BookKids: Q&A with Jarrett & Jerome Pumphrey

We love getting to know new authors and illustrators, and there’s something extra special when they’re based in our hometown! We interviewed Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey, who co-authored the gorgeous picture book, The Old Truck, which releases in January 2020. Sure, sounds like a long way! But they’ve come up with a really fun pre-order campaign that brings art lovers together with a bunch of amazing swag, including an enamel pin, art prints, and more! Consider supporting two local creators and pre-order The Old Truck: it makes for a beautiful holiday gift, birthday gift, just-because gift, etc. Learn more about the Pumphrey brothers’ inspiration, process, favorite books, and more in the Q&A below.

BP: What was your inspiration behind The Old Truck?

9781324005193_c665cA: The Old Truck came from two ideas: Firstly, we’ve always had strong female figures in our lives. Our mom raised four sons while running the family business. Our grandmothers exuded grit and determination. Our great grandmother bought her own farm in Louisiana with the money she earned picking cotton. 

Secondly, there’s this common sight in Texas: old trucks set out to pasture, long forgotten and overgrown. Many of those trucks have been sitting idle for decades. That got us thinking about what they might have seen in all that time. 

We put the two together and the story grew from there.

BP: The artwork for The Old Truck is very different from your first book, Creepy Things Are Scaring Me. How did you land on this particular art style? We read that you made over 250 stamps to create the artwork for The Old Truck— what was that process like?

A: Actually, we didn’t illustrate Creepy Things Are Scaring Me. We co-authored it back when we were teenagers, and HarperCollins chose Rosanne Litzinger to illustrate that. When it came time to illustrate our debut as author-illustrators, a few things informed the direction we took. We like the handcrafted quality stamps impart to the art. The process of making stamps, making prints, arranging compositions, compositing, etc. lends itself well to how collaboratively we work; we both can take part in each aspect of creating the book. We also wanted the book to feel timeless, like the books we read when we were little and that we still enjoy reading with our kids; we hope the graphic style and limited palette help achieve that aesthetic.

As to our process, we started out with marker sketches of each spread. Then we made stamps for all the items that appeared in each sketch. Then we made individual prints of the items with each stamp, scanned them into the computer, and then put them all together in digital compositions with full color. You can see more of the stamp process in this video here, or in Jerome’s Instagram below!

BP: What is your favorite out of all of the stamps you created for the book?

A: Definitely the truck.

BP: Usually, there is an author and an illustrator, but both of you do both jobs. How did y’all collaborate on this? What were the benefits and challenges of working on this project together? 

A: What we do is concentrate on the story. What’s the story we want to tell? It’s not just the text. It’s not just the pictures. It’s a really intertwined combination that tells more that either could tell alone. We’ll both throw out ideas for text and pictures. We’ll bounce things off each other as we go. And as we work, we’ll refine the story more and more, and ultimately end up with a text and sketches that all compliment each other and tell the story we envisioned. Once we have that, it’s just a matter of executing the final art through the stamp making process we described before.

BP: What do you hope young readers take away from The Old Truck?

A: What’s been interesting is how varied people’s takeaways from the book have been. Some have gotten that anything is possible with hard work and determination. Some have gotten the importance of valuing our belongings and taking care of them so they last as long as possible. Others have told us the idea of transforming something undervalued into something useful and worthy of love and care really resonated with them. Then there’s the idea that you can have a role that’s not traditionally associated with your race and gender.

If readers got any of these, that would make us very happy, but we’d also be thrilled if a young reader just had a good time reading a book about an old truck.

BP: You’re working on a hands-on, exciting pre-order campaign for your book. Can you tell readers about it? 

A: Yes! We’re very excited about it! We’re calling it The Old Truck’s Road Trip to Release! Here’s how it works:

  • Our old truck is hitting the road, headed for release.
  • ⁣Every pre-order of the book from BookPeople moves it another mile down the road.⁣
  • ⁣The more miles the old truck travels, the more FREE stuff it picks up on the way.⁣
  • ⁣When you pre-order from BookPeople, you get EVERYTHING the old truck is hauling when the book is released in January.
  • Currently, that includes a signed, personalized book, a FREE enamel pin, and a FREE limited edition print. Later, it could be all that and even more!
  • Every share, every mention, every new pre-order helps EVERYONE get more FREE stuff as a huge thanks from us!⁣ 

Our goal is to hit 1000 pre-orders through BookPeople. If we can manage to do that, it Processed with VSCO with f2 presetwill unlock all the surprises we have planned.

BP: Do you have any tips to other local authors who might be interested in running a similar campaign?

A: We’re still figuring all this out as we go, but here are some things we think have helped:

  • Be an active member of SCBWI and take advantage of the resources they offer. (That’s how we met the team at BookPeople.)
  • Start planning your campaign early. (If you’re going to give away swag for pre-orders, all that takes time to produce. Waiting until the last minute to produce that stuff can be costly.)
  • Plan ways to keep your campaign fresh until the book is released. (We felt like just announcing that our book was available for pre-order over and over would get old real quick. Unlocking new content as we go provides new opportunities to talk about pre-orders without it feeling too repetitive.)
  • Hook up with your local independent bookstore. (We’re so lucky to be in Austin with BookPeople!)
  • Coordinate with your publisher for help and other resources.

BP: You are based right here in Austin, TX. What is your perfect Austin day? 

A: We love Austin. The perfect day for us would be spent outside with our families exploring the natural wonders available to us here. The San Gabriel River is a favorite. There’s Zilker Park. Bull Creek. So much to do outside. We love it.

BP: What was your biggest dream when you were a kid? What did you hope to do when you grew up?

A: Always wanted to make books!

BP: What were some of your favorite books as kids?

A: The books we remember enjoying as kids include Charlotte’s Web, James and the Giant Peach, My Side of the Mountain, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Hatchet, and everything Shel Silverstein. But more than the books we read, we think the biggest influence for us was our dad. He didn’t write, but he told the best stories. They were usually funny and always riveting. We knew pretty early on we wanted to tell stories too.

9780062747273_c5537BP: What are some of your favorite books now?

A: Loving Sydney Smith’s Small in the City and Erin Entrada Kelly’s Lalani of the Distant Sea.

BP: Who are some of your biggest influences or favorite authors and illustrators working today?

A: There are so many. Favorites (in no particular order) include Erin Entrada Kelly, Neil Gaiman, Kate DiCamillo, Jason Reynolds, Kenneth Oppel, Katherine Applegate, Sara Pennypacker, Brian Vaughan, Christian Robinson, Jon Klassen, Juan Martinez-Neal, Vashti Harrison, Elizabeth Acevedo, Jacqueline Woodson, Jarrett Krosoczka, Jon Agee, Mo Willems, Jen Wang, Scott Campbell, Matt de la Pena, Carson Ellis, Nancy Vo, Derrick Barnes, Gordon James, Molly Idle, Sydney Smith, Isabelle Arsenault, Thyra Heder, Peter Brown, Royden Lepp, Kazu Kibuishi, Matthew Forsythe,  Jake Parker, and so many more—too many to list. They all constantly inspire us.

BP: What’s your advice to aspiring authors and illustrators?

A: Create daily. Read a lot. Join a professional membership organization like SCBWI so you can get your work in front of industry professionals to get valuable feedback.

Stay tuned for more on the Old Truck’s Road Trip to Release! Plus, we’ll be hosting Jarrett and Jerome here at BookPeople for the official launch of The Old Truck in 2020. PRE-ORDER HERE!

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