The author/illustrator is a native Pittsburgher who has lived in beautiful West Virginia for the past fifteen years. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Dayton School of Law. He has two kids, works as a federal prosecutor, and likes to paint in his spare time.
Interview: David J. Perri
Q1: You noted that Larry was inspired by three different people in your life—can you elaborate on how they inspired this character and your desire to write a book based on him?
A: Larry’s character is an amalgamation of these three people. When I was younger, I had a much older fellow prosecutor who always seemed to be wading chest-deep in chaos and disorganization. It was normal for her. She literally had Post-its sticking to her office chair and every surface to help her remember things. She relied constantly on the help of everyone around her for a hundred different things. But when she was in court, something magical happened. She was like a thoroughbred. She was in complete control. Nothing phased her. She was in her element. It was really something to watch. Also at that time, I had another much older fellow prosecutor. I can remember him sitting at a classroom-type table attending a lecture given by the boss. He had a tuft of white hair and little wire-rim glasses that rested on his rather pronounced, pointed nose. In full view of the boss, he was going through some mail from his private practice and had already generated a messy pile of opened envelopes about eight inches high by the time I saw him. The boss was talking, and this guy was just blissfully, nonchalantly going about his business and doing his own thing, opening envelopes and inspecting their content, as if he was completely oblivious to the possibility of reprisal – and nobody said anything! I thought that was really beautiful in a way. The third person is my dad. Completely unaware of how messy he is, he is also completely hapless as to how to be neater, even when called on it. But he has so many good qualities that people just deal with it or overlook it. He is just too lovable, I suppose.
Q2: What made you decide to represent Larry as a bear?
A: Actually, I’m told that there is some disagreement about what he is! The kids can’t decide. I didn’t set out to make him a bear. I drew a character that “fit” a character.
Q3: Why did you choose the specific famous paintings you display in the art museum section of the book?
A: I am a huge fan of the Impressionists. Degas and Van Gogh are shockingly amazing to me, but I also love Toulouse Lautrec, Monet, and Matisse. I would love it if every kid could experience fine art.
Q4: Why did you want to include the “Things to think about” section of your book?
A. I liked the idea of experiencing the book on a deeper level. For some kids, the underlying themes are going to register instantly, even if on a sub-conscious level. They may express empathy or ask questions. For others, a little prompting will be necessary. It’s also a way for a parent or relative or teacher to interact with the child in connection with the book for more than just a few minutes.
Q5: You both wrote and illustrated Messy Larry, do you have formal training in art?
A: Yes; I do. I am primarily a painter. Actually, my drawing skills are not as good as my wife’s! What she can draw on a napkin at a restaurant would make your head spin. I’m hoping that kids will respond to the naivete and simplicity of my drawings.
Q6: As both an author and an illustrator, which form of expression do you prefer: writing or illustrating?
A: Each can be fun, and each can be daunting. Both require inspiration.
Q7: Does Uncle Ken represent a certain person or persons in your life who have supported your artistic endeavors?
A: I suppose that the closest person to Great Uncle Ken would be my wife’s grandmother, who treated me like one of her own, and who was a talented artist. I could envision her handling a situation much like Great Uncle Ken did. She could think outside of the box, and she was a “Ken” in many ways for my wife when she was a kid. She understood my wife, a talented child, better than her own parents did. She had knack for recognizing what a child needed.
Q8: Is Larry’s final painting in his uncle’s shed representative of a famous piece of work or famous artist?
A: Absolutely not. It is entirely – and uniquely – his own. It is as if he projected himself on the ceiling.
Q9: What is the significance of the blue paint can on page 27?
A: Blue is Larry’s favorite color. But he finds the fluorescent orange color of cheese curls interesting as well, partly because it’s impossible to re-create that color on a palate! (hint: check out his Instagram)
Q10: On page 27 you allude to this story being just the beginning for Larry. Do you plan on creating other stories around Larry’s character?
A: It marks the beginning of a new life for Larry, now that he is . . . liberated. As to a sequel or series, I guess you’ll have to wait and see. ; )
___Interview Part Two___
Q11: It has been some time since our last interview. What has Larry been up too?
A: Well, we have participated in the Martinsburg Book Faire, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Plans for a book signing/party are in the works. I would really like to find some way to display some of my paintings at the same time, kind of like a book signing inside of a gallery showing. It’s only fitting, since Larry cares so much about art, don’t you think? The book is not so much me making a statement about Larry as it is Larry teaching us about the drive to create and express oneself. I was also featured as the lead story in the University of Dayton electronic newsletter on May 29th.
Q12: Does Larry have any friends willing to share their adventures since they read the book?
A: There are some really good ones on Amazon, especially from art teachers. And you might want to check out Larry’s Instagram.
Q13:Can you provide Larry’s Instagram URL for the readers?
A: Sure! Messy.Larry
Q14:You told us that you are primarily a painter, is this something that you do full-time, or want to do full-time?
A: I have so many “hats.” Author is one of them. But I write because I want to. I paint because I have to. I just wish I had more time for it. So, it would be correct to say that I am primarily a prosecutor. Yes; that’s right. (Bet you didn’t see that coming!) But I would be interested in painting full time . . . some day.
Be sure to visit Messy Larry @ https://www.instagram.com/messy.larry/
Art is about self-expression and the desire to create. What is the role of art in your life? What if you had no way to express yourself? How would you be different?
Larry is a little different from the other kids in his grade school class. For starters, he’s big, and he’s clumsy, and he looks kind of like a bear! Larry loves art and wants to make art, but his messiness keeps getting in the way, with hilarious results. At his wit’s end, he seeks out a favorite relative. Great Uncle Ken helps Larry find a way to express the beauty he knew was inside him.
“Messy Larry” is about being who you are, and about becoming who you were meant to be. But, self-realization is often a messy and uncomfortable process. The undercurrent themes of compassion, acceptance, and understanding will resonate with many children.
A special “things to think about” section in the back provides the opportunity for discussion of these themes, as well as for the child to experience the book in a more interactive way.
Interview by -Kirsten D./ Editor FEDP
David’s book is available at all online retailers in Print – Paperback and Hardcover, as well as eBook format worldwide.
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