HOPE AT SEA, an adventurous interview with Daniel Miyares (+ GIVEAWAY!)

As blustery winds send pecans plopping perilously around my head, November seems the perfect time to introduce a book where the elements play a big role in the story. I’m thrilled to interview Daniel Miyares about his new book, HOPE AT SEA (Anne Schwartz Books). I was honored when Daniel agreed to illustrate my COME NEXT SEASON (FSG) some years ago. Daniel is very versatile. During an annual “Girl’s Art Weekend” a few years ago, I giggled over his hilarious illustrations in PARDON ME, and SURF’S UP, both found in a beachy bookshop on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Daniel’s newest book – out today – introduces us to brave, young Hope. Unbeknownst to her parents, she stows away on her father’s 19th-century merchant vessel. But look! The wind has picked up and the sky is darkening. Could there be such a thing as an adventure that is too exciting?

Kirkus praises the book as adroitly told and illustrated “with a clever surprise twist ending, while its illustrations combine a historical-looking style with accurate historic details. Skillful design decisions use double-page spreads to show the breadth of the ship’s deck or the expanse of the ocean, while smaller spot illustrations are used to vignette important action that isn’t described in the text… A skillfully presented tale of the sea and beyond.”

So first, Daniel I have to ask, of course, where the idea for this story originated. Is it based on a real person?

HOPE AT SEA is fiction. It all began with a conversation I was having with my daughter, who was in elementary school at the time. She was unpacking all the concerns of the day and as I was listening to her I had this overwhelming urge to try and protect her from all the things the world was throwing at her but I knew I couldn’t. I figured the best I could do was to try and encourage a sense of resilience and hope in her because there was no way to stop the storms of life. They’re going to come our way at some point. That became the heart of my idea for this story. The rest was built around it.

Since your 2015 book, FLOAT, was also about a voyage of sorts, have you always been a boating enthusiast? If so, how’d you fall in love with boats? If not… what possessed you?! (grin)

Love it! I was asked about this recently! I don’t own a boat or currently live near the ocean. When I did however, I felt like the ocean has been a very healing and contemplative place for me. My imagination goes way out beyond the horizon when I’m by the sea. There’s a comfort and mystery there that’s hard to shake. Also, the ocean and boats played an important role in my family history on my father’s side. I suppose that has always intrigued me too.

Often in my books the settings act almost like characters too. The ocean in HOPE AT SEA is a prime example of that.

I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of historical fiction in picture books in the past decade, so I hope your book will bring it back in fashion. Are there other eras you’d like to explore? And how much research do you do to capture an era?

Great observation. I got a taste of really digging into the history of a picture book subject by doing biographies. So far in my book making career I’ve had the good fortune of illustrating some marvelously written books about Mark Twain, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Rachel Carson. The research required for these types of books is extensive. You have to spend many weeks digging just to figure out what you don’t know. I realized that I love the investigating.

HOPE AT SEA was no different. I really wanted this story to have a sense of time and place, because otherwise I don’t think you would care about this family. Also I didn’t want the details of the time period to become stumbling blocks for the reader. I just wanted them to be. To do that I needed to spend a lot of time learning. I ordered books of plans for building clipper ships so I could understand how they were put together and why. I collected lengths of gnarly ropes so I could learn how to tie the knots that Hope would be using.

As for other eras to explore, I’m certainly open to anything! I will say that the old American west is interesting to me, but that may need to be a project for an older set of readers. I’m not sure. 

I see you as a remarkably versatile illustrator. As I mentioned above, you’ve done hilarious, zany books, and you also produce pensive, evocative books with a lot of atmosphere. Do you think of those as two different illustration styles? And is there any difference in how your ideas evolve for those two very different types of books?

I do like to do a variety of things for sure. I try not to look at what I do as one style or another. My hands can only make the marks they can make. I’ve tried to not do me and it just doesn’t work. Really I want to approach each book as the story demands it. I only have a certain amount of levers that I can personally pull when it comes to making art. We all do. So when I begin on an idea I’m looking for which of my levers need to be pulled to make it what it needs to be. Regardless of how the illustrations look I think it should be an honest reflection of the emotion of the story. That’s what the readers need from me.

I do hope that whether I’m making a humorous dialogue driven book or a dramatic historical one that I leave room for all parts of who I am.

I adore the endpapers of this book! I also love that this book, like our 2016 collaboration, COME NEXT SEASON, has a different illustration on the case cover than on the dust jacket. That’s the first time I’d ever had a book produced that way. Is that the kind of decision that’s made in-house, with the art director requesting separate art, or is that something that is more commonly proposed by the illustrator?

