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Tony DiTerlizzi
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Tony DiTerlizzi   Tony DiTerlizzi is the co-creator and illustrator of the #1 New York Times best-selling Spiderwick Chronicles, which was adapted into a blockbuster movie in 2008. The Spiderwick Chronicles have been translated into over 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. Tony won the Caldecott Honor Medal for his adaptation of The Spider and the Fly and the Zena Sutherland Award for his illustrated children's book, Ted. In the gaming industry, heís best known for his work in the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering and on the Planescape product line for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game.

Buy Tony DiTerlizzi's Books at the following locations: (downloadable audio books) (independent bookstores)
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This episode originally aired on 10/29/2009 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Tony DiTerlizzi

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This interview is with Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

Matthew Peterson: Hello there, this is Matthew Peterson, the host of the Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction. Last week I interviewed Diana Gabaldon, Meg Cabot, Shannon Hale and Kristin Cashore, which you can listen to in the archives. Iíve got a faery-themed episode for you today with Holly Black, Tony DiTerlizzi, Melissa Marr, Maggie Stiefvater, and Aprilynne Pike.

My first two guests today are Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, the creators of the #1 New York Times bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles. Tony DiTerlizzi won the Caldecott Honor Medal for his adaptation of The Spider and the Fly. In the gaming industry, heís best known for his work in the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering and on the Planescape product line for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. In addition to writing the Spiderwick Chronicles, Holly has also written three teenage books: Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside, which have received a lot of awards including finalist for the Mythopoeic Award, Booksense Pick, American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, The New York Public Library's best book for the Teenage, and the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Thanks for being on the show today guys.

Holly Black: Thanks for having us.

Tony DiTerlizzi: Thanks for having us.

Matthew Peterson: Let me start out saying, really quick, that I was there at the Nebula Banquet when Holly got her Andre Norton Award.

Holly Black: Oh, you heard my voice totally shake!

Matthew Peterson: I was sitting right in the front. You practically walked over my feet. I saw your expression and all I can say is you. . . looked. . . scared and shocked! I thought you were going to drop your award, you were shaking. [laughs]

Tony DiTerlizzi: Aahhh. [laughs]

Holly Black: [laughs] I was.

Matthew Peterson: Well, that was an exciting day for you. An ironic thing happened at the 2006 Nebula Banquet. And you probably donít remember this, but I was walking around with earbuds in my ears, listening to a great audiobook. I saw you sitting there alone. I didnít know who you were, so I started talking with you. And I discovered that you were one of the authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles. And this is the ironic thing about this experience. The great audiobook that I had been listening to, just happened to be one of the books in the Spiderwick Chronicles. [laughs]

Holly Black: That is really weird!!

Tony DiTerlizzi: Crazy. Wow!

Matthew Peterson: I know, just totally ironic! And I asked you if you had met Mark Hamill, because heís the narrator of the first 5 books and you said, ďLuke! Luke Skywalker!Ē

Holly Black: [laughs]

Tony DiTerlizzi: [laughs] We actually finally just met him in person, at this past San Diego ComiCon, he was there signing. And it was just amazing, Ďcause heís such a tremendous fan of the books. And of course, weíre tremendous fans, not just of his acting work, but with his voice over stuff that heís done as well. So, it was really cool to be able to know that he was that enthusiastic about doing the audio versions of the books.

Matthew Peterson: Really cool.

Tony DiTerlizzi: Heís a nice guy, very sweet.

Matthew Peterson: Well, Iím glad to have you guys on the show today. Tony, I just have to also say that I love the little videos on your website, especially the one where youíre trying to tell us whatís on the page and you keep messing up. [laughs] You re-do it and youíre like, ďOh forget it.Ē

Tony DiTerlizzi: Yeah. That is actually . . . we all had the case of the giggles. If you donít know, on the website, I have these little video-taped talking head things to introduce you to the sections. And my wife, Angela, was there and our web designer, Anthony. And they had the little camera and I either kept cracking up or I just couldnít focus with them there. So, they were like, ďWeíre going to leave, just do it.Ē And literally they just let the camera run. And what does he pick? Yeah, he would pick all the ones . . . all the out-takes.

Matthew Peterson: All the out-takes. Yeah. That was hilarious.

