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Juana Martinez-Neal

A Mini-Interview with Brian Won

Welcome to our third week of the 2013 November Mini-Interviews. This week, I have invited an author-illustrator whose work I love. The most wonderful Brian Won.

I saw Brian’s work for the first time at Lost Weekend 2012. Brian was a Mentee from the 2012 SCBWI Los Angeles Conference. I immediately connected with his work. It was moving, full of emotion, and full of heart. The details, textures and subject matter were fantastic. I had to have some time to ask him some questions about his Author-Illlustration career, and so, I asked him to be a guest of our Mini-Interviews. To my pleasure, he agreed.

With you, the fantastic Brian Won.


Brian Won

About Brian Won

Brian Won is an illustrator, children’s book author, and motion graphics designer. He wears many hats.

After graduating from Art Center College of Design with an illustration degree, he studied graphic design, and co–founded a motion graphics company, National Television. During his 12 years in the motion design industry, his roles have varied from Creative Director, Art Director, Illustrator, and Designer. He is also a father of a three year old boy and coincidentally, wrote and illustrated a children’s book entitled “Hooray for Hat!” coming out in Spring 2014.
To learn more about Brian, you can visit his website: brianwon.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mini-Interview with Brian Won

‘The Boy Who Couldn’t Fly’ by Brian Won

Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:

Drawing words I struggle writing.

Which books, that were your favorites when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?

Roald Dahl/Quentin Blake books had the most impact on me especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the third grade, I won a bookmark contest by drawing Willy Wonka.

Mini-Interview with Brian Won

Charlie and Friends by Brian Won

Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience, that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.

The inspiration for HOORAY FOR HAT! came from my son Charlie. When he was two years old, he would run around the house yelling “Hooray for Hat!” It confused me that it was a singular hat and not plural “hats”. He was (and still is) bad at sharing, so I wanted to write a story on the benefits of sharing outside of just social etiquette.

Linked is a Time magazine article explaining the direct connection between happiness and sharing: The New Happiness of Sharing

Why do exercising gratitude, kindness and other virtues provide a lift? “Giving makes you feel good about yourself,” says Peterson. “When you’re volunteering, you’re distracting yourself from your own existence, and that’s beneficial. More fuzzily, giving puts meaning into your life. You have a sense of purpose because you matter to someone else.” Virtually all the happiness exercises being tested by positive psychologists, he says, make people feel more connected to others.

That seems to be the most fundamental finding from the science of happiness. “Almost every person feels happier when they’re with other people,” observes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Mini-Interview with Brian Won

Art from ‘Horray for Hat!’ by Brian Won

Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? Please give us a peek.[

Here’s a random tidbit: while working on HOORAY FOR HAT! there was a commercial for Sonos with Janelle Monae dancing. When I saw her, I thought, “This is the way Zebra must march!”

Mini-Interview with Brian Won

Inspiration for ‘Hooray For Hat!’ by Brian Won

Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?

Ideally, I would have a much more regimented work day, but with a little boy running around it happens whenever there’s an opportunity to begin. I recently came across this advice from Roald Dahl which I believe applies to illustration/picture books too:

But Hemingway, a great American writer, taught me the finest trick when doing a long book, which is, he simply said in his own words, “When you are going good, stop writing.” And that means that if everything’s going well and you know exactly where the end of the chapter’s going to go and you know just what the people are going to do, you don’t go on writing and writing until you come to the end of it, because when you do, then you say, well, where am I going to go next? And you get up and you walk away and you don’t want to come back because you don’t know where you want to go.

But if you stop when you’re going good, as Hemingway said…then you know what you are going to say next. You make yourself stop, put your pencil down and everything, and you walk away. And you can’t wait to get back because you know what you want to say next and that’s lovely and you have to try and do that. Every time, every day all the way through the year. If you stop when you are stuck, then you are in trouble!

To answer the question, I need something to do, somewhere to start, in order to begin my day.

Mini-Interview with Brian Won

What Little Boys Are Made Of by Brian Won

Would you tell me about your first experience as an author-illustrator? How did it happen? Who gave you that chance?

My first experience as an author-illustrator could only happen through the kindness of strangers (now near and dear friends). At the 2012 SCBWI Los Angeles conference, I received one of five illustration mentorship spots. Mentor David Diaz, opened up his home for the Lost Weekend where I not only got to meet past mentees, but my amazing agent Rubin Pfeffer of East West Literary Agency. Rubin graciously emailed me after the Lost Weekend and offered his help. I soon sent him the dummy for HOORAY FOR HAT! and after some revisions we sent it to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s senior executive editor, Jeannette Larson. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match. Jeannette is a joy to work with.

These are just a handful of awesome people I’ve mentioned, but actually there are so many more! I hope to pass the same encouragement forward.

Mini-Interview with Brian Won

A Cautionary Tale for Charlie by Brian Won

Horray for Hat! by Brian Won

‘Horray for Hat!’ by Brian Won


You already are! Thanks, Brian for the interview. It was great to have you.

I will see you here next Tuesday with my Mini-Interview with Zachariah OHora but before then, don’t miss the 3 interviews for this week:

This post is part of the Mini-Interview Series where 4 children’s illustrators interview other Children’s Illustrators and Author-Illustrators throughout the month of November. Our guests for 2013 include:

You can learn more about the Series and the guests to this blog here.


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Children's book author and illustrator, mami of three, wife, sun aficionado, amateur singer and Margarita lover born in Lima, Peru and living in sunny AZ.


  • November 20, 2013

    Hurray for Brian Won! Great interview!

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