It may sound fishy (hah!) but we are so tickled to share our interview of multi-talented #Notable19s member Jessica Lanan today! THE FISHERMAN & THE WHALE is Jessica's debut picture book as the sole creator. As if that wasn't exciting enough, Jessica will also illustrate fellow #Notable19s member Rich Ho's next book, LOST!
As Maria Von Trapp so aptly sang, let's start at the very beginning: How did you get the specific story idea?
Jessica: I had read a news story about a fisherman off the coast of California who helped rescue a whale, but wasn't until I went to a music concert that I had the idea to make a book about it. I was listening to one particular piece and the idea just connected suddenly in my mind. It was called "Soledad," which means "solitude," and it's melancholy and hauntingly beautiful. It got me thinking about how lonely we humans have become, whether we know it or not, by cutting ourselves off from nature and killing other living things indiscriminately. I wanted to bring that feeling to life through the story of the whale. If you're curious, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to listen to "Soledad" here: https://austinpiazzollaquintet.bandcamp.com/track/soledad
Notable19: Isn't it wild how our minds can piece together things from two different senses and create a coherent, beautiful story? Of course, sometimes our minds are slightly less helpful, like when it's racing at bedtime. What do you think about when you have trouble falling asleep?
Jessica: Often I'm tired enough that I have no trouble falling asleep, but if I wake in the night ruminating I sometimes "paint" a watercolor in my mind, imagining the strategy I'd use for each wash and brush stroke. It might sound strange but I find it meditative.
Notable19: Whatever works, though, right? Speaking of strange, what's the weirdest job you ever had?
Jessica: I've had a lot of weird jobs, but none can top the summer spent working alone in a storage facility taking inventory for an eccentric collector who had purchased thousands and thousands of teapots.
Notable19: Spending a summer alone in a storage facility sounds a bit like a dream job for an extreme introvert, actually. LOL! But I imagine most people would want to travel in the summer instead. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Jessica: Another habitable planet, definitely! It would be fascinating to see ecosystems that evolved on a different world somewhere else in the galaxy.
Notable19: How interesting! You should chat with #Notable19s member Teresa Robeson. She had wanted to be an astronaut for years. Since hanging out on another planet is not quite within reach, where is your favorite place to write?
Jessica: I like to go to my local library, which has a bridge over the creek with a cafe where you can sit for hours and watch the ducks. I get the most done when I don't bring digital devices along. The walkway is right next to the children's section of the library so it's easy to wander over there for inspiration.
Notable19: What a gorgeous location. It must be hard to concentrate on writing at times there...but what is the hardest thing about writing in your opinion? Easiest?
Jessica: Each story seems to present unique challenges. The challenge with this book was finding a way to make it engaging, since there is just one boat, one whale, and a big empty ocean for pretty much the whole story. I had to think like a filmmaker and use all sorts of points of view. The easiest part were the words--that is, I chose to not have any. I wanted the characters to speak through their actions. Imposing a human voice would have detracted from the idea that both the human and the whale are equals: whales speak too, and I since I can't write in both English and whalespeak I chose to not write in words at all.
Notable19: Love that insight into the story. It is sure to enrich readers' enjoyment of your book. Thank you for sharing these fun tidbits about you and your work, Jessica!
We are a group of writers and illustrators who have debut books (actual debuts , debuts as author-illustrators, or debuts with medium/large publishers) forthcoming in 2019. Thank you for joining us on our exciting journey!