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Friday, May 20, 2016

Interview with Darren Farrell, author of Stop Following Me, Moon!

It's Friday (hurrah!) and to celebrate the end of another long week, I have a fab, funny interview with author and illustrator Darren Farrell! His new book, Stop Following Me, Moon!, hit stores roughly a month ago. If you haven't yet tracked down a copy, I highly recommend you remedy that right away!


Stop Following Me, Moon features a guilty bear that learns a lesson about sharing. Can you share your inspiration for this story and its main character?

I can picture the exact moment my son and I invented Stop Following Me, Moon!

My family and I live in Seoul, South Korea and one night, after dinner at Shinsegae, which is a nice shopping center with a fancy grocery shop in the basement that is dotted with little food stalls, we found ourselves in a taxi.

Like all taxi drivers, Korean cabbies think they’re in a Formula 1 race, and as we weaved in and out of traffic, we began to climb an elevated highway. There in the sky, in between the tall apartment buildings, appeared a full, orange moon. My son was probably four at the time, and I pointed toward the moon as it disappeared and reappeared behind the buildings.

We were laughing and watching the moon chase us when suddenly I thought…


I could very clearly picture the king of the forest, a grizzly, yelling up at a full moon and just totally losing his marbles that the moon WILL… NOT… STOP… FOLLOWING… HIM!!

So I knew straight away that I wanted to set the book in a forest, with a clear view of the full moon. And I wanted this huge bear to be the main character. This image just sort of sparked to life inside my head at the same time my brain was saying WHAT IF WE DON’T WANT THIS MOON CHASING US!  

Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?
I generally begin with a concept that my brain can’t let go of.

For Stop Following Me, Moon! the core idea was this notion of a bear in the woods losing his marbles because the moon is following him–and it really captured my imagination. I’m pretty sure I woke up in the middle of the same night and just started writing down everything that came to mind.

I wrote and wrote and wrote for a couple of nights (I may have been finishing the art for Thank You, Octopus while this was happening, so writing at night was a nice change of pace from sitting in front of the computer coloring and creating spreads all day).
In this mode, I am all over the place. I may shout out something the bear could say and if it makes me giggle, I’ll write it down. I may invent ten different endings–and in fact the original ending for this book featured the bear escaping to a deserted island via a prop-plane he commandeered and momentarily escaping the moon… until… oh no… here it came again.

At some point, I felt like I had a lot of material to work with and then I started cutting and pasting and outlining the story. When the story felt full and awesome, I shared it with my agent and we reworked it a little bit more before sharing with Kate, Lily, and Jenny, the lovely and fantastic team at Penguin Random House who I have grown so much with.

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book or author that has provided you with a hiding spot.
When I was young, The Three Investigators was my absolute hiding spot. For whatever reason, that book series completely captivated me. And to this day, if I hear the words Carlsbad Caverns – it takes me right back this series. I’m not sure why. I guess they discovered something cool there. Actually, when I was really young, my hiding spot was any book. My grandmother and grand-aunts used to read the encyclopedias to me. If they stopped, I’d cry. So I guess, the old Encyclopedia Britannica collection at my grandmother’s house was my original hiding spot.

My son and I hide in all of the Mo Willems’s Piggy + Elephant books, which we enjoy performing at night before bedtime.
Now I hide in all sorts of art books. I am currently hiding in a book about Olle Eksel.

I also like to hide in really awesome picture books from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. For some reason, I have found so many amazing paperback picture books from the past here in Seoul. New ones. At English book shops and international school book fairs. Who's Mouse Are You? is one of my favorites. And I just picked up 20 Elephant Restuarant, which has a very interesting ending.  

Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity. 
School events inspire my creativity in the deepest way. Presenting my hard work to children and teachers and hearing them enjoy it first hand is so wonderful. Creating a book can be a little bit of a solitary experience – so having the opportunity to stand in front of a huge group and experience their giggles and enthusiasm first hand is just incredible.

Non-crowded public transportation inspires me. It’s weird. When I am on public transportation, there is this sense of going somewhere with a purpose – and yet not really having anything to do. This combination is at once relaxing and energizing and so I love to sit and write and brainstorm on trains and buses. I don’t do this often enough. Ideally, I should hop on a Seoul train at 10am (post rush) and ride it all the way across town and back again all day. I’d probably write ten books per year if I did this.

The internet inspires me. Just kidding. The internet distracts me. I HATE YOU INTERNET. Just kidding, internet, I love you. Don’t be mad at me.

Great coffee inspires me. My “office” is a shop in Seoul called Coffee Temple. They make INCREDIBLE cappuccinos and my brain literally says AHHHHHHH when I drink one. I drew most of Thank You, Octopus and Stop Following Me, Moon! at this shop. The owner won top barista in Korea this year and is on his way to the World Barista Championships in Ireland this July! So clearly, my brain isn’t the only brain being inspired by his creations. I hid a coffee cup from his shop on a page in Stop Following Me, Moon! – can you find it?

What can your readers look forward to next?  
My next project is an oversized picture book called Letter Town. Talk about a book you can hide in… it is going to be awesome and invite many, many engaging re-reads.

About the Author
Darren Farrell is the author-illustrator of the award-winning picture book  Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib . He lives, for the time being, with his family in Seoul, South Korea, where he always makes sure there are no monsters under his son's bed.
About the Book
A hungry bear’s big appetite leads to a lesson about sharing in this silly story perfect for fans of Mo Willems’ Pigeon books
Bear is hungry. So hungry that when he spies a squirrel's berry snack, he can't help taking the whole berry bush. Then, when he wanders past a busy beehive, Bear knows he's hit the jackpot. But someone is on to him—the moon! Or so Bear thinks. Before he knows it, Bear is on the run with his stolen snacks, causing a whole lot of trouble for the other animals in the forest.

With big laughs, silly surprises, and a read-aloud-ready refrain, this picture book is perfect for fans of Jon Klassen and Mo Willems.


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