Jules Faber is a cartoonist and illustrator, most well-known for illustrating the WeirDo series by comedian Anh Do, for which they’ve won multiple awards, including Book of the Year for Older Children at the Australian Book Industry Awards. He’s also illustrated David Warner’s ‘Kaboom Kid’ series, Michael Pryor’s ‘Leo Da Vinci’ series, Alex Ratt’s Stinky Street Stories and some of Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s science books. Jules has now brought his own series to life with action-packed hero Max Crack. The second book in the series – ‘Crack Up’ – is out now. Jules shares his incredible story of moving from award-winning illustrator to paving his own path as a Pan Macmillan author. You can buy ‘Crack Up’ from Pan Macmillan. Watch the video above or continue reading for the full interview transcript:
Roxanne – Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Phoenix Phenomenon, where we focus on sharing the transformative process of writing a book and the journeys that authors, and in this case today, illustrators, embark on to craft the incredible books that we get to read and enjoy. So I’m your host, ghost writer, Roxanne McCarty-O’Kane, and I’m joined today by the incredible Jules Faber. So thank you so much for joining us, Jules.
Jules – That’s my pleasure. No one’s ever called me incredible before, so thank you. I appreciate that.
Roxanne – I’m glad that I was your first. Excellent. To give everyone a run down, Jules has illustrated more than 30 books, and most of them have been for children. He’s worked with all seven major publishers in Australia and has, oh, he’s got quite a few series up his sleeve. So he is the illustrator of the WeirDo series by comedian Anh Do, which they have won multiple awards, including Book of the Year for all the children at the Australian Book , he’s also illustrated David Warner’s Kaboom Kid series Michael Prize’s Leo DaVinci series and Alex Ratt’s Stinky Street Stories which sound awesome,
Jules – It was fun to work on.
Roxanne – And some of Dr Carl’s science books. I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce his surname, but we all know who Dr. Karl is. But more recently, Jules has created his own series, which is what we’re here to discuss with Jules today, and it started with the Quest Diaries of Max Craft, which released last year, and now his characters Max and Frankie are back in his latest release, Crack Up, which was released by Pan Macmillan Australia in March. So how did I do with that rundown there, Jules, did I cover everything?
Jules – Pretty much, yeah, yeah. Left out one or two books, but that’s okay.
Roxanne – Oh no! Fill us in, what did I miss?
Jules – There were a few sort of littler books along the way. We did a, there was one with the Harper Collins called the Awesome Book of Rap, Rhyme, and Poetry, and there was a few more, but it’s really, I just say 30 plus books, I don’t even know what the figure is anymore.
Roxanne – That’s an impressive number though, by any stretch of the imagination.
Jules – It, yeah, it’s been a fun ride. Like I haven’t always been in books, I’ve worked as an illustrator or just a general hand when it comes to you know, freelance illustration, or whatever. But since I’ve got into books, that’s basically all I do anymore. Which is cool with me, you know, I love it so much.
Roxanne – Awesome. Okay. And so, you know, I was going to ask you that eventually, but I did see on one of your bios that, you know, you’ve done quite a lot of different things. So I think we’ve listed retail, you’ve done lab assistant work, you were a barman, a yachtsman, like every other, and a mechanic, like had a foot in every other industry as well as being in the literary industry.
Jules – I think I was finding what I was good at.
Roxanne – So I was curious, oh sorry, what were you going to say?
Jules – Still looking, that’s all, so.
