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Joan Holub is the New York Times–bestselling author and illustrator of more than 140 children’s books, including Breakout at the Bug Lab, Who Was Babe Ruth?, and the Goddess Girls series. Prior to publishing her first title in 1992, she was an associate art director at Scholastic.
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Answers to questions people sometimes ask me:
1. Where do you get your ideas?
I get ideas many different ways. Sometimes, ideas just pop into my head. I also listen to and watch the people around me for ideas. I read to get ideas. I daydream to get ideas. When I get an idea, I write it down in an idea notebook, so I won’t forget it. I think ideas are the easy part of writing. I get lots of ideas for books all the time. Developing them into a book with a beginning, middle and end is the difficult, time-consuming part. The idea is important, but an idea isn’t a book until it has been developed into a story that works as a whole from start to finish.
2. When and why did you decide to become an author and artist?
I’ve been writing and reading stories all of my life. I didn’t concentrate on writing children’s books until around 1990. In 1991, I began regularly submitting manuscripts to publishers.I began writing because I had story ideas that I thought would make good books. I’ve always known I would become an artist–ever since kindergarten.
3. Why don’t you illustrate all of the books you write?
I haven’t had time to illustrate all of the books I write, but I’ve usually been very happy with the work of the illustrators who have illustrated my books. I wasn’t happy with the art in a couple of books, but I don’t think it’s fair to try and control the artist, so I keep out of the artist’s way as much as possible. I continue to illustrate books by other authors as well. I have just as much fun illustrating a book written by someone else as I do illustrating books I write. As long as the story is good, illustrating it is fun.
4. Did you like school when you were a kid?
Most of the time. I got bored during the summer, so I was glad when school started. I loved getting a new lunchbox and choosing what I would wear the first day. But then after about 2 weeks of school, I wished for summer again. I like to read and I made good grades, so school was mostly fun for me.
5. How do you develop your characters and plot?
I’ve usually already decided on a main charater and 1/4 to 3/4 of a plot before I start writing a story. I just write and work out the rest of the characters and plot as I go along. I have a college art degree, but have no formal training as a writer. I learn the rhythm and structure of stories by reading books and thinking about how they are structured. I also read instructional books about how to write.
6. What is your favorite part about writing? Why?
Getting an idea; finishing a book manuscript; getting an offer from a publisher; and seeing my book in a store are all big thrills. The process of writing is not always fun. But I’m driven to write, and time flies when I’m writing.
7. How hard has it been to get your works published?
It was hard to sell the first manuscript. Then in 1996, I suddenly sold three manuscripts in three months to Grosset & Dunlap and Scholastic.
8. What are your favorite books besides the one(s) you have written?
Spaceship Under the Apple Tree; Martha Speaks; The Giving Tree; A Friend for Dragon; Chrysanthemum; Ruby the Copycat; Marvin Redpost—Is He A Girl?
9. What do you look for in a good book?
Something I think is funny or a feeling I can strongly identify with. A good idea and a memorable plot and characters.
10. Do you have kids or pets? Hobbies?
No kids, but we do have a great cat, who thinks he’s our child. For hobbies, I like to hike, bikeride, and read.
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