I’m not sure what everyone else’s experience is with it, but I try and pitch all that I would like to see in a project. For me as a book maker there is no harm in suggesting what the case cover and end papers could be as long as it lifts up the story. It is always a collaborative effort with the editor and art director to figure out what should ultimately be done with those elements. Sometimes there are production concerns to consider that are outside of your control, but overall I’ve worked with some of the most fantastic teams in the business and they always want to hear a good idea. You just got to do the work.

The HOPE AT SEA case cover, in deliberately muted, vintage line art, differs from its dramatic dust jacket.

This story is told in prose, whereas FLOAT was wordless. Do you come to those two styles of storytelling differently?

I’ve learned that for me each book idea begins with the same basic ingredients: words, pictures, page turns. I’ve also learned that no two book ideas are the same. Once I get a little down the road on the idea those ingredients seem to be needed in different amounts to properly tell the story. I just try to keep an open mind to what’s necessary. I rely a lot on my creative partners like my publisher, editor, art director, agents, and book maker friends to trade ideas and gain perspective on a project. It’s easy to get bogged down in a concept. Forest for the trees and all that. I’ve had moments where it was clear that although I had written five or six different manuscripts for a story with sketches, words weren’t needed in the end. The illustrations carried the day. I’ve also had moments when I knew my artwork was trying to do too much and all I really needed were just the right words to get the reader where I wanted them to go. I love that back and forth dance.

Happy book day, Daniel! Thank you for stopping by!

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! It’s an honor to get to connect and share.

EXCITING NEWS, READERS! Daniel is offering a signed copy of the book to one PBB reader. So be sure to pop down and leave a comment below to be entered into a random drawing for the book. AND, if you’re reading this early on the day this post goes live, Daniel will be doing a live reading of the book on Instagram at 1pm central time on Nov. 9th. (Edited later to say Daniel left it up for replay so you can still enjoy a closer look at the book on his Instagram feed.) He’ll be reading, sharing about the making of the book, taking questions, and maybe even giving some things away. Tune in!! (Instagram handle:danielmiyaresdoodles) And, of course, you can also visit Daniel at his website, www.danielmiyares.com.

Daniel Miyares is a critically acclaimed picture book author and illustrator. Some of his books include: FloatNight OutThat is My Dream, and Bring Me A Rock!. Daniel has been called “…a master of visual storytelling.”– Jody Hewston, Kinderlit, and “…enchanting, versatile” – The New York Times. He believes that our stories have the power to connect us all. Daniel’s story currently takes place in Lenexa, KS with his wife, their two wonderful children, and a dog named Violet that gives them all a run for their money. Some of his partners have included: Schwartz & Wade Books, Chronicle Books, Candlewick Press, Simon & Schuster BFYR, Nancy Paulsen Books, FSG (BYR), North/South Books, Charlesbridge Publishing, The NY Times.

Kim Norman

Kim Norman is the author of more than twenty children’s books, already or soon to be in print, published by Sterling; Scholastic; Penguin/Random House; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; and Candlewick, and forthcoming from Abrams. Calling herself a “Bedtime reading evangelist,” Kim has been invited to countless schools around the US to talk to students about her favorite thing: books! Years ago, Kim sang briefly in a big band – for pay even – but she’d rather sing Broadway songs for free. The parents of two grown sons, Kim and her husband live in Smithfield, Virginia, with two dogs in a little house shaded by giant pecan trees. Read more about Kim and her books at kimnorman.com.

67 Comments:

  1. Wow! Gorgeous! I cannot wait to read this book! Congratulations, Daniel! I love the setting, the sea, the theme. Perfect.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this wonderful interview, Kim. I follow Daniel on Instagram and have been enjoying his posts about this book. I love all things maritime, and the artwork and story of Hope at Sea look marvelous in every way. Can’t wait to see and read it!

  3. This is a lovely theme. So important to build resilience early on – my mother did the same with my sister and i. I also read a review which highlighted one of the key messages as seeing the light even when dreams don’t come true. Resonates so much with me. I wish my younger self had know this.

  4. Wow to the art! I read this post just in time to tune in.

    • Oh yay! Glad you caught it just in time. One of these days, I will nail that “scheduling” feature in WordPress. It was supposed to go up at 1 minute after midnight. When I checked, late morning, I realized I had set the schedule to 12:01 *PM* Arrrgh! So I’m glad it was still in time for you to catch the IG live!

  5. Wow–this is absolutely stunning! Congrats!

  6. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Oh my, I love these illustrations! What a fascinating post! Can’t wait to read the entire book. Congrats!