Roxanne – Ah, no! So I was curious to find out when, you know, when the calling to move and to books into illustration became too great to ignore. I guess, ever since I was little like I’ve loved books and reading. I grew up in a really big family, noisy, and with five older brothers, and a good sport for them was hunting me down and dog piling. For anyone who doesn’t know, that’s when there’s one little guy on the bottom, and all the giants clamber on top until you’re dead. And so I would hide out and I would read all the time and draw, and these are the things that I love to do but I’d also seen Mr. Squiggle on TV and realized while I was looking at him, I was witnessing some sort of magic, you know, and so that inspired me to get drawing and I’ve always done it, I’ve always told stories, and lived in my imagination more than I’ve sort of enjoyed living in the real world. So it’s been something that I’ve always intended to do, I always knew that I would get there someday, but I had to pay my dues, I guess first to get there and I had to get good enough. I wasn’t born with any great ability to draw. Nobody is. I had to learn it and study it and get good enough. So that took time, and then, you know, I’d been freelance for about eight or nine years when on a Friday afternoon, as these things happen, I had just, I’ve been working in newspapers doing editorial cartoons for daily regional papers. And within a couple of months, all those contracts dried up. They just said, you know, we can’t afford to keep a cartoonist on anymore. So I as at a kind of impasse, and I thought, well, you know, maybe I’ll just take a break for a while from drawing. And as chance would have it, JB Hi-Fi was just opening up in town. This is in Coffs Harbor where I lived at the time. And I applied for a job there in the movie department, I used to be a movie reviewer and DVD reviewer. And so my working knowledge of film was good, and they were impressed enough by what they saw. So I took a job, and on the Monday, on the Friday before I was to start the Monday, I got this email from Scholastic saying they had this author who’s written a kid’s book, and would I be interested in testing for the illustration, and I sort of replied straight away, well, yeah, sure. And this was in 2012. And so they liked what they saw and they were there in Sydney, of course, Scholastic, so I had to do everything by email, but that first book was WeirDo, and it became such a huge success that all the other publishers were willing to talk to the new guy. So I got a lot of work from that, but the first two WeirDo books were drawn in my breaks when I was at JB Hi-fi until I got to a point where I just went, you know, I’ve got to focus on my drawing again. So that’s what I did and I’ve been going for it ever since. So, yeah. So that was 2012, that happened. And then, yeah, I’ve been sort of drawing for the last six years straight, just in publishing mostly, still do spot jobs here and there, you know, I’m a live caricatured artist. I I’ll go to events and draw people in quick five minute sketches. And so I do that occasionally, but for the most part, it’s just books. So I guess you could say six years ago, eight years ago, maybe.
Roxanne – Yeah, and what was that ride like for you? Like, this is literally a first, your first opportunity to do, you know, publish a book, traditionally publish a book, and you’ve like nailed it on the first try. Like, what was that journey like for you?
Jules – That is, as my publishers frequently said to me, this is, your ride is not a common ride. You know, I really got lucky. And I think, you know, I know people who are far more talented than they who have, you know, just who deserve to get that break and just and haven’t yet landed something like, you know, book of the year straight out of the gate, which was probably more impart to Anh than me anyway and his name and talents. But I think it’s been a great ride. Like I’ve never complained about it at all because I feel so really so lucky every single day to have landed on my feet in this industry which I love. I love it so much. Everyone’s so friendly. And I expected kind of a bit of animosity towards me, you know, when I started turning up at schools and with other authors and stuff, cause you know, who’s this guy straight out of the gate and he gets these awards, but everybody’s just been really lovely and supportive. It’s such a great community. I’m so proud to be a part of it. Really am.
Roxanne – Absolutely. That’s awesome. And I noticed on on your profile as well, you mentioned that, you know, literacy, not only just drawing and cartooning, but you know, childhood literacy like getting books into the hands of kids has always been something that’s very important to you. Obviously now, you know, given your history and your love of books from a young age, what’s it like for you to go into these schools and, you know, see copies of WeirDo and your own books and other books that you’ve illustrated in the hands of kids?
Jules – It’s kind of bizarre, really like it is literally everything that I dreamed long ago I’m sort of caught up to reality. You know, the dream is real now. And to see kids, you know, there’s nothing better than seeing some kid reading your book and laughing out loud, you know, that’s, to me, that’s just the greatest thing and it never gets tired ever. You can watch that on repeat for the rest of your life and it would never get tired. The amount of teachers and librarians and parents who have come up to me and told me, you know, Oh, these books are so good. They got my kid into reading. Like he was a reluctant reader before or she was, actually, it’s rarely she, it’s usually he who was a reluctant reader, strangely in my experience. But yeah, the amount of people who have said that the WeirDo series has got their kid into reading and now they’re just flying with it and reading away. It’s just fantastic. You know, because growing up, I loved to read so much and to be able to put that joy for another kid to feel that the same way that I felt it is just, you know, there are no words for that really. So yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s a fantastic thing to do. And I feel really privileged to be in that position where I can encourage kids to read because I feel that it’s important for us to do that. We have an obligation to get kids into reading. It opens the mind in so many ways that I don’t think anything else can quite do as well as reading does. In fact, I don’t think anything else even comes close to opening the mind and broadening horizons, and, you know, it’s an opportunity every single day to live somebody else’s life and find life from a different perspective and see things the way other people see them and to see that your own experience is essentially unique. Yeah, well, we share a lot of things with other people, there’s a lot that makes our our own existence very unique indeed. And so to see things from other perspectives is to know that there’s a very big world out there and books are the most brilliant way to see that in a way that even TV and movies and video games certainly don’t. So in a roundabout fashion of answering that question, it’s a really good thing. It’s fantastic. And it’s very humbling to have that kind of power but as long as it’s wielded wisely and judiciously, I think then it’s a good power to have.
