Jonathan Roth is the author and illustrator of the Beep and Bob series for kids. He is an elementary school art teacher, and he lives in Maryland.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Beep and Bob books?
A: I was working on a middle grade novel with a character named Bob, but it was being a struggle. One day after school (I’m a teacher by day) I went to hear author-illustrator Dav Pilkey speak at my local Barnes & Noble. I’ve always admired his work, and even use some of his picture books as motivators in my art classroom.
I’m not sure why, but during his presentation it hit me that I wasn’t tapping enough into that kind of silly, zany energy that he does so well. So I went home, kicked Bob up to school in space and gave him a cute little friend named Beep.
I let myself go and wrote only to have fun, taking a break from writing something “publishable.” Inexplicably, it then became my first children’s book series to make it on the shelves.
Q: Did you know from the beginning that you'd be doing a series?
A: I had plenty more story ideas popping into my head and loved the idea of ongoing adventures. But it wasn’t until my agent took it on and told me to include some future story outlines with the submission that I realized it was going to be bought by a publisher either as a series or nothing.
Q: As a writer and illustrator, do you focus more on text or illustrations (or both together) when starting a project?
A: I do all the writing first. For me, the writing is where the characters and situations come alive, especially in the dialogue. Then I develop them visually and it all comes together.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the books?
A: The two most important elements in my work are humor and heart. Humor because I want my books to be fun and entertaining, and I have a good sense of what makes kids laugh (am I still a kid deep down?). And heart because I want kids to know that they can find hope and strength in difficult times and that they’re not alone.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m developing a graphic novel (series) for early elementary readers. Like Beep and Bob, it has a space focus and a fun buddy relationship. But it doesn’t have a school setting and is different in many ways. I hope kids will get to see it someday!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Because only one or two names end up on the cover, kids (and adults) often don’t realize that it takes a village to make a book.
From critique partners to professional organizations like SCBWI, to agents, editors, copy editors and art directors, to reviewers, bloggers, teachers and librarians, each book in a child’s hand is due to a large, dedicated and generous community. Thanks for being part of mine!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb