Tell me about your books.
“Wild about the Alphabet! (and Other Tales)” is a book about animals, cleverly disguised as an alphabet book. It’s “chock-full o' fantastic illustrations, brilliant writing, interesting facts and biting humor... It's not just a book about the alphabet, either! It's a book about animals, too! Designed to grow with your child, it's already educated and entertained children up to 13, college students and even grandparents – not just preschoolers. With the exception of the quail, this book contains many fascinating animals, and I bet it's the first time you've ever seen a coelacanth! (It's a prehistoric fish, thought to be extinct until 1938, when someone accidentally caught one in the Indian Ocean!) It’s not your Gramma’s ABCs!
“Hammy Hammerhead’s (almost) Big Adventure!” is a storybook about sharks, cleverly designed as, well, a storybook about sharks. It takes place in the mountains of Florida (stay with me on this), in the world’s largest aquarium, bigger than anything you can think of, unless you can think of a state or maybe a planet. Hammy, a hammerhead shark of about 10 “people-years” in age, begins his day eating a chummy bowl of Yum-Os – I mean a yummy bowl of Chum-Os) – cleans his room, meets his pals for some pufferball, beats the school bully at free throws and makes a new friend.
I see that you do both the writing and illustration. Do you have a background in writing or art?
I have always wanted to be an artist and drew every single day of my life since I could hold a crayon. I went to SCAD, graduating in ’87. I began courtroom illustration in the late ‘80s and was also picking up the occasional side-gig doing logos and T-shirt designs.
What prompted you to become a children’s author?
My story is the same old cliché, really. I was in a near-fatal car accident and in a coma for 11 days; the best 11 days of my life – I got to sleep! Short story long, I basically stopped drawing for fun until ’09, when I met my fabulous wife, Gwen. She had seen a drawing I had done in college of a chimpanzee in the shape of an “M” and decided I should do a whole alphabet.
Finally, in ’17, after years of relentless, yet non-stop, wheedling, pleading, cajoling, prodding and, yes, nagging, she finally convinced me to do it, and the rest is history.
I imagine you must have to put yourself into the mindset of your readers, to see things the way they do. Is that difficult, considering their age?
In three words or less, no. I’m an overgrown kid at heart, and I have better recall of the first 27 years of my life than the last 30.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing a children’s book?
For me, it’s obviously keeping the word-count down.
What’s the greatest reward?
Well, the fame and fortune, of course! At least that’s what they tell me. LOL. Until then, I really do enjoy hearing about folks enjoying my books. It means I’ve done it right.
How can people get copies of your books?
The paperback versions can both be purchased at Amazon.com, the hardbacks are available at facebook.com/GraySheepGraphics and soon on my website, GraySheepGraphics.com, when it is set up. Hardbacks are also available at The BookMark, in Neptune Beach, Made in Jax, at the airport, The Marketplace at the outlet mall in St. Augustine, and, of course, Coastal Elements here in the scenic Sawgrass Village.
Tell me a bit about where you are from.
I’m a Navy brat, but we finally settled in Rat Town in 1973. So I grew up there, finally moving to Sawgrass a few years ago.
What do you like best about living in Ponte Vedra?
I like the beauty, the quiet and the security.
In your spare time, what do you like to do?
Well, when I’m able, I enjoy riding my bike. I finally enjoy just sketching again and enjoy volunteering to help feed the poor at my home parish in Atlantic Beach, St John’s.