Roxanne – Absolutely. That’s wonderful. And I’d love to find out about how Max and Frankie came to life for you, and when it was that you decided, you know, you were going to create your own series after helping so many others with it. Well, I’d done, I’d written about Max and Frankie before but it was, Frankie is actually very much based on myself as a kid. And there was a way of, you know, when you grew up in a big family, there’s a lot of material there and we were all kind of oddballs, and so I started sort of just writing this stuff down just as short vignettes. And then I’d sort of put them aside and ignored them, cause I’ve always been writing down scraps of ideas and stories and things, sometimes with no intent of going further with them, and others sometimes all the way, but no publisher has yet picked those up. And one evening, it was a Wednesday, it was May 24th, 2017. I can tell you the exact date.
Roxanne – That’s very specific!
Jules – Only because I’ve told this story so many times. I said to my wife, I said, look, I’ve got to get a project. You know, I’m just, I’m lying here on the couch every night, I’m drinking beer and I’m watching movies and it’s no good, you know, I’ve always needed a project. I’ve always needed something to be focused on exterior to whatever I’m working on, you know, at my day job. And so the following day, I sort of had an epiphany in the shower where I was, you know, as people do, and I was like, oh, I’m going to tell this story but I’m going to do it like a diary. And, and so I started writing it by hand, originally I wanted the whole book to be written by hand, and I took these stories and I just sort of translated them as I went, handwriting them, just putting in a doodle wherever it sort of fit the narrative until eventually a week later I had about 30 pages and I thought, oh, hang on. I better slow down here. Because if I keep going and I do a whole book, I might take it to a publisher and they’ll go, oh yeah, but you’ve done this all wrong. We can’t publish this. You have to do it all again. So as chance would have it, I was working for Penn then on a Dr. Karl book and I had a meeting about the illustrations and stuff, and I took in the pages that I’d done, the 30 pages, and I just to asked for advice afterwards, you know, if I was to present this, am I doing it right? Do I need to separate these layers or what? And my publisher at Pan, she looked through it and she said, oh, this is fantastic. I love this. Do you mind if I keep a copy of it and show it to some people on the weekend? And I was like, sure, and this is a week later, mind, so that was Thursday, the following Thursday, so it was, it’s been a week. I thought no more about it, and went back to work at home, come Monday morning, 9:00 AM, first thing, Claire calls me again and says, look, I’ve shown this to people across the weekend. Everyone’s flipping out over it. Do you mind if I take this too acquisitions on Wednesday?
Roxanne – Oh, wow!
Jules – And I’m like, what is happening? You know, I’ve been rejected so many times in the past and this is moving so fast. And on Wednesday, Wednesday came and went, I actually had a school visit. I was at, what’s the school, Abbotsleigh, that Wednesday and a bunch of other authors were there, Tristan Bangs, Matt Cosgrove, Deborah Beller, and I was telling them all about it. And they were like, yeah, well, good luck and all that. But I didn’t hear, so I didn’t think anything would come of it. You know, acquisitions weren’t interested. The following day, the Thursday afternoon, I got an email saying, look, everyone’s behind this. We want to give you a two book deal, and I was like, what? So two weeks from starting from absolute zero, in two weeks, I had a two book deal. So my publisher at Scholastic, her words were going in my head, you know, your ride is not like anybody else’s ride.
Roxanne – Yeah!
Jules – So, yeah, so it was a really great experience. It’s very exhilarating, but the irony being that I’ve actually written a lot of books where young girls were the protagonists, cause I really liked writing girls and I’ve got a daughter who’s 12, and she’s very inspiring in her adventures. And so the irony was that these two boys, myself as a boy and my fictional best friend became the heroes of this story. And so it was, cause originally Frankie was named Jules just like me. It was Jules Faber and Max had wandered into the Jules Faber family and my publisher didn’t like the idea, so we changed his name and it’s a funnier name anyway, I think.
Roxanne – Yeah.
Jules – So it was a great opportunity to record all that family lore and so much of it appears in the pages of the book. A lot of the things are things that happened to me when I was a kid, a lot of things are things I wish had happened to me, and a lot of things are things that I changed the ending to suit me better. You know, it’s making a kind of fantasy life out of my own experience, but very much, you know. and I was really afraid what my family would think of it,
Roxanne – Yeah.
Jules – Because some of them don’t come up in the greatest light, but I tried to keep it warm and friendly at the very least, but everyone loves it. So that was exciting.
