Q: Can you please describe how you started writing?
A: With Webbster and Button, Dr John Cech, professor of children's literature at the University of Florida, read the first nine and said, "These are warm and wonderful stories." About the same time, a friend said that every time she came home from work, her four-year-old son would say, "Webbster and Button, mommie! Webbster and Button!" So I thought, "Well, there's two ends of the spectrum. Let's go!"
Q: Why do you think you have to write?
A: I've never felt I had to. Rather just enjoy it. It's a discovery. I wrote my first story when I was about eight, which was called "Then There Were Seven", about a bunch of good guys battling bad guys in the old west. The only thing I remember about it is the title and that I wrote it on a desk in my bedroom that my father had made. (laughs)
Q: Among the world's writers, who do you think have most influenced you?
A: Thoreau's Walden was a game changer. He and the idealists around Concord, Massachusetts were very influential. Button is a dreamer and he'd fit right in! (laughs) I majored in American Literature in college, also in Massachusetts, and enjoyed their love of possibilities. So it wasn't about style, it was about ideas. Another favorite was French writer Albert Camus, often called a philosopher. His use of color always amazed me. And of course William Steig.
Q: You have published six bilingual children's ebooks so far -- three from the "Webbster and Button Children's Stories" (Webbster & Button Find a Home, Webbster & Button and the Crows and Webbster & Button and the Lonesome Lion) and three of the "Christine Sun" children's stories (Christine Sun's Rainy Day, Christine Sun and the Cat Called Mouse and Christine Sun: My Favorite Butterfly). What do you try to convey in these children's books?
A: Someone asked me that question recently and the word "friendship" fell out of my mouth. Truth is I had never thought about it. Webbster and Button argue occasionally, but they're the best of friends and know they'll always be.
Q: And why do you want your books presented in both English and Chinese?
A: Webbster and Button are happy characters who, for no fault of their own, except for being overly adventurous, continually get themselves into pickles. Their good natures are their saving grace. That's what I'd like to share with kids.
Q: In terms of children's stories, what do you think a writer should be aware of when constructing plots, creating characters and managing the overall themes?
A: Oh, I'm not the person you want to ask that to. When I start a story, I have no idea of what's coming next. The characters take over. No, I don't hear voices! (laughs) They just lead the way. With the poems it's even worse. I rarely know what's going to happen even on the next line. I once started to write a poem about a bear, but by the time it was done, there wasn't a bear in it! But I truly believe, if you don't love your characters, they're not going to talk to you.
Q: Have you ever encountered problems while writing? How do you conquer them?
A: Simple answer: No. It just comes, although especially with the poems, I'll often be surprised and say, "Stick a fork in it. It's done". The characters always dictate where it's gong. I have little control until after it's done. Then the re-writing starts.
Q: In your view, what are the most difficult part of doing an illustration?
A: Simplicity, although some of them get way out of hand. You want it to reflect what's in the story without becoming rocket science. (laughs)
Q: If someone asks you how to become an illustrator, what will you say?
A: Get to work. Like anything else, there's no other way around it.
Q: Among all the children's books out there in the market, which aspect of writing do you think should be further developed and promoted -- writing, illustration, style, theme, interactivity, etc?
A: (laughs) Would you mind repeating that? I think anything that engages a child's imagination is the ideal. Exactly how that's done will always be a mystery.
Q: As a writer, in your view, what are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing your stories as ebooks?
A: As Bob Dylan once sang, "It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. For the times they are a-changin'." The old-guard publishers are being run out of town. The same ones that rejected Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and J.K. Rowling's Harry Power. A couple of years ago a literary agent told me, "It's over, ebooks are the way of the future." I can't tell you how many rejection letters Webbster and Button received from publishers, and as anyone who has gone that route will tell you, they all start with "Dear Madam/Sir." (laughs)