At Home & Living
An Interview with Matthew Porter
Seattle’s Child had a chance to talk to Matthew Porter about his new book, Monkey World: The Thunderbolt Express, his creative process and his favorite family activities around Seattle. Here's what he had to say:
The Monkey World books are your first storybooks. What inspired you to start writing storybooks instead of sticking to toddler books like ABC and Count the Birdies?
I’ve always been into writing poems and short stories so producing a storybook was on my to-do list right from the start. The board books have been a great introduction to the world of publishing and I’ve learned a lot by doing them, but it’s always been my plan to do other kinds of books as well.
Why did you choose to make the main characters monkeys?
I used to write short stories about ants and fleas that acted like human beings but it was Monkey World where the words and pictures really gelled together. You can have a lot more fun with a monkey! For some reason I find it easier and more entertaining to write about monkeys who act like human beings than humans who act like monkeys!
Are you willing to give any hints about what mayhem will occur in Monkey World next?
Yeah. I’m finishing up the sketches for the next one right now. It’s called The Rise & Fall of Oscar the Magician. It’s set before, during and after the events that happen in The Thunderbolt Express book. It basically tells you how Oscar ends up in the situation he does in the Thunderbolt book and what happens to him afterward.
You are both the author and illustrator of your books. When you’re developing your stories do the words or the pictures emerge first? Give some insight into your creative process.
The idea for The Thunderbolt Express came from a poem I wrote in the original Monkey World: An A-Z of Occupations book from 2008. That was about a straight-forward train journey. I took that and added the classic “oh no the bridge is out!” situation. Most of the characters in the Thunderbolt are in the Monkey World poetry book. I wrote the story first with the idea that each page had to have something interesting going on in the illustrations. Then I trimmed the words down as much as I could so the whole thing moves along quickly like a speeding train. Then I drew all the pictures, made adjustments, and finally got my paint brushes out. I use acrylic paint on wood and black ink for the lines.
Other than the books you have written, what is one of your favorite books to read with your son?
Richard Scarry’s Cars, Trucks and Things That Go is a firm favorite in our house but that tends to be more about pointing at things and trying to find gold bug than actually reading a story.
What is your favorite way to spend a fall Seattle day with your family?
I’m a big fan of Magnuson Park. I love walking around the wetland there. I also like a stroll around Woodland Park Zoo, building train tracks, running about with airplanes, pretending to be a car stuck in the mud or a growling tiger on the prowl.
Is there anything else you would like Seattle’s Child readers to know?
I also do commissions. Small ones and big ones.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
More About This Story...
Join Seattle illustrator and author Matthew Porter at the release party for his latest children’s book, Monkey World: The Thunderbolt Express on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Seattle Creative Arts Center, located at 2601 N.W. Market St. in Seattle.
This free event for families will feature games and activities, snacks, drinks and an art sale. Porter will also read from The Thunderbolt Express.
Visit Matthew Porter's website for more information.