Jason Platt always loved to write and draw ever since he was a kid. So, when it was time to go to college, he went to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). He grew to know numerous styles of illustration but he is mainly drawn to the art of humorous and children's illustration. And with that, let's learn more about the author and his experience creating his latest series titled Middle School Misadventures.
1.List three adjectives to describe Newell.
Three adjectives to describe Newell. Good question.
2. What was the genesis of the Middle School Misadventures series?
Middle School Misadventures, is based on my independent comic, Mister & Me. For the most part, it contains many of the same characters in the books, but Newell is only five years old in it as opposed to being middle school age. But much like in my comic, Mister & Me, I wanted to keep the adventures in these stories grounded in what life is like. And not have the adventures be too over the top if that makes sense. (laughs) I say that fully knowing that there aren't many heists that happen in the walls of a middle school. But even then, I tried to keep the heist in the book somewhat believable. One of the things I hope to get from my readers is to have them identify with the characters, and feel like these are situations that they could actually come across.
3. What challenges did you face while writing Middle School Misadventures Operation: Hat Heist!?
I think the biggest challenge in writing Middle School Misadventures: Operation Hat Heist! Is that I wanted to be sure the pacing was on par with what we consider to be a heist story. So I watched a lot of heist films to find the construction of a successful heist story.
I wrote key points down on yellow post-it-notes and but them right next to me where I could see them all of the time. Operation Hat Heist is a plot-heavy story, and if the key points didn't happen, the story would feel off. Those post-it-notes kept me on track for sure. When I got my first copy of the book I took the post-it-notes down and put them on the inside cover.
While I watched a lot of heist films to get the right feel, there were two in particular that I kept revisiting. The first one was the first Mission: Impossible film (1996). Even though it's a spy adventure, that whole middle section is totally a heist movie. You know that famous scene with Tom Cruise dangling down into the room? It's so exciting. I think I watched this movie the most. Sometimes I would just have it on in the background while I was working. The other movie I watched was the 1950's film Rafifi. There are sections of the film that are not really PC for today's standard, but the actual heist of the film is nail-biting.
4.What is your writing habit when you wrote Middle School Misadventures Operation: Hat Heist!?
I don't work with a script at all. And I don't have a solid outline either. The outlining I do is really loose because I know that things are going to change once I start to pencil things out. I treat the story and the characters like a Robert Altman film. I know what happens in the scene, I know who the characters are who are in it, and kinda throw them in a panel and tell them to 'go'.
When I have written a full scene I feel like it doesn't really come alive until the characters are there to help guide it out. They may do something, or respond to something that will inspire what happens next.
So when I'm actually writing, I'm writing and penciling at the same time. It helps a lot too because I can see how the dialog fits on the page. And I can see if the dialog or the speech balloons flow well. There's a lot of composition that you are constantly working with all at the same time.
Also, by working this way I don't get bored with it. I know that Alfred Hitchcock's favorite time with making movies was writing the script and planning out the shots in storyboards. So by the time he got to the actual filming part of the movie, he felt like he was just doing it all over again. There's joy in the construction.
5. Can you tell us a little about how you came to be an author/cartoonist?
Ten years ago I came up with this little idea to do a comic strip based on my relationship with my son called, Mister & Me. Originally I hadn't had any plans to make the comic public, I was just hoping to get enough strips done to independently produce a book, just one, with a collection of the strips to give to my son as a present. I didn't have a set number of strips that I was planning to do, but enough to make a decent collection. But after a while, I started sharing them with my friends and it just started to grow from there. The comic series was even adapted for the stage and toured the mid-west. It was kinda surreal.
Fast forward some years later, I was working on some manuscripts for some picture books when my literary agent suggested that I do a full-length story with my characters from my comic. It seems strange, but I didn't even consider it beforehand. But it seemed exciting to do.
At first I started to develop the book as a—I don't even know how to describe the style of book—but a book similar to a Wimpy Kid book or Big Nate. Where there are large chunks of prose and with spot illustrations here and there to help move the story. And when my literary agent started to send the manuscript out an editor at a publishing house asked me two things. 1) If I would consider making Newell middle school age (because I originally kept him at five years old), and 2) If I would consider making it into a full graphic novel. I jumped at both of the ideas. For one, it was exciting to think of Newell older for me. I had seen him as a five-year-old for so long that it seemed really cool to see what he would be like as a pre-teen. I was also excited to try my hand at a graphic novel. It wasn't so much different from doing a comic strip, but I knew that it was going to be a lot more work than the original plan.