Roxanne – Yeah, that’s awesome.
Jules – And the rest of the question, I can’t remember–
Roxanne – Yeah, no, of course, that’s perfect. I was going to ask, you know, particularly with your other books I imagine, you know, that the manuscripts that you wrote that were rejected, there would have been a journey behind creating each one, but this one just seemed like you were just on fire. This was the book that had to be made.
Jules – Yeah, I suppose, that’s how it feels too. And it’s so organic. Just the process. I started doing the second book in the same fashion until I got about halfway through, and then I’d found Max’s voice without having to hand write it at the pace of a 12 year old or 10 year old. It’s never ascertained how old they are, but, you know, somewhere between 10 and 12, and so once I get, once I found that voice, I could just use the computer to type it and write it, and the process became a lot faster, because I wasn’t stopping to doodle and whatever, so for each subsequent book we’ve had to reinvent the way that we make the book. So the first book was done very much based in a whole manuscript that I’d done the original layout for but then by the second one, it was just texts. So I just had to select what I wanted to draw and then trust the designers to follow the original template, and the designers did a really wonderful job. And I believe that it’s about as close as we can possibly get it to my original vision if you want to call it a vision. But yeah, like originally, as I said, I wanted to do it all hand written, but they said, you know, we can’t do that because you can’t edit that, and you can’t, you know, if it’s translated to another language, you can’t do it that way either. So, and I wanted to get a font made of my handwriting, which isn’t the handwriting I write with, it’s a special handwriting this created for the book, but in the end, it came too difficult to get a font made, so we went with existing fonts and that’s still cool, you know.
Roxanne – What would you have called the font? Just out of curiosity.
Jules – It would have been called the Jules font.
Roxanne – Awesome!
Jules – Yeah, and that’s part pf the story I tell too, you know, oh, that would have been so cool. It would have been the Jules font, you know, and everybody uses the Jules font and all my emails would have then been in the Jules font.
Roxanne – Oh, totally!
Jules – Just write my emails forevermore.
Roxanne – But it’s not to be, not to be.
Jules – Yeah. Well, yet. You know, you might find a Jules font in a future, a future–
Roxanne – That’ll be somebody, There’ll be somebody watching this, they’ll go, I’ll do it! I’ll make the Jules font!
Jules – Yeah.
Roxanne – All right.
Jules – Yeah. Awesome. How cool would that be if that actually happened?
Roxanne – That would be so cool. Awesome. And so I’d love to find out, you know, you’ve talked about how the story evolved and how your processes have evolved but how did you evolve through this whole journey of, you know, becoming an author of a series? Like what was your Phoenix phenomenon, so to speak?
Jules – I’m not sure I answer story and you know, it’s very easy as the illustrator to hide behind the skirts of the author, you know, you don’t have to suffer any of the slings and arrows or none of the critique because essentially your job is to make the author look good. Not that they don’t already, but to embellish that good if you like, but as the illustrator and the author, there are no walls to hide behind anymore. You know, you’re exposed, and to be honest, about a month out, I had a real anxiety attack about that because I had suddenly had no choice. This book would be out there in the wild and there was nothing I could do about it anymore, and until I sat and that sort of made me panic for a bit, and then I went, well, hang on, that’s actually what you want. You know, you wanted to tell this story, and you wanted it to go out into the universe and be told, and as the second one was coming out, I felt that that come back again, but it was nowhere near as pronounced or scary. And I was like, no, no, I got this. This is what I signed up for. This is exactly what I came here to do. And I tried to explain that to other people and not a lot of other authors get that, so.
Roxanne – Really?
Jules – But some do. So that was a real thing.
Roxanne – Yeah, I assumed it would be something that everyone would experience, because like you said, you’re like laying out a piece of yourself, bare for everyone to kind of decide if they like it or not almost.
Jules – That’s right. And I, you know, I did realize long ago when you work for yourself that you you accept rejection, it’s part of the job. There is, you’ve just put it aside, and you realize that all that rejection is one step closer to my next acceptance. And so rejection is, I’m not afraid of that. And once I tied that to that, it was like, oh, you know what? Yeah. If people don’t like it, there are going to be people that like it, and that’s fine. They’re going to be people who are saying, yeah, it’s not as funny as you think it is. And there are other people who are going to think it’s way funnier than I think it is, or weird or strange or whatever, and that’s what makes our world so wonderful is everybody has a different opinion about it. And that’s okay. So I learned all that by becoming an author over just an illustrator. And when I say just an illustrator, I don’t–
Roxanne – Yeah. Don’t downplay that. That’s awesome.
