At first, I see pictures of a story in my mind. Then creating the story comes from asking questions of myself. I guess you might call it the 'what if - what then' approach to writing and illustration.
Brainstorming, for me, takes place in my bed at night between the time I turn out my lights and I finally fall asleep. It is not a very violent storm, but what's happening is I am just thinking about different ideas and maybe things I've seen that day that I think might make a good story.
There was a great deal of peer recognition to be gained in elementary school by being able to draw well. One girl could draw horses so well, she was looked upon as a kind of sorceress.
Santa is our culture's only mythic figure truly believed in by a large percentage of the population. It's a fact that most of the true believers are under eight years old, and that's a pity.
The Polar Express is about faith, and the power of imagination to sustain faith. It's also about the desire to reside in a world where magic can happen, the kind of world we all believed in as children, but one that disappears as we grow older.
'The Polar Express' began with the idea of a train standing alone in the woods. I asked myself, 'What if a boy gets on that train? Where does he go?'
The Dick, Jane, and Spot primers have gone to that bookshelf in the sky. I have, in some ways, a tender feeling toward them, so I think it's for the best.
The opportunity to create a small world between two pieces of cardboard, where time exists yet stands still, where people talk and I tell them what to say, is exciting and rewarding.
I've always thought of the book as a visual art form, and it should represent a single artistic idea, which it does if you write your own material.
The whole idea of being mesmerized and not in control of your own actions is fascinating and a little spooky. I remember hearing about someone who'd gone to a magic act, and a person in the audience had become hypnotized by observing too closely what magician was doing on stage, and thought it was spooky to lose your consciousness that way.
I love the idea of a tiny window between the back stoop and the pantry, where the milkman would pass through the cheese. But of course, there is no milkman anymore. So somebody coming by the house and seeing the window would say, 'Oh, that must be original, because that's where the milkman passed the cheese through to the pantry.'
I try to satisfy the desires that people have to have their books personalized. That's a value, or feature, of bibliophilia that may vanish. How do you get your e-book signed? The idea of people standing in line to get my signature in their book, it's hard to turn them away.
The general effect of viewing 'Jumanji' is thrilling. I was able to see on film a thing that at one point had only existed in my imagination. I got to see the images from my book come alive.
I believe that there will be many things that happen to me in my life that I will not be able to explain. Some of those might be magic. I'm not sure.
People have asked me a lot, 'What comes first? The pictures or the story? The story or the picture?' It's hard to describe because often they seem to come at the same time. I'm seeing images while I'm thinking of the story.
I don't like to get scared - it's not one of the emotions I enjoy. So I have to assume that if there are scary things in my books, they aren't very scary.
I don't know if what kids really want is a hamster. What they want is a dog. So the hamster ends up being a substitute: 'Well, would you accept this?'
It did occur to me that certainly African-Americans are not underserved in picture books, but those books are almost all about specifically black experiences.
It was the case for a number of years that I was doing a book a year, but that was back when I was part-time teaching - and since 1991, I've been a parent, so that cuts into the time!
When somebody says, 'This must be a children's book,' basically they're saying, 'You must be a child.' And so my answer is, 'Well, yes, I guess I am a child.' But I don't think of myself that way.