An interview with Keith Graves

The award-winning Austinite has just published his seventh kids’ book, The Unexpectedly Bad Hair of Barcelona Smith. Graves’s words are whimsical; his illustrations are bold and surreal enough to intrigue the grown-ups in the house.

While you’re writing and drawing, do you have a mental image of your reader? I channel my eight-year-old self and just try to have a good time. It’s usually not a big stretch to get there. Then I cross my fingers and hope the readers will enjoy the same stuff as me.

Your style is colorful and outlandish. Do you ever get stuck for ideas? I’ve always had a pleasant brain-vibrating response to certain color arrangements, and I’ve spent most of my working life trying to figure out how to make that juiciness happen in my own pictures. I get lots of ideas, but who knows where they come from. I’ll get a strong urge to make something—like a chigger bite that needs scratching—then I’ll start looking for satisfying subject matter.

Your Web site features an animated version of your book Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance. Is it exciting to see your inanimate children come to life? I love seeing the characters walk and talk and get into trouble on-screen. Problem is, animated films require lots of people and money to make them happen. The more people involved, the more likely it is to wander from my original idea. Still, it’s great fun to try. Philomel, $16.99