Jules – I meant singularly as a singular thing, rather than dual entity, and yeah, so that was something that nobody prepared me for. I had to work through that one on my own but you know, that’s good too. I’ve always said throughout my whole life that when the student is ready, the teacher appears, and I believe that wholeheartedly because it’s happened to me so many times, as soon as I’ve wanted to do something, you know, for example, with books, I was very interested in learning about layout and how books work, and a lady approached me and said, look, I’ve been, I’ve done this job my whole life. I’ve written these stories, and I need somebody to illustrate them for me, and it was the perfect opportunity, right when I wanted to do it. And so I illustrated it, ended up illustrating four books for her and, and learning along the way how layout works. Like I knew layout, I’d worked in animation, I knew how to properly lay something out, but to make it ready for print and press. That was a good education for me. So, I’m always open to that. And when I want to learn something new, I’m waiting for the teacher to appear, and sure enough, you know, there they are. So I think if we’re all open to learn things and ready to learn, then the universe is ready to help.
Roxanne – Absolutely. I love that. I love that a lot.
Jules – Very deep for a Thursday afternoon.
Roxanne – That’s right So what are you hoping to learn next? Do you have something else that you’re striving for now?
Jules – I’ve got a vision for this series, which, before the first book went to press, they actually asked me to sign on for a third one as well. So I’ve got a third book on the way in this series. I’m hoping that I get to go further with it because I still have tales I want to tell, but I’ve got an extended universe where all the stories and books that I’ve written previously are all in the same universe, even the really way out ones, like I’m a bit high concept most of the time with my stories, because I allow my train of thought to just keep going and going and going until it falls off the tracks and there’s a big train wreck, but more often than not I’ll get this germ of an idea and I just let it ruminate and sit there and then boom, the story arrives. And then I just factor it into this universe. And so I’ve got this great sort of, you know, like Marvel does where all their comics are connected in this vast sprawling universe. And I have this vision of being able to tie all these books to this thing. So I’m hoping that the series takes off and the first one sold pretty well. So I’m hoping that it allows me that opportunity anyway, so.
Roxanne – That sounds awesome. I’m intrigued. That’s so cool.
Jules – I was just reading last night a YA book my daughter gave me to read, and it was a comic. It had been converted into a graphic novel, and I thought, you know what? I could do this. You know, so there’s all of that ghosts and vampires and shiny things, and I thought, I’ve got this story idea that I’ve had for ages, and so I decided that’s what I’m going to do. So I’m starting to write a novel as well at the same time which will be peppered with illustration, but it’s more a YA book, humorous YA book, because it doesn’t seem like the YA books are all that comedic, I don’t know. They always seem to be sort of–
Roxanne – Turning away from that. Yeah. Yeah. I feel like we do need to bring it back again, for sure.
Jules – And not to say that there aren’t funny YA books. I’m sure there are, it’s not really a genre that I read a great deal of, but as my daughter is getting older, I’m starting to. But you know, humor is so much fun to write that, you know, and to then to read, I think, you know that maybe kids don’t just want to read stuff about sparkly vampires, you know, maybe they want to read stuff about not just, you know, dystopias all the time. Maybe there’s a funny story where everything goes wrong, but they still save the world. You know, I don’t know. That’s what I’m hoping this one will be anyway but it’s pretty high concept. So we’ll see. Another one in the rejection pile most likely.
Roxanne – Ah, don’t even. Don’t put that out there. Excellent. So I’d love for you to, yeah, to kind of fill our readers and viewers in, readers. Viewers and listeners in on Crack Up, on your latest release and what sort of journeys and experiences that Max and Frankie get up to in this one?
Jules – Okay, well, there’s, this is the cover, of course.
Roxanne – Yeah, lovely.