  7. Beautiful book, Daniel! Congratulations. I will bop over to Instagram to hear it read. Great job!

    • No thanks to my messing up the scheduling of this post, (accidentally set to 12:01 *PM* argghh! At least I realized my mistake mid-morning) but if you weren’t quite in time for the 1pm central live reading, Daniel did keep it up for replay. Thank you!

  8. This looks wonderful and I so hope the drawing we see in your photos (of hope holding the ship in the bottle up to the view of the ocean out the window) is in there because – WOW! What a stunner! 🙂 Regardless, really looking forward to this book. 🙂

  9. So lovely! Wow! Congratulations and I cannot wait to read it!

  10. Gorgeous! What a lot of work and imagination!

  11. The front of the jacket blew me away! Seeing the different case cover astounded me. And a glimpse into the pages has me drooling. Historical fiction is my favorite genre. Can’t wait to read this book!

    • I love it, too, Kathy. I really hope Daniel’s book inspires publishers to bring back more historical fiction books, especially as beautifully done as this one. I always felt like I learned even MORE from historical fiction, as long as it was as thoroughly researched as this is.

  12. Kim and Daniel, thank you for such an interesting interview. Daniel, I love your art, the way you capture complex ideas (I have your book on Ramanujan that I won here on PBB so of course I’d love to win Adventure too). It is beautiful. Although I hope you can have a boat again, the prairie can feel like an ocean at times, right? Congratulations!!!

    • What a magical thought, about the prairie feeling ocean-like. Children definitely make-do, don’t they? When i was a kid, our family was stationed in Guantanamo Bay, which — unlike the rest of Cuba — is quite arid. Which meant we had a hill behind our house with tall, dry grass. My brother and I would do “tropical sledding” on the hill. Turns out cardboard makes a great sled on dry grass. lol!

  13. Such a gorgeous book! The cover alone makes me feel like sailing!

  14. Wow! This is amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  15. This book looks outstanding! Count me in.

  16. Great interview! Daniel is a great human and a great artist.

  17. Mark John Sobanski

    A stunning book. I love historical PB’s. I truly hope there will be a resurgence of them. I’m excited to read about Hope’s journey!

  18. Fascinating interview, wonderful photos of art and studio, and one fabulous-looking picture book! Thank you so very much for sharing!

  19. Whenever my world is without I take myself on a journey over the sea that is the wonderful world web. Pray this voyage, in search of Daniel’s other works, shall prove fruitful like the summer’s joyous abundance!

    Absolutely stunning artwork! 👍

    • Well, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest your first stop be at our joint work in COME NEXT SEASON. Tee hee! Seriously, it’s a stunningly gorgeous book, thanks to the scope of Daniel’s skills and talent. (I never just talk about an artist’s talent, because it takes even more work than talent to produce work as beautiful as this.)

  20. Would love to win this book. It sounds wonderful

  21. Fantastic post! HOPE AT SEA looks and sounds like an inspirational story. I love the focus on time and place.

  22. This looks like a gorgeous book! Can’t wait to read it. Thank you for sharing your inspiration and story behind the story with us.

    • It’s a busy time for him, so I really appreciated Daniel taking the time to not only answer all my questions but to supply all those fascinating studio pics. Thanks, Rebecca!

  23. The illustrations are so inviting, I want to go to the ocean. I cannot wait to read it.

  24. These illustrations are gorgeous! Can’t wait to read this story of finding hope at sea.

  25. What a beautiful book! I enjoyed reading your interview and learning more about your process. Congratulations!

  26. What a wonderfully enlightening interview! I’m so impressed with Daniel’s perspective & versatility. Great imagery and attention to detail. Plus characters with heart & interest. I’m following him on Instagram and excited to see more of his creativity! Thanks!

  27. Congrats, Daniel! What a beautiful book.

  28. I’m so excited to see a historical fiction PB. I’ve been wondering how that is done. I will have to check out Hope at Sea.

  29. Amazing story, unbelievable amount of work! Added to my list to read! Already requested it from my library I am the first on the list when it comes in!

  30. This book looks gorgeous! I can’t wait to read it. Congratulations!

  31. Janet Frenck Sheets

    I’d love to see more historical fiction in picture books, too! Every era is fascinating in its own way.

  32. This looks like a wonderful story and the illustrations are fabulous. As someone who grew up on the Northeast coast and saw lots of boats and even a few sailing ships, I love these pictures. I have Nova Scotia ancestors who built sailing ships. I even visited a maritime museum once that had lots of ships in bottles! Thanks for the great review, Kim!

  33. I love the sea and can’t wait to enjoy this wonderful book! Loved hearing some background on Daniel’s process.

  34. I love the inspiration for this book! Congratulations the illustrations look amazing.

  35. Wow. This book is stunning. Thank you for sharing your process and I can’t wait to check it out!

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