I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey to the blog to discuss their upcoming middle grade graphic novel Link + Hud: Heroes By A Hair!
Jarrett is an award-winning author-illustrator. He makes books for kids with his brother, Jerome. Their books include It’s a Sign!, Somewhere in the Bayou, The Old Boat, and their author-illustrator debut, The Old Truck, which received seven starred reviews, was named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, and received the Ezra Jack Keats New Author Honor.
Jarrett spends his time writing and making stuff in his home near Austin, TX, where he lives with his wife, their two boys, a dog named Whiskey, and another dog named Ford. When he’s not writing or making stuff, you might find him fishing on a river somewhere or tinkering under the hood of his new old F100.
Jerome is a designer, illustrator, and writer, originally from Houston, TX. He studied graphic design at the Art Institute of Austin and has worked as a technical writer, freelance graphic designer, and illustrator.
Since 2016 he has been a graphic designer at The Walt Disney Company where he uses design and illustration to visually tell stories in print, digital, and immersive experiences for Disney global business development. He works primarily from his home office near Clearwater, FL, where he lives with his wife, daughter, and son.
Jerome is a member of the SCBWI and shares a previous author credit with Jarrett for Creepy Things Are Scaring Me (HarperCollins, 2003), which they wrote as teenagers.
Thank you both for joining me today! Let’s start from the beginning. How did the idea for Link + Hud: Heroes By A Hair come about?
Jarrett: The idea of making a book about two brothers actually came from our editor, Simon Boughton. He just asked if we’d ever considered it. We hadn’t considered it, but after he asked us, we were like, “Duh, we’re brothers. We make books together. Of course we should make a book about brothers together!” We knew the only way we’d want to do it was by pulling heavily from our own childhood for the story.
Title: Link + Hud: Heroes By A Hair
Authors: Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey
Published: March 7, 2023
Publisher: Norton Young Readers
Format: Graphic Novel
Can you tell us a bit about the creative process behind the book, from brainstorming to finalizing the illustrations?
Jarrett: This book represents a lot of firsts for us. We’d never written a novel or a graphic novel before. Never made anything longer than a picture book. Other than specifying a very loose age range, Simon gave us the freedom to make whatever we wanted. So, we started by reading a bunch of other books in the category.
Jerome: After we had a better idea of what was out there, we talked through a lot of questions about what we wanted to make and how we’d make it. Would we each write a brother? Maybe alternate chapters? Would it be straight prose? Graphic novel? Something else? How would we make the art? Printmaking like our picture books or some other way? We ultimately decided Jarrett would write the words and I’d draw the pictures, that we’d do a mix of graphic panels and illustrated prose, and that I’d draw the pictures with line art rather than printmaking due to how much art there would be and to better fit the style and vibe we wanted.
Jarrett: We finished the first three chapters–a graphic novel chapter and two prose chapters–to give ourselves and Simon a better idea of how we thought the book could work. We liked it. Simon liked it. That’s when we knew we had it figured out.
Link + Hud: Heroes By A Hair is based on your childhood together, how much of the story is based on real events? How did your experiences as brothers influence the dynamic between the main characters, Link and Hud?
Jarrett: Yes, parts of it are pulled straight from our childhood. Other parts are heavily inspired. Link and Hud Dupré are us. Along with our other two brothers, we turned the house upside down creating all sorts of other worlds, just like they do. Link and Hud’s parents are our parents, though our dad was a dentist, not a podiatrist. He was just as entrepreneurial as Dr. Dupré, though. The Black hair-care line Dr. Dupré invents called Au Salon is the same Black hair-care line our dad invented. Our dad couldn’t sell it either, so we had boxes of it filling our closets. Our parents brought on an elderly old school, no-nonsense babysitter to watch us after several younger babysitters couldn’t cut it. Her name was Ms. Joyce. Link and Hud call her “Goldtooth.” We never called her that, but she really did have a gold tooth.
Jerome: And we never got Ms. Joyce fired, but we did spend plenty of timeouts in the bathroom. We hated it just as much as Link and Hud do.
Can you talk about the process of transitioning from a picture book like The Old Truck, to now working on a middle grade graphic novel? What are some of the differences or similarities of the creative process for each format?
Jarrett: It was certainly different, but also the same in a lot of ways. There’s more text, more pictures, more story, but we tried to stick to our usual process where it made sense. We had to figure out format and voice and all those sorts of things, but before that, we started out like we always do. With story. Like, big picture, what are we even trying to say? What story are we trying to tell? What are the major beats? How do we hit those beats? How do we tell that story (so it’s not boring!)? Structure and format and all those other things followed, which is very similar to how it goes with our picture books. Like Jerome mentioned, on this book I wrote the words and he drew the pictures, so that’s a difference, but we were both still very involved in deciding how the text and visuals would work together.
Jerome: I agree. The biggest difference was just the scale. And mixing mediums, of course. This was our first time mixing panels and prose.
The format you used is so unique! I love the way you blend prose and graphic novel-style illustrations. How did you come up with the idea to use both prose and graphic novel elements?
Jarrett: We love comics and prose and had decided early on that we wanted to put them together in an interesting way. At one point we considered writing one brother in prose and the other in panels. We almost went that direction until we recognized an important part of the brotherly dynamic we wanted to capture, something that’s true to us as brothers, anyway: shared reality. In the book, we use the graphic novel chapters to show Link and Hud’s imagined world and the prose chapters to show the real world. But these brothers aren’t just playing make believe. They’re interacting with the real world together with a shared view informed by their boundless and active imaginations. The transitions from their view of the world in panels to the real world in prose provided a great way for us to show the consequences of that and made for some of the funniest moments in the book.
If readers only take one message away from Link + Hud: Heroes By A Hair, what would you want it to be?
Jarrett: Well, it would have to be the deepest and most serious message, of course: That it’s okay to wear their underwear on their heads if they want. It’s heroic, even. They should just make sure it’s their underwear and not their brother’s!
Jerome: I just want readers to enjoy the book and laugh out loud at all the funny parts.
What can readers expect from future installments in the Link + Hud series?
Jerome: More Link and Hud. More adventures. More brotherly mischief.
Jarrett: We’re working on book 2 now and hope to make many more after that!
You can learn more about the Pumphrey Brothers and their work at their website thepumphreybrothers.com or on social media. Jarrett is on Instagram @jpumphrey and Twitter @jpumphrey,Jerome is on Instagram @wjpumphrey and Twitter @wjpumphrey, and you can find both brothers on TikTok @pumphreybrothers.