Jules – No foil on the cover of this one. We wanted to have a different look to it. I wanted it to feel as eclectic as a kid’s sort of, because each is the diary of this boy, Max. I wanted each book to sort of, you know, because the kids live in the moment so much, they don’t follow themes the way that people might for years, they follow themes for days or maybe weeks. So I wanted it to look different to the first one and the publishers were cool. So, but in this one, it’s still the same format inside. It’s a four month journey of Max. He’s been living in the town a bit longer now. He and Frankie have this established friendship. And from the first page, it’s just, it’s action packed. And they’re going home from school, and a meteorite comes flying overhead full of blazing fire and small ones behind it and everything and it hits the earth with a giant boom, and it rattles all the windows, and that becomes their first quest is that they want to hunt this meteorite. and they have all these theories and they, along the way, they meet people who help them to become, or to find the location of this meteorite. and because as I mentioned earlier, I really liked writing girl characters, Max and Frankie this time, who are pretty clueless when it comes to girls, at that age as boys tend to be, they meet these two girls who end up becoming friends with them, and so Max’s sort of clique is growing and their quest, the group of questing friends is growing as well. So yeah, so they go on this hunt for a meteorite. They, the school has a principal who lives very much in an anti-technology state. He’s very much a Luddite. And yet, somehow he has allowed as the school project to be, to make a movie. So, Max has been trying to get a smartphone for ages, and he finally gets one from his parents on loan and they shoot a movie together. That’s one of their quests, and very happily for me, they go after a world record and coming up, I wanted them to go after a world record, and I didn’t have, I didn’t want an existing world record. I didn’t, cause the universe that they live in is similar to ours, but it’s not the same. And so everything is just slightly skewed from reality. The reality that we know. And so, you know, all the crazy world records that they research are really out there world record. And the one that I go for is so very basic that and it was something that we did not go for a record or anything, but we did it as kids in the playground. And it becomes something that they will start to pursue because of a curious incident which occurs the week before they come up with the idea, which I’m not telling anything here am I? Not giving anything away.
Roxanne – No, you’re all it, you’re all in, Jules. This is awesome!
Jules – Yeah, so the boys, they start, I don’t want to give anything, cause it’s exciting, but they give, they find, like all summer, everyone’s trying to figure out the school project to go for a world record and nobody can come up with a good thing that all the kids can do until yeah, there’s an accident on the little bridge which there was an accident in the first one as well, the first book. And there’s an accident on this bridge and that leads sort of chain of events to the world record attempt. So, it’s a bit more action packed, this one. Like it’s really, as I make a joke in here at one point, it’s almost like a sequel trying to stuff more into it than in the first book. And so that was what I wanted to write, cause I like to put those little kind of Easter egg asides, you know, break the fourth wall here and there as well. A sly wink to the reader, you know.
Roxanne – That’s awesome.
Jules – So yeah. There’s a lot going on, but of course the underlying theme of this whole thing is friendship and adventure and to, you know, cause when I was a kid, everybody was out in the world, you know, you didn’t come home until the streetlights came on, you know, as was the old way. We never let kids stay home on their phone or playing Nintendo or whatever. And I wanted to remind kids that there was a whole world out there and it’s filled with adventure and it doesn’t have to be extraordinary adventure. There’s adventure in the every day, and that’s what I’ve endeavored to put into these books is that this everyday adventure that’s just out there waiting.
Roxanne – That’s awesome. Yeah. and you get to have an adventure yourself like channel your inner child and have a bit of fun with it in the creative process.
Jules – My inner child is pretty much been running the show for the duration really. They’re finally getting the kudos that they deserve.
Roxanne – Awesome. That’s amazing. And I’d love for you to take us to the moment where you know, obviously there’s a lot of planning going into each book and lots of restraining, backwards and forwards, but what was it like to particularly hold a copy of your first Max book in your hands and know to have that tangible thing to hold on to and go, oh my God, I’ve just done it.
Jules – It is an indescribable feeling to witness a dream become reality, you know, because everything, and this is what I tell kids when I do school visits, everything that we see in the world that was made by people was once just an idea in somebody’s head, you know, the Harbor bridge, a TV set, a telephone, everything was once just an idea. It didn’t just appear one day. And the power of idea is extraordinary, and so to have my idea become reality, and to have somebody else put faith in that to make it reality, it’s a very humbling experience. It’s really, it’s intense. And you know, you get, you know, every, whenever you deliver a book to a publisher, you know, when they, before they hit the shops, you get your author copies, which arrive in the mail and it never gets tired opening that box. It never gets tired to see your work, not only acknowledged, but to see it in the flesh, you know, made real. And but when it’s, you know, this, when it’s something that you’ve, you are wholly wholeheartedly responsible for, it’s beyond that, you know, it’s next level and it’s extraordinary feeling. Again, I don’t believe that there are really words to truly describe it because it’s just such a exhilarating feeling but more so to have to have that vision that you had, that unique idea for others to say, yeah, this is worth doing. It’s very humbling and terrifying but exhilarating and exciting. It’s all those things, but it’s yeah, you know, you don’t want it to tank, you know, you want it to, you know, deliver for the people who put faith in it, but at the same time, it’s just exciting to see it made real, you know, and you know, it’s no thing for Mary anymore, you know, she’s just grown up on her Dad’s job, you know, and she’s 12 now as I say, but you know, it’s not uncommon for my wife to go, this looks just like one you’d see in the shop! And I’m like, you know what? Yeah, it does. So yeah.
