[R]obert Magnuson shares the journey of how he became an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s literature and how he created his latest books, the Duck and Croc series.
ANVIL: What inspired you to become a children’s book writer?
ROBERT: My father believed in the importance of reading. He made sure my brothers and I had a lot of books to keep us company. I grew up on picture books and comic books and found the combination of words and pictures an exciting form of expression. It only seemed natural that my brothers and I made our own stories — drawing them in notebooks and sketch pads. We did it then, and I just kept right on doing it.
ANVIL: How did you come up with the characters of Duck and Croc?
ROBERT: I have a fondness for ducks. My wife Shirley sometimes thinks I’m a duck. I’m not sure why that is. And it seemed like the right thing to do contrasting a duck with a Crocodile. I just made sure the tougher-looking of the two animals was the girl.
ANVIL: What is your process as a writer and illustrator?
ROBERT: I do my best to stay alert, observant and curious about things around me. I find that a good number of my stories find their start when I spot something in the environment and I begin asking “what if?” type questions about it. When something catches my interest, I take out my notebook and scribble a drawing or write down a line that captures that raw idea. How it grows from that point is different for each story. Some I start as a full manuscript, while others go through extensive rough drawings first.
ANVIL: What’s your favorite part about creating Duck and Croc?
ROBERT: I like drawing their facial expressions. Especially if they are silly ones.
ANVIL: What’s the message you want to impart to kids who read your books?
ROBERT: When kids read my stories, I’d like them to know that most of them are, in fact, based on things that actually happen to me. I’d have feelings and thoughts that I may be working through and I’d have this sudden desire to express the experience in the form of a story. That’s what happens. I just change all the humans characters into animals. For example — long ago, I used to be an avid toy and comic book collector. It got to a point where I was obsessed with collecting. It turned out to be a very destructive experience and the essence of that eventually found its way into a story which would later become Duck and Croc meet Collector Alligator.
And although some themes (such as bullying, loneliness, materialism, etc.) may be “heavy”, it is also very important to me that the reading experience be a pleasurable one. That’s the reason I try my best to inject a good deal of fun when making these books. I’d like kids to have a blast, whether they are reading with their parents in bed, or find themselves reading alone on the couch during a rainy day.
ANVIL: What’s next for Duck and Croc? Do you have other upcoming projects?
ROBERT: Lots. Duck and Croc have terrible secrets. One in particular that will get them into trouble. And Duck’s got a very hyperactive imagination that I’m hoping to explore. I’ve also got other stories brewing that involve other characters that I’m praying will see print some time next year.
ANVIL: What’s your advice to aspiring children’s writers and illustrators out there?
ROBERT: Keep reading. Keep writing. Don’t stop drawing. Sharpen your observation skills. And don’t forget to say your prayers!
Robert Magnuson will launch the Duck and Croc series on December 3, 2017, Sunday, 3:00 PM, at the National Book Store Glorietta 1, Makati City. Admission is free. Exciting games and yummy treats await.
The Duck and Croc series is available for P250 each at National Book Store and Powerbooks Store branches and online at anvilpublishing.com