I love Yosemite and Mt Rainier and honestly I’d love to visit them all and that goes for the Canadian national parks too. Volcano Island has made me really want to visit Yellowstone, what with it being a huge volcanic caldera with geysers and mud pots! I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been there….maybe it''s time to change that.
Thank you, John for coming back.
It was a delight! Thank you again, Maria!
Be sure to stop by on Friday for the #PPBF post on Field Trip to Volcano Island.
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