Mike was a full time illustrator/graphic designer for many years. We’ll look at how the seed for “Milo” was planted and grew, from its beginnings as a traditional book dummy, to interactive iPad app.
We will also meet his agent, Rubin Pfeffer of East/West Literary Agency, who subsequently sold a 3-book deal for “Milo” and Mike Austin to Blue Apple books.
1. According to the Ruckus Media Group blog, the idea for Milo actually began 15 years ago, when your daughter was two. Has the story changed very much over that time?
Mike Austin: The concept behind the story really didn’t change all that much from the original idea of a cat/mouse chase around the house.
We (my daughter and I) were wondering what the heck Milo did all day besides eat and sleep! We thought maybe he’s actually running around all day, and that’s why he’s so tired all the time.
It’s funny because it wasn’t really thought out very much. I just sat down and started doodling and writing a very simple story, with the only intention being to draw funny pictures with my daughter before bed.
Rubin Pfeffer: It’s the simplicity of the story that yields all the charm!
2. How did you meet your agent, Rubin Pfeffer? Did he help you realize your vision for Milo?
Mike Austin: I hadn’t been actively seeking an agent, so when I received an email from Rubin (last March or April), I was thrilled!
Rubin had seen portfolio samples of my work on one of the illustration portfolio sites. He was interested in seeing more, and possibly collaborating on some projects. The feedback and insight I got from Rubin was invaluable. I think he’s a Jedi.
Rubin Pfeffer: Truth be told, his wife Jing Jing Tsong‘s work first struck me and going through her portfolio, I came upon Mike. They are both marvelous talents and I am eager to shepherd Jing into the world of children’s content. Both Mike and Jing are developing very young, playful stories.
3. You fleshed out Milo using traditional bookmaking methods: Storyboard; character studies of Milo; a schematic of his domain etc. before moving on to the book dummy, yes?
Mike Austin: Well… for the most part, although I didn’t really know the right way to go about it at the time.
My illustration style and approach to design is completely different from what it was 15 years ago. After digging around some boxes on a shelf under the house, I found my original dummy. It was cringe-worthy.
I spent about a month redrawing everything in my current style, and laid out the book the right way, with a lot of helpful feedback from my wife, illustrator Jing Jing Tsong .
I sent a pdf to Rubin. He suggested I tweak some things, which I did and then it was basically ready to show potential publishers.
Rubin Pfeffer: Mike, I didn’t see that (version of the) Milo style — hmmm, pretty cool.