Dani Jones is a graphic artist and writer with a gorgeous portfolio. Her book publications include Monsters vs. Kittens, My Sister the Freak, and Zombie Bunny. Jones’ work maintains a consistent theme of scary things mashing up with cute things, with an end result of everyone ending up adorable. The world needs more instances of Cute conquering Spooky.After meeting Dani at the recent Kids Read Comics event, we did some emailing, and voila, an interview full of thoughtful answers was born:
What draws you to create children’s books?
I love making stories for younger audiences. I think what draws me is a sense of fun and lack of cynicism. You can make a book about something silly like monsters and kittens hanging out together, and it can make complete logical sense to a kid. There is also great opportunity in children’s literature to address topics like growing up, finding your place in the world, making friends, getting along with family, etc., which seem to be themes that most resonate with me.
Have your experiences living in South Korea come through in your work? How about your experiences living throughout the U.S.?
Unfortunately, I have about zero South Korean influence because I was adopted as a baby and grew up American, but I lived in lots of places in the U.S. as a kid. I like that I’ve had exposure to different cultures in different states. I think moving a lot has made me closer to my immediate family. It influences my work quite a bit because when I think of a story or find something I’m emotionally drawn to, the root of that connection is usually the product of my relationships or experiences I’ve had growing up.
There are so many! I always look to Norman Rockwell as THE artist I admire for skill and storytelling. A couple more of my absolute favorites are Bob Peak and Drew Struzan, who both made mind-blowing movie posters. I am also a huge Disney and animation nut, so I look at a lot of classic concept artists like Mary Blair, and contemporary artists like Brittney Lee and Nico Marlet. As far as comics, Bill Watterson is my hero. Some of my favorite comic artists working today are Kazu Kibuishi, Faith Erin Hicks and Skottie Young.
You have published some easy reader (aka young reader) books on topics including Greek mythology and what to do if you get lost. Do you have plans to expand either of these topics into full series?
For both of those particular reader series, it depends on the publisher’s plans. I am merely the hired illustrator for those, so I don’t have any influence on the writing or creation of further books. However, I am illustrating one other book for the Greek mythology series (Simon & Schuster’s Ready-to-Read books).
Certainly! When I was brainstorming ideas for a comic, I knew I wanted it to be about sisters because I have two sisters and wanted to do something with that kind of relationship. I’m not saying my sisters are freaks, but I definitely draw from my experiences with them for parts of the story. 😉
How was your experience as a contributor to Womanthology?
It was great! I really loved the idea of the project and the resulting book was beautiful. I’m glad I get to have a few illustrated pages in there and was able to contribute. The story I got to draw was a simple but powerful one about self esteem and confidence. I was really happy with it.
What was your favorite comic con that you have attended as a guest?
Well, I’ve only attended two so far – Kids Read Comics in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and MeCAF in Portland, ME. Both are great shows. I have an affinity for KRC because it is the show I’ve attended the most, and it has a unique atmosphere of kid-centered content and activities, as opposed to the majority of comics shows. It takes place in a library and kids get to interact with creators in various workshops. The guests and organizers are all quite lovely, which makes for a good experience. I highly recommend it.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
I’m currently working on another picture book which hasn’t been announced yet. There’s also the new reader I illustrated for Simon that I mentioned earlier. I just finished up the second book of My Sister the Freak, which you can read at mysisterthefreak.com.