Tony, you did the illustrations for the Spiderwick Chronicles. What were some of the things that helped give you the inspiration for some of the drawings that you did?

Tony DiTerlizzi: The inspiration for the books, both visually and the context, was absolutely the old Grimmís fairy tales and Andersenís fairy tales and Andrew Langís Rainbow Fairy books that Holly and I both had copies of growing up as kids. I looked at a lot of those guys and most of those guys worked in, you know . . . you take the dip pen and you dip it in the little ink well and thatís how I did all of the art work for the little chapter books. When I went on to do the big, giant Arthur Spiderwickís Field Guide, I looked at a lot of John James Audubon, his actual original paintings and stuff like that. And then tried to kind of emulate his style for all the fairies and trolls and dragons and stuff.

Matthew Peterson: Where did you guys get the idea for the Spiderwick Chronicles?

Holly Black: Well, I think a lot of it came from fairy folklore, you know, thereís a lot of folklore. . . I went out into the field and collected these stories of peopleís real experiences with fairies. And a lot of them were really kind of spooky and a little scary and certainly not what I think a lot of peopleís perception of fairies are. You know, little tiny sprites that sparkle.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, Tinkerbell.

Holly Black: Yeah, yeah. In fact, even Tinkerbell has a lot more darkness I think than people remember. She tried to poison Wendy.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, I guess so. Youíre right.

Holly Black: Thereís an aspect of fairy folklore that I think people are, you know, just unfamiliar with that we were really interested in . . . the breadth of creatures. You have your pookas, you have your kelpies, you have your hobgoblins and goblins. And you have all of these creatures that arenít human and were never human, unlike lots of other fantastical creatures. And they have all of these rules and rituals, you know, they donít like the color red, they love the color green, you know they will help you around the house if you leave out a bowl of milk. You can offend them without even knowing youíre offending them. Itís all really really interesting. So, taking that and then putting it in this modern context with these regular kids is a huge part of what The Spiderwick Chronicles are about.

Matthew Peterson: Thereís basically kind of two series. Theyíre all in the same world. The Spiderwick Chronicles with the five books. Holly, gives us just a quick little recap of those first five books and then weíll talk a little bit about Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles.

Holly Black: The first five books of Spiderwick Chronicles are about Jared, Simon and Malory Grace being moved to their great, great uncle, Arthur Spiderwickís dilapidated Victorian house, far from the city where they used to live, and there they find his field guide and itís kind of an Audubon style field guide, but itís to fairies. And they begin to realize that he did these drawings from life and that these creatures are out there and that they donít want this guide to be found . . .chaos and mayhem ensue.

Matthew Peterson: So the actual field guide itself. So thatís why thereís so many drawings and thatís where Tony really came in. Not only are you reading the field guide, but it almost has the feel of the field guide because you have all these drawings in there. I thought that was a great aspect to the series.

Tony DiTerlizzi: We definitely put a lot of art in to kind of break it up for younger readers. You know, when we first were working on the books, bookstores and book sales were kind of dominated by Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket and stuff like that. So we really didnít want to go in head to head against such magnificent titles. One of the things that we kind of realized . . . I had been toying with the afore-mentioned picture book The Spider and the Fly and I was talking to like fourth and fifth graders, I realized that what the reading level of one nine year old or ten year old was vastly different than another nine or ten year old. And so we tried to address that early on with the Spiderwick books. We donít simplify the text, we donít change anything, we just simply make it less daunting for a younger reader. And then on top of that, lots and lots of artwork to kind of help in the comprehension of the story as it unfolds. This is a great thing, because you had me, prior to this, doing picture books, where the art is SO integral and then you have Hollyís part of this doing young adult teen novels. So, The Spiderwick Chronicles became this like middle ground where we kind of use the best of our abilities and our superpowers to try to tell a story.

Holly Black: [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: Your super powers, I like that. So, was it in the original plans to create more books after the first series? The Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles?

Holly Black: We always knew that there would be another series and one of the things that we wanted to do with it, even early on, was try and kind of contradict some of the original perceptions of the first series. You know thereís fairy folklore all over the world and so, pick a setting like Florida, thatís really unexpected to have a kid, instead of living in a musty old Victorian house, to live in a development, to be able to buy the book in the bookstore, rather than find it in an old trunk. I think that working with the idea that no matter where the knowledge comes from, it can come from a shiny new book, the knowledge will still get you in tons and tons of trouble.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Holly Black: And these pictures are out there in everyoneís backyard, even a really landscaped one.

