I’ll Post This Interview When Pigs Fly: A Talk with Rob Harrell
Yesterday I was purchasing a mess of Spanish language titles for my library’s children’s room when I came across a book that just came out October 1st called Guiño. That’s right. It was Rob Harrell’s wonderful Wink, now available in Spanish.
Now if you missed Wink last year, that’s okay. There was a lot going on. Consider it worth rediscovering, though. In that book a kid with a rare form of eye cancer navigates school and his own understanding of music. Think High Fidelity meets junior high. And I’d urge you to read it for yourself… but maybe by itself. You see, Rob Harrell (also responsible for one of my favorite comics, Monster On the Hill) is a busy guy. He has a book out this year, and THAT is where I’ll be directing my questions today. Because who can resist a title like When Pigs Fly?
Betsy Bird: Hi Rob! Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions today. So let’s talk a little BATPIG. Thanks to the prodigious success of WINK, there are already going to be a fair number of kids familiar with the character of Batpig already from that book. What caused you to spin that quirky little comic off into its own full-blown book?
Rob Harrell: There are a couple of things that went into that decision. First and foremost, I had a ball doing the Batpig pages for Wink. He took on a life and personality of his own, which is always kind of magical, and I knew I wanted to flesh him out. It was crazy fun giving him friends and an origin story. So I kind of couldn’t resist.
The other thing is that writing Wink was a bit rough at times. I dredged up a lot of things I hadn’t thought about since my time with cancer – so the idea of doing something fun and light (and goofy) was really appealing.
BB: Understandable. I was a big fan of your graphic novel MONSTER ON THE HILL when it first came out back in 2013. You’ve worked on illustrated works since then, but to the best of my knowledge this is the first full-blown comic you’ve done since that time. Why the return?
RH: It really felt like the right idea at the right time. If I’m honest, while Monster is one of my favorite things I’ve done, it was SO much work. I was still pretty low on the learning curve, so it took me a LONG time to do. So, it had to be something I was really excited about to dive back into the full graphic novel arena. I’m so glad I got there, though, because it’s really fun to play around with the writing and the art, all working together.
BB: You’ve also written a daily comic strip called Adam @ Home for an extraordinary amount of time now. Does writing a strip like that help or hinder your other creative projects?
RH: I think it helps a lot. It ensures that I’m always writing and coming up with storylines, which I is a bit of a “use-it-or-lose-it” skill. I’m also a believer in the statement “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” It feels like the more I have on my plate the better things go. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have time for writer’s block? If I sprint ahead a few weeks on the strip, that time to work on a book is really valuable.
BB: What are some of the comics that you’ve particularly loved over the years? Could be the ones you grew up with. Could be the ones you’re seeing now.
RH: Well, my first love was comic strips. Bloom County had a big influence on me, both in style and sense of humor. Far Side, Charles Addams, Calvin and Hobbes… and Pogo. I could look at Pogo strips forever. As for graphic novels, there are so many. I first fell in love with the Flight anthologies by Kazu Kibuishi. Then came Bone and Craig Thompson’s Blankets. And on and on! I love the middle school graphic novels being done by (fellow strip cartoonists) Terri Libenson and Mark Tatulli…
BB: Okay. Nerd question. In a fight between Batpig and Spider Ham, who would win?
RH: Ha! Here’s what I think would happen. They’d have an epic battle, all over the city – smashing through buildings, that kind of stuff – and then they’d get tired and go grab some tasty sandwiches together. They’d start talking villains and outfits and secret identities. I’m pretty sure they’d end up the best of friends.
BB: Well answered. Finally, what are you working on next? Can you say?
RH: I’ve just finished a second Batpig book, and I’m starting the third book today – the adventure continues! I’ve also got an idea I’m really excited about for another (all new characters) middle school novel, more along the lines of Wink. So, whenever I can, I’ll be working on that as well!
Thank you again!!
BB: Thank YOU!
And thanks too to Olivia Russo and the folks at Penguin Young Readers for setting this up. When Pigs Fly is out TODAY! You know what that means? Happy book birthday, Batpig!
Filed under: Interviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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