A Q&A with Stephan PastisHellooooo
What made you want to write for children after having such a successful adult comic-strip and publishing following?
After you’ve done a comic strip for ten years, you really feel the need to explore new characters. It’s like meeting new people. And the book format is so freeing, because when you do a comic strip, you are always so limited in terms of space.
Where did the idea for Timmy Failure and Total Failure, Inc., originate?
I wanted to create a character with a big blind spot. And Timmy’s is enormous. He is not good at anything he does, and yet he thinks he’s the center of the universe. I like working with characters like that. I think I made him a detective because in kids’ books, the boy detective is always so smart and clever. I wanted to turn that on its head a little.
Of all the loyal sidekick, devoted business partner, or quirky animal choices you had to pick from, why is Total a polar bear?
Well, I had already done a rat, pig, goat, zebra, crocodile, dog, cat, and duck. So polar bear was about all that was left. Plus he was cute.
Describe the process of first drawing Timmy and finding his voice. Did it burst out quickly, or did he materialize over a period of time on the page?
I drew this little boy on a small index card, and he just seemed to have some life to him. Like he had a story to tell. Then I made him both arrogant and dumb, and the combo seemed to work.
Who is your favorite supporting character in the book? Why?
Corrina Corrina. I like the fact that she’s the protagonist’s enemy but that she doesn’t even know that the protagonist is alive. Timmy’s just not a part of her everyday life. On the other hand, he is completely consumed with her.
Were you an avid reader as a child? If yes, what types of stories appealed most to you? Do you remember any favorites?
Oh, yeah. I read a ton. I remember really liking How to Eat Fried Worms and any Dr. Seuss book. I remember reading Kurt Vonnegut books by junior high.
Do you have any authors, artists, or illustrators in children’s publishing now that you greatly admire? What are some of the books you read with your own kids?
Dr. Seuss stands out. I loved reading those books aloud to my kids and trying to get the rhythm right. I love his sense of abandon. Like he could say anything and somehow it made sense.
What do you want kids to take away from the story?
I want to make them laugh.
What’s next for Timmy and Total? Please say more crime solving and detective hijinks!
Timmy will continue to try to conquer the universe. And he will fall short. And he will blame it all on his polar bear.