Matthew Peterson: What can you tell us about the Wyrm King, Ďcause thatís the last book in the series.

Holly Black: Well, in a lot of ways the Wyrm King is the culmination of both series, because Nick, Laurie and Jules have to enlist the help of Jared, Simon and Malory to deal with the Wyrm King, which is this creature that they donít know much about because itís not in Arthur Spiderwickís Field Guide and they donít know how to navigate that, thatís totally outside of their experience. So they really have to go it alone, without this guide. And again, something we wanted to do to bring home the point that Arthur Spiderwick was just one guy, this is just his lifeís work, but he had to have missed some stuff, he had to have gotten some stuff wrong. And so, you know, in this book they have to go it alone.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. What were your thoughts about the Spiderwick Chronicles movie?

Tony DiTerlizzi: Overall, we were pleased as punch with the final result. We were executive producers, which really was just a fancy way of saying we were consultants on the adaptation process with the script or through some of the visuals. You know, I think we knew going into it that there would be changes made. It was evident right from the beginning, when youíre taking the five books and kind of reformatting them to fit in a 90 minute three act structure. So, we were prepared for certain changes to be made, but I think overall they really retained the spirit of the book, both in the story and visually. I mean I think a lot of the final effects were very close, if not better than some of the stuff we imagined it looking in the book. It was amazing. And they did a video game! I mean they did all this other cool stuff that went with it.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Yeah, I thought it was really good. If you havenít seen the movie, go out and see it. I walked out thinking it really did follow the spirit of The Spiderwick Chronicles. I thought Iíd mention also that did a huge essay contest and my niece, Amanda Peterson, just so happened to be the one to win the essay contest and she was flown to the premier of the Spiderwick Chronicles where I understand she met you guys. [laughs] Iím sure that whole night was just one big blur.

Tony DiTerlizzi: I wonder if she was at the L.A. premier because there was . . .

Holly Black: Yeah.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah, that was it.

Tony DiTerlizzi: . . . someone met us that was at the premier that had won a contest, and I bet that was her.

Matthew Peterson: That was her. I think she probably interviewed you guys for Mugglenet.

Holly Black: Mm Hmm

Matthew Peterson: Yep. [laughs] So, small world.

Tony DiTerlizzi: Very cool. It is a little surreal. You know when we sat down to do it and really rolled up our sleeves to make the book, we had no idea. You donít do a book and go, ďAhh weíre going to sell millions of copies!Ē

Holly Black: [laughs]

Tony DiTerlizzi: You just do it Ďcause you love it, and Holly and I loved the idea of trying to keep fairy folklore alive and be able to tell a fantastic fairy tale, but with modern day kids.

Holly Black: And also I think, you know, you try and keep your expectations realistic.

Tony DiTerlizzi: [laughs]

Holly Black: I mean, really, you try and minimize your expectations. And so when it finally happens, youíre really like, ďWait, this is all real! This is so weird!Ē

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] This really did happen! I know youíve said this is the final book, but can we see a Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles movie in the future? I mean is that a possibility?

Tony DiTerlizzi: Thatís a great question and itís one, sadly, we donít really know the answer to. Weíve heard that the film did well. It was critically acclaimed. It was an expensive film to make, though, I mean, thatís always the trick with these really special-effect laden movies, they arenít cheap to produce. So, I guess only time will tell.

Matthew Peterson: Alright.

Holly Black: Weíll keep our fingers crossed.

Matthew Peterson: Yes, yes, I will too, because I really enjoyed it and my boys did too.

Well, Iíve been speaking with Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, the creators of the #1 New York Times bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles, with the final book, The Wyrm King, now available. Holly and Tony, thanks for being on the show today.

Holly Black: Thank you!

Tony DiTerlizzi: Thanks for having us.

Matthew Peterson: Okay! Make sure you go to after the show and listen to the bonus questions. Donít go away, Iíve got Melissa Mar, Maggie Stiefvater, and Aprilynne Pike coming up next.

  Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.  

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