Author and illustrator of “Sneezing’s Greetings”
Today I’m interviewing Jae Johans, the author and illustrator of the hysterical holiday story, “Sneezing’s Greetings.”
KIT: Hey Jae, how did we meet?
JAE: Kismet? Serendipity? Karma?
I’m not sure, but I do remember you rather rescuing me at a portfolio event at the SCBWI conference. I was standing there all alone, rather shy about approaching strangers, when you walked up and started talking to me. After that, the conference improved 100%.
KIT: You were the only person I met who wanted to laugh as much as I did. “Sneezing’s Greetings” sounds like a covid plague book. What’s it really about?
JAE: Ah yes, that was my fear putting the book out now. I’ve had the story in my head for years and sadly, needed the pandemic to have the time to finish it. It’s a Christmas book, if that isn’t obvious by the title, and it’s about a Christmas that almost doesn’t happen because Santa has a major allergic reaction to something on his sleigh.
KIT: Ah jeez, Santa sneezing all over the toys. Somebody grab the sanitizer and put that jolly elf in a mask.
KIT: On a more serious topic: do you feel there’s a need for more boogers in children’s literature? I mean, Santa is probably spreading a lot of them around, what with all that sneezing.
JAE: I think boogers have a voice, a point of view, and should not be discriminated against or banned from books regardless of age.
KIT: I love the bumper stickers on the sleigh. There are so many hidden jokes in the images, I find myself looking at absolutely everything in the art.
KIT: Was there a verse that was particularly difficult to write, because of the rhyme or meter or something else?
JAE: The ending was difficult to write because I knew the feeling I wanted to express but I was struggling to not to make it preachy or precious. And the other difficult part was the editing- to have to cut whole lines and stanzas that I loved simply because they didn’t move the story along.
KIT: What drawing did you have to re-do the most? Can we see some of the versions?
JAE: Well I had to play a while with my Mrs Claus character. She went through many renditions. And again, the illustrations for the last few pages, because I kept changing my mind on the text.
KIT: I love them all, but I especially love that candy swirl of grey and white hair in the final version.
You used to design products and branding for a company that contracted with the National Parks Service. Can we see some of what you did?
JAE: I designed the window art for the National Blues Museum, and also wrote and illustrated kids’ books for the St. Louis Arch and the Biltmore Estate.
KIT: If left to your own devices, what do you wish you could have designed for the National Parks Service?
JAE: I wish I could have introduced more innovative, inclusive and inspirational products and occasionally ventured away from the old expected products you have seen for 30 years. The world is changing. The visitor is changing and so souvenirs need to change. People want more than a boring postcard, magnet or t-shirt. (Do people even send postcards anymore when you take a photo on your phone and text them?)
KIT: Tell me about your Kickstarter campaign for “Sneezing’s Greetings.”
JAE: I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to get my book printed the way I wanted it to be printed. Quality: Hard cover, nice paper, vivid ink colors, etc.
I could use Amazon’s Print on Demand option and if the Kickstarter fails that’s what I will do but I wanted the chance to have the book printed the way I envisioned it.
So you can either give the money to Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, or me by supporting the Kickstarter campaign. Either way, I hope you’ll buy the book.
KIT: What do I get if I contribute?
JAE: Well, it depends on the tier level you choose to support. You can get an autographed copy of the book, or for a larger contribution you can receive the book plus a limited edition, hand-crafted ornament.
And as an extra special contribution someone could have their kid’s or grandkid’s names place don the gift name tags throughout the book so those kids can search for the Christmas present while you’re reading to them.
KIT: I want my own name on all of them.
“Sneezing’s Greetings” by Jae Johans will be available for Christmas, 2022. Visit her Kickstarter campaign or the book’s website.
Thank you, Jae, for being my guest, and…. Gesundheit!