Were you creative as a child? Very. From a young age, I loved drawing and painting and creating things. I went on to express my creativity through writing—I have an M.F.A. and Ph.D. in creative writing—so it’s nice to combine all of my creative interests through these books.
Do you have favourite images in this book? I love the image for “muddy,” which also serves as the cover. It shows Lizzy Bennet traipsing across a field, her petticoat “six inches deep in mud.” I think the image captures both her character and a vivid sense of movement.
Do you have a favourite classic? I love Madame Bovary for pure craftsmanship, but we haven’t figured out how to make that story kid-friendly!
What’s the hardest part of your job? I have a day job as a professor of writing at Ithaca College. I also spend a great deal of time writing literary fiction (I’m currently on a creative writing fellowship in England). Creating children’s books, then, is one of three jobs. The hardest thing is finding time for all those jobs at once.
What was the most interesting thing you discovered when writing this book? The first publisher we approached wanted to change the title of Pride and Prejudice because they didn’t think the word “prejudice” was appropriate for a children’s book. We knew that was a mistake, so we decided to move on. We discovered that not everyone gets your concept and you have to stick to your vision.
What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? Illustrations from Cozy Classics: Pride and Prejudice were chosen for the Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2013, which meant we got to take our wives to Italy!
What do you love most about Jane Austen’s book, ‘Pride and Prejudice’? People tend to underappreciate Austen’s formal innovations as a novelist. She was the first extensive practitioner of free indirect discourse, which allows you to get closer to the thoughts of a character in third person. Those are powerful moments in Pride and Prejudice, and they’re even more apparent in a later novel like Emma.
Do you have a favourite museum? My wife and I and our two young daughters are spending the year in Norwich, England, and we’ve had the good fortune of visiting a number of wonderful museums in Europe: the Tate Modern in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. A lot of new favourites, you could say!
Do you collect anything? One thing: books!
What are you working on next? Cozy Classics has moved to Chronicle Books. In addition to releasing our entire backlist, Chronicle will be adding three new titles beginning in 2016: Great Expectations, The Nutcracker, and The Wizard of Oz. Chronicle will also release Star Wars Epic Yarns, which applies our 12-word, 12-illustration concept to the original Star Wars trilogy.
Read my review of ‘Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice’ here.