Interview: Jennifer Larue Huget

I am super excited to be interviewing author Jennifer Laure Huget today. As a bonus, illustrator Chris Sickels stopped by to answer one of my questions.

Happy reading!

BEGINNER'S GUIDE_cover image

Like most children, I completely failed at running away as a child. I don’t think that I ever even made it out the front door without chickening out. Could you share a childhood running away from home story?

Jennifer: I would love to share my own running-away story. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I was too big a ‘fraidy cat to run away from home, though I know I considered it a time or two.  I had to wait until I was a grownup with two kids of my own to explore the phenomenon. Each of my kids, separately, decided to run away. My daughter did so because they had better pizza at her friend’s house. My son isn’t quite sure why he left home, which may explain why he didn’t actually pack anything in his running-away suitcase. Each of them made it (under my watchful eye) to the top of the driveway before reconsidering. I welcomed them both home with open arms.

Beginners Guide 1

As a child, when I wasn’t failing at running away from home, I was wondering what came first: the chicken or the egg? I wasn’t exactly wondering this a lot, but it did cross my mind often. Now that I’m an adult and I giant fan of picture books, I often wonder if the art or the words come first. So, what came first: the art or the words?

Jennifer: Chris Sickels/Red Nose Studio is an absolute genius, if you ask me, and I am so grateful that he’s the one who brought this story to life with his incredible artistry. But I had to write the story, first. I sent it to my wonderful publisher, Schwartz & Wade, and they approached Chris about creating the illustrations. Next thing I knew, they were sending me sketches, and then I got to see the final versions of his creations. I couldn’t have been more impressed, or more tickled, by them. I especially love the page near the end when the mom embraces her little runaway boy. Chris did a fantastic job with that.

Beginner's Guide 3

I am completely in awe by the images in The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home. Do I even call them images? Illustrations? Pictures? I have no idea. I also have no idea how they are created. I tried to do a little research on your process, but I don’t think I completely understand how this awesomeness is created. Could you give me a “beginner’s guide” to the type of art that appears in The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home?

Chris: Thanks for your interest in the image making process behind The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home. 

In answer to your question, I call them illustrations. My process is essentially like any other illustrator. Everything starts with thumbnails and sketches that are based on the written content/story. The sketches are submitted in a dummy book form to the editor and book designer and the sketches get revised and edited to best tell the story.

Once the sketches are all approved, the building begins. The scenes are constructed in 3D form using the sketches as blueprints and everything is built specifically for each scene. Similar to how a TV, theater or movie set would be built, everything is built to only be seen by the audience and in my case the audience is the camera lens. The figures and costumes are constructed of polymer clay, wire, foam, and fabric. The costumes are all hand sewn specifically for each character which is generally 6-7 inches tall. Sets are constructed with cardboard, wood, paper, fabric, and any material that works for the specific scene being shot. The sets are dressed with handmade props, and the occasional bits of doll house furniture, but mostly everything is built from scratch so that it can live in the ‘Red Nose’ world, which is a bit skewed and not quite ‘right’. Once a scene is fully constructed, photography and lighting begin. The lighting is where emotion and atmosphere can be reinforced and the scene starts to come to life. Typically it takes 150-200 shots to get the image and lighting adjusted for the final photograph. Typically most of the effects are created on set and in camera, with minor corrections and adjustments with Photoshop. The photograph is the final artwork, it is what is submitted for printing.

I hope that helps clear it up a bit, and even though I go by the name Red Nose Studio, it is just me working in my garage.

Beginners Guide 2
I have a 6, 4, and a 3 year old at home. None of them have tried to run away from home. Do you have any tips for their first attempt?

Jennifer: Well, the two little ones should wait a while; they need time to build up a really good reason to run away. As for tips for their first attempt, I would recommend they read this terrific new guide to running away from home. It’s called THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME…..

3 Comments
  1. I don’t think my kids did this, but my brother did, packed a suitcase, & ot to the top of our block (up a slight hill) dragging his suitcase. He was just 7 or 8, I think. He stopped, looked around, and ran back down to our aunt’s house (across the street from ours). This looks marvelous, Colby, Jennifer and Chris. I am impressed with the work of the illustrations-and imagine they look even better in the book. Thanks!

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