Not only was it great to see Newell older, but it was really interesting to see him more independent and count on his friends more.
And it just has been growing from there.
It's been a fun ride for sure!
6. Did you ever think you would write (or draw) for kids? What were your earliest craziest ambitions?
You know it's funny. When I was a kid I loved cartooning. LOVED it. I would sit and read Peanuts, Garfield, Beetle Bailey all of the time. And I would draw them all of the time. And when a friend of mine introduced me to Bloom County---whoa, that changed everything for me. I just fell into Berke Breathed's world. I loved it.
But the other inspiration, that was always close by was my love for Mad magazine. Much in the same way with the comic strips, I would devour each issue that came out every month or so. I would look at all the cartooning from front-to-back before I would read any of it. It was like a master class in cartooning. Mort Drucker's work especially. I would just marvel at his line work. How he would not just draw a likeness of a celebrity, but capture who they were. He had a special gift to draw something funny, but it was believable too. He didn't just draw them, but placed them in the scene.
When I was 14 I actually wrote Mad Magazine asking them for a job. Along with the query letter I sent a drawing I did of Christopher Reeve as Superman. I didn't have high hopes of landing a job with them, but I was naively hopeful. And one day-- I got a letter from them. It was a handwritten rejection letter from the associate editor at the time. But while it was a rejection letter, she encouraged me to continue to draw because she saw talent. I carried that letter with me for a really really long time.
So I had an early interest in making people smile, and laugh.
When I got into college I was more interested in doing “ART”. I wanted to do BIG, MEANINGFUL pieces that SPOKE to people. And I loved doing that. I loved painting and diving into that world. But as I got older—and especially after I became a parent—I realized something about myself. I found that whenever I drew just for fun, just for myself, I drew cartoons. It was like my real passion was always there waiting for me to come back to it.
So in a way, I always knew I wanted to write for a younger audience, even as a kid, but—in a way--it reminded me to come back to it. I'm not sure if that makes sense.
7. Where do you turn for inspiration?
OooF. This is a tough one. Inspiration can come from anywhere, any direction, at any time. But if it does come from anywhere it mostly comes from the funny things that happen in life.
Like in Operation: Hat Heist I was inspired by two certain events. 1) When my son was in school he wore his favorite hat in one of his classes. The principal walked up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and nodded to his hat and said, “I would hate to add this to my collection.” My son immediately took his hat off and never wore it in class again. The principal in this situation sounds a lot like the principal in Middle School Misadventures', Mr. Todd. But he's actually a really nice guy. He just doesn't like hats. 2) The other event that I took inspiration from was when I got something stolen from me when I was in middle school. With those two separate events, I kinda pushed them together; smooshed them to make one story.
It sounds funny to say, but sometimes I will just daydream. And in those daydreams, I will work through a story, or work through a visual problem that I'm having. Or, sometimes, I will take a long walk. I'll just put on some classical music, or jazz and just talk out my story to myself. And it's amazing how just that moment away from my desk can actually help me.
It's just apart of the creative process for me.
8. Which authors did you read when you first got into books? This hits a wide spectrum.
When I was younger the main books that I would carry with me were the Bloom County collections from Berke Breathed. But as I got older I started to read a lot of Stephen King and Agatha Christie. I still do.
When I was younger there was that stigma that you wouldn't look cool if you were caught reading. I'm glad I got over that. There is nothing better when you can lose yourself in a good book.
9. Is there a message in the Middle School Misadventures series that you want readers to grasp?
One of the things I love about writing and drawing the Middle School Misadventures series is that it takes place in a time of Newell's life where things are still a lot of fun. Where the problems that he faces seem big to him, but not so big that they will emotionally scar him or anything. They are just a lot of fun.
But there are some underlying moments that I love about the books too. Much like how tight Newell and his friends are, and how they can count on each other. Even Clara—who is basically Newell's Lucy to his Charlie Brown—is one who might get on Newell's nerves, but she's not ostracized from the circle. And then there's the relationship between Newell and his dad. It's a close relationship. While there are times that Newell might want to go to his dad about something, he tries really hard to come up with a solution on his own.
10. What advice would you give to a young cartoonist?
The first thing that I always tell a young cartoonist is don't forget to have fun with it all. Do something goofy just for the sake of doing something goofy.
When we were all little we all loved to draw and color. And then as we got a little older we found that there is always one kid who can draw just a little bit better than the others. And those other kids (usually, not always) will stop drawing all together because they feel like they can't draw as good as so-and-so. So they stop. And when I do lectures with kids I will always go through some easy cartooning lessons that anyone can come up with a fun character that anyone can do. So have fun. Even if it's just for yourself.
Another thing is to look at different cartoonists' work. If there are any cartooning videos of someone drawing, check it out. You can learn so much just by watching someone do a live demo. You can see what materials they use and maybe how they can work for you too. And most of all, just practice. When you're doing something fun, it doesn't seem like practice.
The more you do, the better you'll become. Which is a good lesson for anything you're interested in.
11. Who would you like to see adapt Middle School Misadventures into a feature film or TV series?
That would be awesome if it were to get adapted into a TV series or a film. I would be lying if I said I hadn't thought about that. To see the characters come to life would be absolutely thrilling. But who I would like to see adapt it? I'm not even sure if I've thought I about it that far.
12. Do you prefer writing or drawing cartoons?
To be honest, they go hand-in-hand for me. I love drawing, but without a story, the drawing just kind of lays there. It would be like renting a tuxedo without having an event to wear it to. Without the event, the tuxedo will just stay on the hanger. And that's not fun. By the way, I love metaphors.
13. Can you write and draw anywhere? Or do you have to be at home, at your desk with no interruptions?
I could write and draw anywhere, but I prefer to work at my desk when I'm doing the heavy lifting.
I work with a Wacom Cintiq pro in my office. So I work entirely digitally. While I prefer to work in traditional mediums I have to admit that the speed of changing things works really nice with digital work. The only downside is that there is no “original” piece of art when I'm finished with it. You can't frame a flash drive saying that this is the original work for page 58 (maybe at a museum of modern art—I hadn't thought about that before). Although there are times when I do work traditionally and I will reach to do a Ctrl Z—and it's not there!
But, to veer toward your question, I will take along my iPad Pro with me at times if I'm doing some penciling. I have done that before. But what works best for me is just taking a sketchbook with me somewhere and I will sketch out a moment, or a scene. Even if I'm not doing the full work it will help me see the complete picture.
For example, my wife and I took a trip in the middle of writing Middle School Misadventures: Operation Hat Heist, and I took a sketchbook with me and I would draw out a future scene that I hadn't written yet. It helped me keep my mind in the story. Many of those sketches are actually in the book.
14. If you have your own talk show, who would your first three guests be (besides me, of course)?
GAH! What a hard question.
(in random order)
1: Drew Struzan
2: Bill Nighy
3: George Lucas
15. What was the first book that made you think for days after reading it?
It would probably be Harper Lee's, To Kill a Mockingbird.
16. Last question, who is your favorite superhero?
I'm not a huge superhero guy. That said, I love Spider-Man. He might be a little smart-alec, but I love how he's really just a kid who's going through the normal stuff kids go through. He just so happens to have superpowers. I was really disappointed when The Spectacular Spider-Man was canceled some years ago. Until The Spider-verse came out, it was my favorite adaption of Spider-man.
Thank you for your time, Jason Platt! His latest children's book series will surely entertain the young and the young at hearts. I hope you check out his books wherever books are sold and read them or perhaps gift to someone you know that would enjoy them. Thank you fellow readers and first-time visitor for stopping at Novelpro Junkie to read another exciting interview. Take care of yourself as always. May your loved ones stay safe & healthy as well.
Sony pictures will adapt the best-selling children's book written by Thomas Taylor. The book is called Malamander and directing the film adaptation is Oscar-winner Josh Cooley. Peter Kang, on the behalf of Sony, will oversee the project.
The children book has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The sequel of Malamander is titled Gargantis, which was published May 7 (U.K.) and May 26 (United States).
Similar Topic: Emme Muñiz, Jennifer Lopez & Marc Anthony’s daughter, will release a children book
Here is a statement (provided by The Hollywood Reporter) from Josh Cooley about the project:
“Creating films and telling stories at Pixar for 17 years has been a dream. The quality of our storytelling was a direct correlation to the quality of the people at Pixar who shaped those stories together, and they will always be my family. And while it was a hard decision to leave, I am so excited to jump into and create new worlds with new collaborators and partners. There are so many stories that I want to tell, and I hope to bring some of that Pixar magic with me wherever I go.”
Here is goodreads synopsis of Malamander:
Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous malamander creep…
Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger...
Source material: hollywoodreporter.com
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