Roxanne – It’s definitely the idea that you’re goin for, yeah.
Jules – Yeah. You want it to look like something that people want to buy.
Roxanne – Exactly.
Jules – So yeah. So it’s, overall, yeah, it’s exciting, terrifying, but humbling at the end of the day. I don’t know if other authors feel that or not, I’m sure they must, but yeah. I dunno. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to, you know, book 30 that I’ve written and illustrated and it’ll wear off, you know, I certainly hope not.
Roxanne – Yeah. Well, I feel like if it does, then you’ve got to move on right? That’s when it’s lost its magic.
Jules – I think that’s right. And if you don’t have the magic to put into it then nobody’s going to read it. Who wants to read it? If you don’t have that same passion that drove you to tell the story to begin with, if it’s just a job now, it’s time to look for another job maybe.
Roxanne – Yeah.
Jules – So I never want that to happen to me. I’ve never wanted that in my life. I’ve never wanted it to feel like a job. Like I’m walking off to, you know, this voluntary enslavement every day. I want to get up and be excited about not just that I’ve got to go to work, but I get to go to work. So yeah, that’s the feeling I don’t want to go away.
Roxanne – Absolutely. And you have a double whammy this time around too, didn’t you? Because the day that the day that Crack Up was released, you also had the latest in the WeirDo series come out the following day, is that right? Or is it the other way around?
Jules – That’s right. Yeah, the very first time ever that I’ve had two books come out, or two days or one day apart. I’ve had, like last year I had a book out every month for five months in a row, but this is the very first time I’ve had two books. Boom, boom like that. And WeirDo coming out on April 1st, they don’t have anything to do with anything.
Roxanne – I’m sure that wasn’t planned at all, yeah.
Jules – But of course now I don’t know, the third book in the series as yet untitled will, in my series that is, I don’t, I haven’t heard from the publishers yet if they’re moving it because of all this nonsense that’s going on. So we’ll see. But hopefully I still get to have it out in September but yeah, who knows with everything, the way things are going at the moment. We’ll just be patient and wait and see, at least I got plenty of time to work on it, so.
Roxanne – Yeah. Well this is true. Absolutely. Perfect. And I was just out of my own curiosity, wondering, you know, when you’re working as an illustrator, are you literally only working with the manuscript that is sent to you or do you actually get to do a bit of collaborating with the authors and, you know, get a feel for what it is that they’re going for and that sort of thing?
Jules – It’s different every time for every author, you know, for some series, I just get prompts, draw this, draw that, that’s fine. Other times I’ve had the publisher just say, you know, do whatever you like. As long as we have, you know, 25 or 50 illustrations, do whatever you like. And it’s because I was a cartoonist for so long, you inherently know what’s going to make a good drawing, you know, you can just draw somebody meandering down a straight but that’s pretty dull. But if you get to the action scene, that’s what you want to draw. It’s also fun to draw. But yeah, but that being said too, you know, there are things that I hate to draw. So if I’m given free reign, I won’t draw the things that I hate, so.
Roxanne – What do you hate? What are no-goes for Jules?
Jules – Okay, people riding bikes. The worst. From any angle, you’ve got multiple layers where things have to be behind things or in front of things. And it’s annoying as hell. Crowd scenes, bad. People sitting around the dining table, also bad. Or on a couch or something. Cause every time you’ve got more than two people, I’ve got this philosophy that everyone should be doing something different because that’s real life.
Roxanne – Yeah.
Jules – So it becomes a sort of real mental hurdle to get through and the bigger the crowd, A, the longer it takes, and that’s annoying, but B, there’s the whole mental aspect of creating all these different people and see, time is money, you know, the longer I take to make a board, the less money I make on it. So, you know, at the end of the day, I’m still a businessman.
Roxanne – Of course, yeah.
Jules – That’s why I don’t understand Martin Hanford who is the creator of Where’s Wally. I don’t know how he does it. That is just, that is beyond me. And he brings to the table time and time and time again. Everything is new, unique every single time. It’s fresh and new and it’s funny. He’s some sort of cartoon illustrating God, I don’t know how he does it. He’s made a deal with the devil or something.
Roxanne – Yeah, or is a sucker for punishment. However you want to look at it.
Jules – He probably loves it. He probably loves it. There are people who, there are people who love just drawing people or like caricatures and there are people who just love drawing one comic strip, and that’s cool, whatever you’re into, you know, I’m into that for you. But for me, it would drive me up the wall and then some. So more power to him I say and he’s done really well out of it. So good on him.
