Interview with Jane Breskin Zalben
Author of A Moon for Moe & Mo
Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
New York City born and grew up.
Long Island and also Long Island City in NYC.
If you currently reside somewhere besides where you were born, what’s the story that lead from there to here?
I live in vaguely the same area I was born, but of course I don’t literally reside where I was born.
What made you decide to write and publish your first book?
I had a professor in college who was runner-up for the Caldecott and suggested since I was a fine arts major – BA in art – that i pursue this road. I worked for Dial Press for the art director as her assistant. She was the only designer that Maurice Sendak used at the time. I learned a lot. Then when I went around with my art portfolio, the head of Macmillan suggested I write my own material and i did – they published my first book shortly after that.
How would you describe your books to first time readers?
They are full of humor, empathy, family and emotional ties we all experience in different ways and also in the same way as human beings. I like to explore what is under the surface, layered and deeper, but done in a pared-down way.
Who do you feel is most likely to connect with the topics you write about?
Oh, it varies on what I am experiencing. or observing. or feeling. sometimes, it is simply a moment that becomes a common thread to the next moment and the next and is built upon like a composition in music or a play with a longer context. My young adult novels have dealt with suicide, humor, art, music, comedy, mystery, religion, it goes on – I guess, life. period.
What unexpected or surprising thing did you learn during the process of writing and publishing?
i am passionate about it but it is also sometimes difficult – the business side. but when i am alone in the studio or at the desk where i write i am never lonely. i am present, focused, and totally involved with the characters and their plight, the dialogue, their dreams and desires. it is a wonderful state to be in because you forget the day-to-day real world.
If you could, what advice would you give to your past self before embarking on this journey?
I did want to and have written a screenplay of one of my novels, but being both a visual person and one who writes, I might have also done film. I think as if I am the camera, directing, observing, and piecing together like a puzzle to create a whole. I think of many elements that would have been great film-making so I might have explored that more. And I have returned to doing large modern abstract paintings and showing in galleries – I might have combined both of those more – that journey – instead of as well – not sure. So now, I am doing as much as can, particularly writing and painting large canvases and trying to incorporate both in future projects.
How many people would you ideally like to reach with your books?
Seriously? as many a possible. because if an author is read they can ultimately continue to publish. Although I write and write and paint because I do need it like air – I need those acts to feel whole and survive.
What has been the biggest challenge and frustration during the process to date?
Publishing. It is a very difficult business now since the world has changed and so have publishing houses and the process.
What’s your biggest strengths when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
I love the act of creating book and I do like marketing it as well — or rather helping the PR dept to market the book.
What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
Nowadays the budgets are more limited for the book business and they put it up on the internet but not actively marketing as much as they used to. Many authors do their own “push.” — I do it up to a point. I don’t tweet. I do Facebook a bit and I have been told i need to be Instagram — -the thing is I love to work. And I find spending my time that way not rewarding – what I find rewarding is working…. so there is that realistic balance between what is needed and what one wants.
When do you think you will write your next book?
That is not a question I ever ask – I am always working and never stop. I always have many books going and many more in me — I don’t even think about it. I just love doing.
Are you self published or did you use a hybrid publisher, or a traditional publisher?
Always a traditional publisher. I have around 50 books published. The reason I am just the author on this book is that I was very busy painting and going from show to show, hanging the art. So there is a play between the sides of me. Although I am always involved in the look of each book. If I am the author, I determine who the artist is. I was an art director at Scribner’s and taught at the school of visual arts in Manhattan for 18 years.