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Harry Bliss makes comedy and storytelling work on many levels. How do I know? He crafted comedy out of my dry questions in this email interview. In all seriousness, I credit Bliss’ collaborations with Doreen Cronin (including 2003’s Diary of A Worm and 2005’s Diary of a Spider) as being a key catalyst (by tapping into my son’s sense of humor) in sparking an increased interest in reading for him. So when I found out about Bliss’ new book (for Françoise Mouly’s Toon Books), Luke on the Loose (“Luke looks on at the pigeons in Central Park, while Dad is lost in ‘boring Daddy talk’, and before you know it—LUKE IS ON THE LOOSE! He’s free as a bird, on a hilarious solo flight through New York City”, a story in which he handles both the writing and illustrating roles), I jumped at the chance to email interview him. My thanks to Bliss for his time–and to Ron Longe for his assistance in making this interview possible.
Tim O’Shea: You’ve worked with Françoise Mouly for years at the New Yorker–in terms of Luke on the Loose coming together, did she seek you out to work with the Toon Books imprint–or did you seek the publisher out yourself?
Harry Bliss: Francoise asked me to contribute to Toon Books and she is the publisher, so…
O’Shea: You’ve collaborated with several children authors, including Doreen Cronin, Kate DiCamillo, Alison McGhee and Sharon Creech. Were there any storytelling assets or lessons you took away from these collaborations?
Bliss: I learn many things from all the wonderful authors I’ve had the good fortune to work with over the years, mainly, how to integrate words and pictures. It’s really a dance, trying to pair up the text with the art, not simply illustrating the words, but to move the story forward visually. If something is not enriching the story/characters, then it needs to go. This was especially critical with Luke. The author and I went back and forth constant- wait, I wrote Luke! Sorry.