Author Spotlight: Drew Daywalt



We are delighted to present to you award winning author, DREW DAYWALT this week! KidLit411 is super excited because Drew is the author of one of the most brilliant picture books on the market, the New York Times bestseller, THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT

Hi Drew, thank you for agreeing to this interview and for being featured in our AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT (and for being and all around awesome, talented guy who also happens to rule the seven seas!) 

We've got some really great questions for you Drew, so let's begin! 

THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT

What were you like at school? Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

In grade school, I was a class clown, but I was the worst kind, because I wasn’t ever trying to make the kids laugh. I was always trying to make the teacher laugh. Some loved it. Some embraced it and nurtured it. Other grumpy ones were annoyed with it, but mostly because they hated life, love, liberty, apple pie, motherhood and puppies. 

How did you come up with the idea for THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT?

I was brainstorming for book ideas in my studio, I was literally staring at a box of crayons on my desk, and couldn’t help but notice how unevenly they were used. Blue and red were nubs, pink was untouched, peach had had it’s wrapper torn off… poor little thing. What if they could say anything they wanted to me? What if they could just let me have it? I bet I’d get an earful.

And that’s when it hit me.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week?

I wish. But then again, I’m kind of writing 24 hours a day. Not literally. Not like with my laptop, but like a dog chewing on a bone relentlessly for days. I go about my life, always mentally chewing on that bone, ya know? I’m living with the characters in my head, adding problems to their lives, watching them solve them. So, most of my writing process is very internal and cerebral and from the heart. Then, once I feel I’ve got something, I start typing. Then I’m gone for days, typing away, reaping the rewards of my daydreaming for weeks and months prior to touching the keyboard. 


Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

Again, I wish I did. But as a dad actively raising a 10 year old and a 4 year old, my day is theirs. But my mini-mental vacations throughout the day always take me to my plots and characters. But when I finally get to actually putting fingers to keyboard, it’s at night. Usually only 4-6 hours max, because I don’t like to burn out, or leave the writing cave creatively exhausted. I like to get a great final idea for the night, not execute it, and save it for tomorrow, so that I’m excited to sit down the next day and start. It’s like I’m writing my own serial and I can’t wait to see what happens. If that’s going on, then I know I’m on the right track. I know that if I’m driving around town, or waiting in line somewhere and my mind is on my writing, then I’ve got something good. And I write for myself and only myself. If it entertains me, it’s good. If anyone else likes it, that’s a bonus. 


What is your favorite motivational phrase?

My dad, who was a fireman in Twinsburg, Ohio at the Chrysler car factory had no idea what I was about to face when I went off to be a professional writer, but as I got into my fully packed car after college, to move to Los Angeles, he gave me the greatest motivational phrase of my life, “Son, I don’t know what you’re in for, but I know people. Work hard and be nice. You’ll do fine.” 

And he was right. 

What books are you reading at present?

Right now, I’m starting to write my first middle grade novel and I’m re-reading books that inspired me in grade school. Mostly Roald Dahl - THE TWITS, MATILDA, DANNY CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. I’m also enjoying SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I also loved THE GREAT BRAIN series, so I’m reading that too. It’s fun to go back as an adult to what inspired me as a boy.

Anchovies on Pizza?

Absolutely not. But not because of taste. I have no problems with the little guys. It’s all sense memory. I was lost at sea as a baby and raised by a family of anchovies. They taught me to swim, to speak fish, and defend myself. Eventually, I became the king of the oceans, with all sea life bowing to my power. In return, I vowed never to eat anchovies, as a way of thanking them for saving my life and helping me become the ruler of the seven seas. 




Ever since his childhood in one of Ohio’s most haunted houses, writer director Drew Daywalt has been writing escapist fantasy and building worlds of his own. With a degree in Creative Writing, and a concentration in Children’s Literature from Emerson College in Boston, Daywalt set off to Hollywood where he spent years writing for Disney and Universal on such beloved shows as Timon & Pumba, Buzz Lightyear, and Woody Woodpecker, and where his animated series The Wacky World of Tex Avery garnered an Emmy nomination. 

His first trip into live action landed him studio screenwriting and feature film directing work with such Hollywood luminaries as Quentin Tarrantino,  Lawrence Bender, Tony Scott, Brett Ratner and Jerry Bruckheimer. 

With an eye toward picture book writing, Daywalt’s first book THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, debuted on the New York Times Best Seller’s List in June 2013, and has since become a Number One Best Seller. 

He can be found on Twitter (@DrewDaywalt) and Youtube.  

33 comments:

  1. Thanks for putting Drew in the spotlight! And thanks for sharing your process and influence - I can see that scene with your dad. If you can find a copy, Danny The Champion of tthe World (with Jeremy Irons) is a favorite movie of mine too!

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  2. I also play with the characters in my head for days, Drew! Thanks so much for doing the spotlight interview and sharing your process with us!

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  3. Thanks, Drew, for a great interview. It's impressive that you left your fishy beginnings and made such a successful go of it on dry land.

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  4. Hahaha, that little anchovy! Fun and inspiring interview. Thank you, pal. I loved reading how he got the idea for The Day the Crayons Quit. I imagined it almost like he said. I wish I'd thought of writing it. ;-) I love playing around with characters inside my head too. Then the characters scream, "LET US OUT OF THIS SCARY PLACE!" That's when they fall on the paper. :-)

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  5. "Work hard and be nice" is awesome advice...for everyone, no matter what profession!

    My friend Troy Cummings (author/illustrator) has the same issue as you in terms of trying to work with two young kids, but I swear both of you still have a more strict work schedule than I do with older kids.

    The Day the Crayons Quit is one of the funniest books I've read the past year and I look forward to more of your books...so get back to work, buddy! ;)

    Thanks for a fun interview!

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  6. Thanks for the kind words everyone! I'm honored to be in the position I'm in with CRAYONS, and I'm happy to share the inspiration. I'm busily working on four new books for Penguin as we speak (write)!

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    1. Oh, Mr. Unknown, I cannot wait to buy those books! Get busy! :)

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    2. i own acrayon buisness UNKNOWN

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  7. Ah, the perfect start to the day, a little bit of recognition in the struggle in writing around your children's schedules, wants and needs. A little bit of awe in all that Drew has achieved, some insight into the creative process and a whole lot of inspiration. Thanks Drew!

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  8. Thanks for the interview 4-1-1! I adore this book. Can't help but love a guy raised by anchovies. I'm a fan, Drew!

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  9. One of the best things about writing is hanging out with your characters. Drew, I'll bet yours are always happy to see you :-)

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  10. Love his Dad's advice. We love the Day the Crayon's Quit. My toddler was so excited and yelled "read it again" that I later checked the word count. It was the longest book that he and I both enjoyed! We typically read shorter, but now know kiddo likes longer books too.

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  11. A chuckle + inspiration = another great interview. Thanks, Drew.

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  12. Now I want to see "The Day The Pencils Pointed." Seriously.
    Thanks for introducing me to my new go-to funny writer, Elaine. What do I owe ya?
    As someone with an uncommon middle name myself, I'd like to know more about your last name, Mr. Daywalt.
    Crayon on...

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    1. I have to tell you, Jan. He is even funnier in person. :)

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    2. Believing it - maybe a stand-up gig, too, down the line....

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    3. Believing it - maybe a stand-up gig, too, down the line....

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  13. LOVE the book. And now I love the author and his anchovy family. Thanks for a great interview. :)

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  14. This book is amazing! Loved the interview!

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  15. As a fellow Ohioan, I must reconsider my Anchovies on the Pizza order. If they saved Drew, I may have to save a few of them myself... a few, not all... Some must sacrifice for my taste buds!

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  16. My daughters and I LOVE your picture book! It is so creative and funny. In fact, I'm encouraging my 7 year old to suggest to her teacher that the class recreate the book as a little play. I would be fascinated by that. A new fan. Nicole

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  17. http://youtu.be/b3PqFRLLS3A This is the best book! I added it to my must have Christmas list!

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  18. Thanks for sharing, Drew! I look forward to reading your next amazing PB.

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  19. I love your father's advice! My father worked at the phone company, and he had a similar philosophy. Cheers!

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  20. "Work hard and be nice." You received great advice and brought fun and humor to our lives-thank you, Drew!

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  21. I love the story behind The Day the Crayons Quit! Thank you so much for your fun interview and wonderful advice. So good to meet you, Drew!

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  23. Enjoyed getting into your head. Love your book! Thank you for sharing a bit of your history with us. Looking forward to the next best seller!

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  24. Great interview. Thanks! Those pesky little characters can be quite a help! I love your books! Thanks again.

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  25. Thank you for a fun post, yet so helpful!

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  26. I love your books and purchased copies for Christmas gifts this year...

    Great Post

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  27. Great interview, Drew. Wishing you continued success in the #kidlit world!

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  28. Hi my name is Lucas. I love your book The Day Crayons Quit. I am in 2nd grade and I am at Wilson Montessori. I like when purple wants to stop drawing wizards dragons. I also like when gray quits drawing things. Are you ever going to make a t.v. show of The Day Crayons Quit? Can you make your own The Day Crayons Quit movie? Please write back.

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