Author Spotlight: Larry Issa


July 15, 2022

We are excited to feature author Larry Issa and his debut picture book, GET BACK INTO THE BOOK, illustrated by Emma Chadwick (Kalamus 2019). Enter to win a copy!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write and illustratre for children.

Greetings! I'm excited to meet you here on Kidlit411. Picture books have always fascinated me from a very young age. My wonderfully supportive parents would gather us around for storytime, where I found myself constantly fixated on illustrations. Being drawn to artwork, I began coloring and collaging my own paper books. Later becoming my own storyteller, making up adventures to keep my friends entertained, and bedtime stories to help my siblings fall asleep. As much as I loved making paper books and telling stories, I truly believed you had to have super powers to become a "real" author! 

Thankfully, I grew up to become a graphic designer, which I thoroughly enjoy. Though, secretly, I continued to dream about making my own "real" book one day. With my busy design schedule, I never had time to sit down and flush out the stories in my head. 

Then one day, I got severely ill. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I was initially in hospital for a month. Ended up in and out of hospitals and doctor visits for years. Life as I knew it ended during this time period, as I was mostly homebound. It was only then when I found the time to open my sketchbook and pen down my stories. And oh did I write many stories... Perhaps all the medication had my brain on overdrive!? Whatever it was, when I finally recovered, I decided to turn this negative point in my life into something positive and publish my own book. Now, which story to debut with?

Congrats on your recent picture book, Get Back in the Book!   Tell us about the story and what inspired you.

Get Back in the Book! introduces a young boy named Danny who loves to write stories and illustrate them. One evening, after finishing his book, Danny places it in his backpack to take to school the next day, then hops into bed. While dreaming of his creation, he is awakened by noises coming from his backpack. Getting up to investigate, Danny pulls out his book only to discover his drawings have disappeared! He peeks inside his backpack where he finds his characters gazing back at him. There’s only one problem: these tiny personalities don't want to get back in the book! Arnie the acrobat sums up the collective feeling when he says, “Who wants to be stuck in a book when it’s so much fun out here?” Danny does some quick thinking and realizes there’s only one way to get his lively characters to embark on their story, which would be left untold if they didn't get back in the book!  

I truly believe picture books are visual and lyrical maps to the world and beyond. I was inspired to write this book, after having been ill for several years, as it was reading that took me outside of my room to the places I longed to visit. Given these current times, I hope Get Back in the Book! encourages a sense of adventure in young readers and fuels their imagination. This book is the first in a series that I am working on, as part of my personal goal to make reading fun and enjoyable. Launched as a self-published passion project, my book has won 30 awards to date, including Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards (Best Picture Book), and Readers’ Favorite (Best Children’s Book Concept), to name a few!

You are a creative designer as well as an author and indie published your book. How did your design background influence the book?

As a graphic designer, the paper stock and font selection are just as important as the story itself! No details were spared during my process, as I want readers to also enjoy the "feel" of my books. With my print production background I'm able to select finishes that will compliment my illustrations, while also adding to the aesthetics of my books. I also work directly with printers around the world, who I know will deliver not only fantastic quality, but competitive price points too. It's always delightful when a passerby approaches me at events to reveal they love my book cover and are so drawn to it! Design is very powerful, and should never be underestimated.

What projects are you working on now?

I'm constantly working on numerous projects at the same time, mainly for my corporate clients. Recently I wrapped up branding and a publication for the United Arab Emirates Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. I'm finalizing an annual report for a hospital, several museum catalogues, and an exciting branding project for NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery's upcoming exhibition. What really keeps me going are the picture books I'm producing for debut indie authors. Low to the Ground Leroy and Mono and Uncle Yeti are heading off to print over the next few weeks for a release this fall. Oh, and I'm also working on a few of my own picture books, including the sequel to Get Back in the Book!  

You self published your book. What are the top one or two pieces of advice you'd give to others who want to self publish a picture book?

My best advice: do not cut corners! Many of us wear multiple hats, but you cannot be your own editor/art director/graphic designer/etc. on top of being the author/illustrator. Our audience responds to quality, and if your book is poorly edited, designed, or printed, it's going to reflect badly on you, and your final product. Research and hire your team accordingly to achieve the best end results possible. As there is a whole team involved, I prefer using "indie publishing" instead of "self published," as you are definitely not working alone throughout the process. 

Also for me, words don't come easy... I know, strange words coming from an author. As an artist and highly visual person, I figured out that I was able to use the images in my head to "write" my stories. So for the artists out there who are struggling to put pen to paper: write with your pictures, and then insert the words to go with your visuals (ie. I visualize my entire story in my head, as if watching a movie, then freeze frame it at the locations I think work best, and then I add words to the frames I've frozen)... I think I'm visualizing this better than the words I'm using to describe it! 

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I'm a huge airplane geek, and I've always wanted to be a pilot. As a kid I thought, if I became a pilot I could fly to all the countries in the world. Although my love for aviation didn't end with a pilot career, I'm ready to jump on a plane anytime (preferably a 777). Also, panda bears are my favorite animal, so you'll find both an airplane and a panda bear hidden somewhere in my books. 

Where can people find you online?


Larry Issa is an award-winning author, and the founder/creative director of LMI Design, based in Vienna, Virginia. Over the past 14 years, Issa has been creating design solutions for advertising agencies, publishing houses, large corporations, independent authors, non-profits, charity organizations, and start-ups based locally and internationally. Some of his clients include The Louvre Abu Dhabi, Save the Children, Northwestern University and VCU Arts in Qatar. His debut illustrated storybook "Get Back in the Book!" was inspired by his travels to magical spots around the world and a lifelong passion for art and literature. With a creative mind that’s always concocting new storylines and many more global travels on the horizon, GET BACK IN THE BOOK is the first of many children’s picture books Larry plans to write and design.  

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  1. This sounds like a wonderful story, and the book cover pulls you in!

  2. This story idea sounds fun to read and very creative. I'm excited to find the panda and airplane in the illustrations.

  3. Congratulations! You book sounds wonderful and I love the cover!

  4. This book looks gorgeous!! Congratulations!

  5. How interesting to learn that Larry creates the pictures before writing the words to accompany them. I am anxious to read the book.

  6. Larry, your book sounds so fun and interesting, the cover is amazing! Can't wait to read it :)

  7. My twins would love this book!


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