Interviewer by Jeremy Zhang, Amazing Kids! eZine Student Interviewer
Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group
AK: Who did you look up to when you were a kid?
DM: Mr. Billington. He was my 3rd grade teacher (I think), and he made things out of
matchboxes–like ships, for instance. He also had a stamp collection, but instead of using a bought album, he made his own pages. He grouped the stamps by country and drew a map for each page. He just did things that got me, and I would imagine, many of my classmates excited.
AK: Whom or What inspired you to become an author and illustrator?
DM: I was inspired as an illustrator by the work of people like Ungerer, Sendak, Delessert and Glaser. I wasn’t really inspired by any authors. I wasn’t inspired by authors the same way. I just needed to write in order to tell my own stories and so had to figure it out as I went along.
AK: How long have you been illustrating?
DM: I started thinking about making books in 1971 and made my first sketches for various ideas then. You do the math.
AK: What was your first book that was published?
AK: Why did you want to write and illustrate The Way Things Work?
DM: I didn’t. In fact, I declined the project when it was first suggested to me by a publishing friend in England. When he asked me again, a year later, I decided to give it a try. I learned a lot, as you can image, since I knew very little about machines and the physics behind them when I began working on the book.
AK: What is a MacArthur Fellowship and what does it mean to you personally?
DM: The best thing about getting a MacArthur Fellowship is that it reaffirms that what you’re doing really means something to other people and that of course is just the kind of encouragement we all need when we work on projects that seem to become increasingly
complicated and time consuming.
AK: Did you have any obstacles in your career that you had to overcome? If so, how did you overcome them?
DM: I have always found it hard to write, but I’m also ‘blessed’ with curiosity and determination, so I stick with it until I get it right. I guess when I look back I’d have to say I really haven’t had any serious obstacles. In fact, I’ve had more encouragement than anything else.
AK: Which of your books was the hardest book to illustrate?
DM: The Way We Work, because I knew nothing about the subject matter before I started, and quickly realized just how complicated it was going to be.
AK: What are you working on now?
DM: Recovering from The Way We Work and my Christmas list.
AK: Do you have any advice for kids who want to be an illustrator or author?
DM: Bring yourself into whatever you choose to do. What separates one book from another is not necessarily absolute originality in content-in some ways, everything’s already been done-but the individual point of view of the author/illustrator. To prepare, I would suggest you play a lot, think a lot, and ask a lot of questions. Avoid too much TV. It’s really just a waste of time.