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 A Mouthful of Minnows (2022), Field Trip to Volcano Island (2022), Field Trip to the Ocean Deep (2020), and Field Trip to the Moon (2019).
John’s newest picture book, Plus One, was released on January 2nd.
Welcome back John! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat about your books and writing.
What was your inspiration or spark of interest for Plus One?
Plus One was inspired by my late big brother, who taught me all about wild plants and animals, and established a genuine love of nature and science in me. It was also inspired by my childhood best friend. When I moved to my hometown as a 5-year-old, she befriended me, despite me being a “strange kid.”
Wonderful inspirations! What do you like to do outside?
I love to hike, fish, explore, hunt for mushrooms with my wife (who does the identifying), wander aimlessly through conservation areas with my dog, etc. Sometimes just being outside is the activity in itself. If I’m in a good place, I can just sit there and appreciate it. As long as there are no leaf blowers going.
I was already to agree with you about sitting outside....and then ended up doubled over in laughter as an image of someone with a battery-powered leaf blower walking down a trail popped into my mind. Thanks for the chuckle! What was the hardest part about writing Plus One? How about the most fun part?
The hardest part was the end. Originally, the kids Agnes invited never showed up. The story ended with Agnes, Dave, and his unusual friends having their own party outside. But the more I worked on it, the more it bothered me that none of the invited girls showed up. So, I ended up having them arrive late (They had soccer practice). That change created a nice new bit of tension too. Now that Agnes’ guests have arrived, will she relegate Dave back to being the “strange kid” that she doesn’t want at her party?
As far as the most fun - coming up with different plus-ones was a lot of fun. I just let myself get over-the-top silly with it. I really enjoy when an idea is still fresh and I can write like nobody is going to read it other than me.
That's such a great, empowering thought. How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Plus One?
About 2 years.
As the author/illustrator, which part was the hardest part of illustrating Plus One?
In the case of Plus One, deciding on the art was the hardest part. I was interested in creating the art in a medium other than acrylic paint just because the last 4 books have been in acrylic. I experimented with ink, watercolor, gouache and colored pencil among other things, but none of those quite fit the story the way acrylic did, and it's all about what’s best for the story. Figuring that out took too long, and that resulted in me working against the clock on this one.
Uh oh. I guess figuring out the art medium can be as complicated as figuring out the form of the text. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Plus One?
It's a bit sentimental. 3 of the main characters are loosely based on people who had very positive influences on me - my childhood best friend, my oldest brother, and my mom.
I think you've created a really nice tribute to them. Did you leave treasures in the illustrations in Plus One? If so, could you share a few with us?
Nothing easy to catch for folks who don’t know me. The school is very much based on my hometown elementary school. The truck on the following page is based on the truck I owned as a teenager, Dave’s house is based on my family’s house. Lots of nostalgic stuff like that.
But that's what makes it special. Thank you for sharing these with us. Which spread are you most proud of?
Text & Image © John Hare, 2024.
I really like where Dave shows up with puppies, and it seems like he’s finally won Agnes over as she invites them inside to the party - but after allowing the puppies into the house, she stops Dave with a firm “Not You.” It makes me chuckle every time. I also love the spread where Dave and his friends are outdoors playing tag as Agnes sheepishly approaches and asks if she can join them. On the facing page, Dave and his group of unusual friends huddle up to talk it over. I like the vibe, colors, and expressions on that spread.
I like your choices, too. I also like what happens to Agnes next. It seems fitting. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I just recently finished the art for a story called Duck Duck Goose that will be published by Greenwillow later in 2024. The text is a simple rhyming read along, but the art reveals so much more - a building, fast paced adventure. Also - the art is done in a completely new style! It's hand drawn pencil with digital color. It was a lot of fun to make and I think that really comes through the art.
Right now, I’m working on … A new Field Trip Adventure! I took a break from the wordless Field Trip books to work on other stories, but lately I’ve been itching to make a new adventure with that special class - so here we go!
YEAH! I love those books and am so excited to see where you go next! Last question, what is the best advice you’ve received, whether about writing or not?
“Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.” When I get too uptight about what it is I think I’m supposed to write, or what my art should be, I suck the fun out of it. And if it's not fun, then what am I even doing?
That's great advice for all of us.
Thank you, John, for coming back.
Always a pleasure to chat with you, Maria!
Be sure to come back Friday for the Perfect Picture Book post on Plus One.
For more information about John Hare, or to contact him: