Jumping into the World of Joey Fly, Private Eye with Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman

I am so excited to bring this interview to you today. When I first read Joey Fly I just knew I had to be part of the blog tour for Joey Fly 2. I won’t give away much about the book now – I’ll save that for tomorrow’s Bookanista review.

Today, I’ll just bring you the amazing duo of author, Aaron Reynolds and illustrator Neil Numberman.

CF: How did life change (if at all) after the release of JOEY FLY PRIVATE EYE

Aaron: Joey Fly has garnered some lovely starred reviews, was the first graphic novel ever nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Mystery Award, and there has been some talk of an animated movie, but nothing firm. I don’t know that life changed in any drastic way like it would if Joey Fly was a NYT best seller or something. Unless you’re the rare few like J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer, most of us writers enjoy the release of a new book and then move on to the next one and let the life changes take care of themselves. Mostly, it seems to be getting devoured by kids that come in contact with it, and that’s thrilling.

{{Dude…my nephew DEVOURED the books – in like one sitting. He never does that!}}

Neil: Since Joey Fly was my first book, a lot of things I couldn’t do before I was able to…like going on a book tour. It’s difficult to go on a book tour with no book.

After Joey Fly’s release, my publishers hooked me up with a lot of schools and libraries in the New York City area, so I’ve gotten to do tons of classroom and group drawing activities. It makes it easier to draw for kids when you spend time drawing with them. So really, it got me away from my desk more!

CF: Are you doing anything different to promote JOEY FLY 2: BIG HAIRY DRAMA?

Neil: We made some pretty fun Joey Fly masks (you can be Joey, Sammy, or the newest character, Harry Spyderson!) and Christmas ornaments so Joey and Sammy can infest your Christmas tree. I always enjoyed book-related activity pages, and it’s also great to think folks might have Joey or Sammy lying around somewhere in their house! 

Aaron: Neil and I have focused on the kind of grassroots promotion that gets the book into more readers’ hands. We’re doing a blog tour to spread the word and gab with folks. I’ve also created a new mystery presentation for school visits that focuses on Joey Fly 2 and kids seem to be loving that. Other types of promotion (publisher initiated buzz, great reviews, movie deals, book tours, national monuments)…that stuff is mostly beyond your control, for which I’m glad. If all that was up to me, I’d constantly be stressing about whether I was doing enough! And that would just keep me from writing.

CF: Was the process for writing and illustrating this book at all different from writing and illustrating the first book?

Aaron: I think the biggest difference was that we had one under our belts. We knew the main characters, had really tackled the mystery genre, and were really warmed up for book #2. I was eager to get into a slightly more complex mystery and delve into these characters more. And I wrestled with how far I could go…for example, could a bug get murdered? Kidnapped? Should they? Remember, this is a kids’ book, but unlike many kids’ books, the characters are adults. Yes, adult insects and arachnids, but still adults. The stories had to be silly, but still realistic. Sideways and quirky, but still kid appropriate. How far could I push it in this bug-eat-bug world? I was excited to find out and wrestle with those choices.

Neil: I got much better at the drawing, and much faster at it. The first book was my first foray into the graphic novel, and I was stiff and uptight for a lot of it. I definitely loosened up, and it shows. I played with close-ups and wacky emotions a lot more, and brought a flavor of some of my favorite comics growing up.

CF: How did you two wind up working together?

 Aaron: As is usual for authors and illustrators of kids’ books, we’ve never met. Well, we did get together when I was out in New York last year, but we’ve never met in relationship to working on the books. Our editor, Reka, over at Henry Holt, put us together. Reka had accepted Joey Fly and was looking for the right illustrator for it and found Neil…he’ll have to tell you that story. She brought his illustrations of Joey and Sammy to me and asked me what I thought.

Neil: I had just visited the Henry Holt offices when Aaron’s script was making the rounds. I was still in school, desperate to make some connections to the children’s book world before I was thrown out on my own! And within a week of my visit, they asked me if I’d be interested in reading a sample manuscript about a fly detective. Before I even replied, I sketched up what a fly detective would look like, and sent it back with an enthusiastic “YES!” response.

Aaron: The truth is (I’ve told Neil this, so it’s fair game to say it here)…I did not really care for his interpretation of the characters when I first saw them. Joey doesn’t even have a mouth! No pupils in his eyeballs! How was this Numberman guy going to sustain an entire graphic novel with a main character with no facial features?! Reka’s response? “Let us prove you wrong.” So she told Neil my concerns and he created FIFTY DIFFERENT SKETCHES of Joey in various emotional states.

Joey embarrassed.

Joey annoyed.

Joey jealous.

Joey in love.

Then he did one sketch MY WAY. With a normal mouth and pupils in his eyes. My way was lame…and his was edgy and funky in all the right ways. It really worked. Better than I could have imagined.

Neil: I was pretty confident it was the right look, and it was inspired by, of all things, by Art Spielgelman’s Maus. He gets away with using very limited facial features for his mice characters, but they’re always very expressive when they need to be.

 Aaron: I’ve learned to humble myself as a writer, realize that I don’t have all the answers, and trust this gifted artist who has the job of taking these characters that I’ve created with nothing but words, and interpreting them. It’s his job to bring them to life. I’m so glad Reka went with her gut and held to her guns. I couldn’t imagine Joey and Sammy being any different or better.

{{Okay, this answer is my all-time fav or any interview and really shows the creative genius of these guys! Just sayin’}} 

CF: How did the idea for a film noir MG graphic novel come together?

 Aaron: I love bugs so I was playing around with several story ideas for bug characters. A bug action story, a bug cowboy story, a bug mystery. Once I wrote Joey’s first couple lines (“Life in the bug city. It ain’t easy. Crime sticks to this city like a one-winged fly on a fifty-cent swatter.”), I knew I had a noir bug mystery on my hands.

But I didn’t know I had a graphic novel. Joey Fly was not originally a graphic novel. It was a novel. But when Reka saw the manuscript, she really envisioned it as a graphic novel, and since I had just finished a book #6 on my first graphic novel series (TIGER MOTH, INSECT NINJA…remember that bug action story I was playing with? J), I was really ready to dive into this as a graphic novel. I rewrote the whole thing as a graphic novel.

Neil: I would love to see a bug cowboy story. Could a future Joey Fly take place in the Wild West? Sammy Stingtail could end up in some cowboy’s boot!

CF: Do you have any future projects in store?

Aaron: As far as projects together, that’s sometimes hard to say and often out of our control. But yes, we hope there will be more Joey Fly books in the series, and many other projects together! In other news, I’m currently working on a new graphic novel series about two cavemen and a new picture book…a mock-horror about a bunny who’s terrified that he’s being stalked by evil carrots. CREEPY CARROTS debuts in spring of 2012, published by Simon & Schuster and illustrated by Peter Brown.

Neil: I would love it if we got to work on more together, whether it’s Joey Fly or another one of Aaron’s projects. He has a deep commitment to storytelling that I don’t see in a lot of other manuscripts that have come my way. But, yeah, we kinda have to let the publishers decide if we’d be a good fit, it’s not so much up to us!

I’m currently working on a heavily illustrated chapter book, or what I’m calling a “Cartoon Chapter Book”, which I hope will turn into a series. It’s actually about a character I created when I was in fifth grade, so I’m pretty confident he’ll speak to that age group!

CF: Quick fire randomness – 

  • Sweet or salty?

Aaron: Salty. Unless it’s chocolate. Neil: I love when you can taste that hint of salt in a delicious cookie…so, both?

  • Book or ebook? 

Aaron: Book. Definitely book. Neil: Book! Nothing against the ebook, but getting a new book is the best.

  • Laptop or notebook?

Aaron: Laptop. Neil: Sketchbook!

  • Online or in person?

Aaron: Depends. Online is great for everyday, but there’s nothing like meeting people in person and spending time with them. I find that a face-to-face with one of my editors is like 6 months of e-mails. Neil: Agreed.

  • Book tour or blog tour?

Aaron: Blog tour. Especially when there’s a stop scheduled with The Bookanistas! Neil: Yes! Thank you Bookanistas!

And thank you guys! I can see from this interview EXACTLY why the book is as fabulous as it is!

For more about both our guests, check out their bios. And, be sure to check out the AWESOME book trailer at the end of this post.

Aaron Reynolds is a human, not a bug, but he often writes about bugs. He is the author of Chicks and Salsa, Superhero School, Snowbots, and, of course, the Joey Fly, Private Eye graphic novels. Visit him at his website at http://www.aaron-reynolds.com.

Neil Numberman is a termite currently residing in New York City. Joey Fly, Private Eye his first graphic novel series, but he is also the author/illustrator of the picture book Do NOT Build a Frankenstein. Stop by his website at www.neilnumberman.com.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for my review of the second of the Joey Fly books – Joey Fly, Private Eye in Big Hairy Drama.

3 thoughts on “Jumping into the World of Joey Fly, Private Eye with Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman

  1. Pingback: The Bookanista’s bring you Joey Fly, Private Eye in Big Hairy Drama | CHRISTINE FONSECA, AUTHOR

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