By Chana Stiefel
Get out your cape and put on your goggles! MR. PARTICULAR (aka Jason Kirschner) is here at KidLitTakeaways to share his publishing journey. Plus he’s offering a SUPER Giveaway (details below)!
KLT: Congrats on the debut of your first picture book, Mr. Particular: The World’s Choosiest Champion! What was your inspiration for this particular story?
JK: I was a really picky kid. Supremely picky. And I can be a pretty picky grownup too. And then I had kids and found out that they’re all picky in their own ways. Mr. Particular was a funny nickname I came up with. The more I thought about it, it seemed that Mr. Particular was the funniest name for a picky superhero. After that, the story came easily enough.
KLT: You’ve had an illustrious career as a set designer for TV shows, including 14 years (!) with The Late Show with David Letterman. How did you take the plunge into picture books?
JK: First off, I’m not sure how illustrious it’s been, but thank you. Anyway, I had always wanted to animate or illustrate…basically to tell my own stories. When my kids were born and we started reading books together, I saw something that I really, really wanted to do. I started attending SCBWI conferences and getting a portfolio together. It took years of drawing and writing daily to get my craft to a good place, but it’s an industry full of the nicest, most supportive people so it was a pleasant journey.
KLT: Your story features a Super-Duper Group of mini superhero friends, including Mr. Particular (the world’s choosiest champion), Dr. Slimyhands, Super Pooper, and more! Which character are you?
JK: I am Mr. Particular with out a doubt. You can ask anyone in my family—I like things the way I like them and ONLY the way I like them.
KLT: Your book reads like a Little Kid Intro to Comics or Graphic Novels. Was that your intention?
JK: It was not necessarily my goal to introduce kids to comics, but I do think it’s awesome if this book fills that roll. I was (am) a giant comic book nerd. With that sort of background and a superhero main character, it just seemed natural to tell it in a comic book format. And once I decided that, I tried to include as many comic book elements as I could—from the old style ads I adapted for endpapers, to the giant hand lettered “BOOM”s and “ZAP”s, to the color halftones I tried to sprinkle in the backgrounds. There are many comic book “Easter eggs” in the book.
KLT: How did you submit Mr. Particular—as text, in sketches, or storyboard? Was it complete?
JK: I submitted a pretty tightly sketched dummy. I’m not sure anyone would have understood what my vision was without actually showing them. And I’m probably a stronger illustrator than writer so it felt easier to let my pictures help sell the story.
KLT: Tell us about Mr. Particular’s journey to publication.
JK: It is thankfully a very brief story. I wrote the manuscript and revised until I had the words where I wanted them. Then I started to draw. Four months later I came out of my cave with a sketched dummy. There were a few rounds of revisions based on comments from my agent and my critique group. When we agreed it was ready, we subbed it out to a few houses on a sunny Monday in April. Against all expectations, we had an offer that Friday and contracts were signed the following Monday. It was fast!
KLT: Super fast! How did you find your agent?
JK: I had met my fantastic agent, Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency, a few times at SCBWI events. She represented some friends of mine. Unfortunately, it was always at the bar when I had no portfolio or dummy to show. Thankfully, she was a guest speaker at a CBIG (Children’s Book Illustrator Group) meeting and I had a portfolio review with her. I thought her comments were really insightful so I followed up with her and signed soon after.
KLT: The endpapers brought me back to hours spent reading comic books and begging my mom to order sneezing powder and sea monkeys. Now I want a Zing Ring! How did your hilarious pages come about?
JK: I tried to cram as many comic book elements and homages as I could into the book. Originally, I had the ads as a back cover but because of blurbs and UPC symbols it didn’t work. My art director asked if I could do another page of them and make them endpapers. They were SO MUCH fun to write. I just wrote things that made me laugh.
KLT: What was the most challenging part of illustrating this book & why?
JK: Because the story is told in panels, there was a lot of drawing. It was very time intensive but fun to draw. I was also a bit nervous because it doesn’t look like most other picture books on the shelf. It was sometimes work to not second-guess myself.
KLT: Since you say you’re pretty particular, which spread is your favorite & why?
JK: Wow. What a question. There are things I love about most of the spreads. I tried some weird and unconventional layouts that I think somehow succeeded. Having said that, I like the spread where all the kids are in the sandbox and on the swing set. I also like the one where he discovers the bees. The little character on the bottom left makes me laugh every time.
KLT: Best takeaway for aspiring author-illustrators?
JK: It’s not anything new but draw and write every day. EVERY DAY people. Once I started doing that, I think I took a healthy leap forward. There’s always room to grow as an artist.
KLT: Is MR. PARTICULAR vs. THE INCREDIBLE SULK a reality? What’s next?
JK: See what I did there? Very few picture books get to drum up interest for a sequel on the last page. It’s yet another comic book convention that I snuck in. I’d love to do another one. Sterling hasn't ordered a sequel yet but I’ve got a great story planned and ready to go when they do. Right now, I’m working on a dummy for another picture book I wrote with a whole different cast of characters and developing a few other manuscripts. Hopefully, you’ll see another picture book from me soon.
And now for the Super Giveaway!
Jason has generously a free signed copy of MR. PARTICULAR to one lucky winner! Leave a comment and enter the Rafflecopter below. (Must be U.S. resident.)
About Jason Kirschner
By day, Jason is a set designer for television, with credits that include The Meredith Vieira Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Late Show with David Letterman. By night, Jason is an author and illustrator of children’s books, including his debut picture book, Mr. Particular: The World's Choosiest Champion. He lives in New Jersey with his finicky veterinarian wife, persnickety twins, and ridiculously choosy cats. He is a member of United Scenic Artists Local 829, The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Children’s Book Illustrator Group (CBIG). Visit him at jasonkirschner.com.
Donna Cangelosi and Chana Stiefel are picture book critique partners & friends who are passionate about kids' books & are eager to share tidbits from their writing journey with other aspiring writers.