Award-winning author and illustrator Keith Negley knows how to amuse with his funny and touching children’s books titled “Tough Guys (Have Feeling Too)” and “My Dad Used To Be So Cool.” Keith’s work has appeared in several national magazines and major newspapers including the “New Yorker” and the “New York Times.” Recently, he spoke about his experiences as a writer.


Blasting News (BN): How did you decide to become an illustrator?

Keith Negley (KN): I knew I wanted to go to art school after high school.

When I was a foundations student I couldn’t decide what I wanted my major to be but I picked illustration since they’d let you work in any medium you wanted. I honestly didn’t even know what “Illustration” was then but I quickly fell in love with the problem solving aspect of it.

BN: How many books have you published?

KN: I have two children’s books published by Flying Eye Books which is an imprint of Nobrow Press.

BN: How did you come up with the idea for your books?

KN: My son was a direct inspiration for those books.

“Tough Guys” came about when I was watching my son--who was around five years old at the time--struggling with expressing new emotions. I wanted to write a book that explained it is okay for boys to show their feelings. “My Dad Used To Be So Cool” came to me when my wife bought me a vintage skateboard deck as a Father’s Day gift. I used to skate when I was young, I played in rock bands and rode vintage motorbikes but don’t do any of those things anymore because of fatherhood.

I hung the skateboard deck on my wall as art and my son couldn’t understand why I’d want a skateboard that I couldn’t ride and it dawned on me that he thinks I used to be cool but that I’m not anymore. I knew I couldn’t be the only dad who’s dealing with the transition from having lots of cool hobbies to not having any so I wanted to make the book as a wink and a nod to the cool dads out there.


BN: How did you find Nobrow/Flying Eye?

KN: I took part in Nobrow’s 8th annual “Hysteria” and I got to connect with Sam Arthur that way. I would occasionally send him projects I had done in my Masters program at SVA to see if it was something he was interested. Sam passed on them but he was really encouraging to keep sending him more stuff and I eventually got to work on the books that Sam thought would fit nicely with Flying Eye Books. They’ve been greatly supportive and they publish quickly!

BN: What has been the most rewarding part of being an author and illustrator?

KN: Seeing my stories in print is huge; walking into a book store and seeing them on display next to other authors who I look up to is a big deal but getting emails from fans who tell me how my books have touched them and/or their families is really rewarding--just making that connection with other people around the world who are dealing with the same things, asking themselves that same questions, etc., it reminds us that we’re not alone.


BN: Are there any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?

KN: I’m currently working on two books that couldn’t be more different from each other and I’m equally excited about both.

BN: What do you hope to be ten years from now?

KN: I’d love to be able to put out a book a year and maybe teach illustration at a university.

BN: What advice would you give to an aspiring author or illustrator?

KN: Just get started. Everything I’ve ever done that’s worth anything started out as total crap. Nothing amazing gets made the first time you sit down to it. It might even look like crap for a while.

This is normal. You have to start somewhere and build on it. Put it down when you get frustrated and come back to it when you’ve gotten some distance. Keep plugging away at it like a clay sculpture until it starts to resemble that thing you originally had in your head… but don’t be too attached to the outcome. The best part of creating for me is letting it surprise me and take me places I wasn't expecting.

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