Roxanne – Yeah. Well there’s no one else like him really at the end of the day, so.
Jules – A lot of copiers have come since, but no one delivers the way Martin Hanford delivers that’s for sure.
Roxanne – Yeah. Awesome.
Jules – Kudos, Mr. Hanford, if you’re watching. Well done, you. Big fan of your work.
Roxanne – We’ll get a copy in his hands. Awesome. I’d love to find out if they, you know, if you had any tips, whether you wanted to gear it towards illustrators and or authors, you know, for maybe aspiring authors or illustrators to, you know, get some motivation and to act on any inspiration that they might have. If you’re an established illustrator, always keep hammering publishers. They’re always looking for illustrators. They always want something fresh and new and they’re always bringing out books. There’s a market for it and for what you do. Somewhere. You’ve just got to find the people. And this there’s more than just the big publishers, there are hundreds of little publishers too. So that’s my advice is never give up. You gotta keep going. You can’t, you know, there’s that old expression. You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. There’s a lot of ways of saying that, you know, you’ve gotta be in it to win it, or, you know, somebody has to win it or whatever. You can’t win in a game that you’re not in. So keep trying and you will get rejected. You got to remember that’s part of the job. It’s not personal. It’s just the way it is. And for anyone who’s not established, I would say continue practicing always every day. You will continue to get better. You can’t get worse at it. But if you aspire to get into publishing, then you have to be able to deliver something that’s new and unique or not even that necessarily. Your voice is unique, it doesn’t matter. Your style is unique. So you’ve got to practice that and find your voice, find your style, and it’s there. It’s waiting for you. You just gotta catch up to it. So, but the most important thing I find is just that sticktuitiveness, if you like. That positivity. It’s going to feel like it’s raining crap on you a lot of the time, but sorry, my cat does wandered in. But you know, you’ve got to get past that. You put up your umbrella and you get back to work. You know, it’s gonna feel that way, but it doesn’t mean that it is that way. So you’ve just, you’ve got to stick in there. You know, I’ve known a lot of great illustrators, people far more talented than me who have dropped off and dropped off along the way, because you know, it got too hard, and I understand that completely, but you know, if you’re passionate about it and you believe in it and you believe in yourself, as you should, just stick to it, you know, that’s my advice, I guess.
Roxanne – Awesome. Thank you.
Jules – That’s what I did.
Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely. So we know, you know, it’s a tried and tested pathway, so we’ll go with that.
Jules – For one person at least, yes.
Roxanne – Awesome. Thank you, Jules. And just wrap it up, I’d love for you to, you know, give people a bit of a heads up on how they can get hold of your fabulous books and start getting their read on.
Jules – Well, it’s perfect time for reading with everyone’s stuck at home and nothing to do.
Roxanne – It is. Yeah.
Jules – This book is Crack Up as we know, if you’ve missed the first one, you don’t need to have read it to enjoy this one, but it can’t hurt, cause there are clap backs to the first book. Just as the third one will have clap backs to books one and two. You can get it at any good bookstore and even any lousy bookstore, I’m pretty sure. Not that there are any lousy bookstores. They’re all fabulous.
Roxanne – Nice save.
Jules – And a lot of bookstores are still delivering, especially your local independent bookstore, I believe. So do try to support them when you can, and otherwise I’m pretty sure that some of the big places are definitely still working. I know Booktopia definitely is, because of the warehouse, but I dunno if we can quote actual business names in there or not, and they haven’t endorsed this comment at all. Or paid for content.
Roxanne – Thank you for that disclaimer.
Jules – Relaying information I’ve heard.
Roxanne – Yeah, okay. Awesome.
Jules – But yeah, any major book store, any minor bookstore, most likely.
Roxanne – Absolutely.
Jules – Yeah, and how can people find you if, you know, when we emerge from this cloud and schools are looking, you know, illustrator talks and all the talks, how can people find you?
Jules – I can be found with the Children’s Bookstore Agency. They’re in Glebe. I’m with them, so they can book me for school visits through them or they can just find my contact details on my website and just call me direct. And if I’m available, I’ll probably say yes, so yeah. I’m not too hard to find online. So yeah.
Roxanne – Excellent. All right. That is great. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Jules, and for sharing so many fabulous insights into, you know, your journey and also some fabulous tips too there for people who want to take their journey to the next level.
Jules – Sure. That’s been absolutely my pleasure. Thank you, Roxanne.
Roxanne – Excellent. Thank you.
Jules – Buh-bye.