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‘Big Nate’ author Lincoln Peirce talks with Kidsday

Author Lincoln Peirce with Kidsday reporters, from left,

Author Lincoln Peirce with Kidsday reporters, from left, Gianna Masciopinto, Makayla DeMeo, Cayla Reischman and Madison McCormick in Manhattan. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We met author Lincoln Peirce when he was visiting Manhattan recently. He is the author of one our favorite books series, “Big Nate”!

What inspired you to be a writer?

At first I wasn’t really inspired to be a writer. I was inspired to be a cartoonist and then realized that there was a lot of writing getting cartooning. I just wanted to draw funny pictures, but my biggest inspiration was the comic strip Peanuts. I love Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and so I read those comics all the time. I only got interested in that later on after I’d been a cartoonist for a lot of years. I also read a lot of regular books like Charlotte’s Web — the greatest book ever. Books like that always inspired me too.

Were any of your books ever rejected?

No. I was very lucky but a lot of my comic strips were rejected. Here’s how it works for cartoons. You girls ever read the newspaper? If your newspaper had a comic section in it you’ll see that maybe there are two dozen, 30 comic strips there. So that’s only 30 spots in a newspaper, but there are a lot more than 30 cartoons. There are hundreds and they’re all trying to get the same spots in the newspaper. So when you’re trying to get your comic strip into the newspapers you submit it to these companies and they either reject you or tell you if your comic strip is good enough. Before I started Big Nate, I tried a lot of other comic strips that were rejected. But I kept plugging away. I started when I was 18 and I finally got Big Nate started when I was about 26.

Who was your favorite author as a kid?

Charles Schulz was my favorite cartoonist for sure. My favorite author was probably a guy named John D. Fitzgerald, who wrote a series of books called The Great Brain books and I don’t think they’re popular now, but I loved them. I think there was seven of them. They were about a really smart kid who lived in Utah like in the 1890s. He had all these adventures. Sometimes he’d use it in good ways to help people but a lot of times he would try to use it to sort of fool his friends. He was sort of a rascal. It had really good illustrations. I always loved books that had illustrations that went along with the story.

Big Nate sometimes had rivalries. Do you have any rivals with authors?

No, we’re all good friends. Here is an interesting story. The author’s name is Jeff Kinney, and I’ve known him since he was 19. You know how we met? He was a student at the University of Maryland and he was 19 and he wanted to become a cartoonist and I, at the time, started Big Nate, the comic strip that has been going for a year or two. And he sent me fan mail and he said, “My name is Jeff Kinney and I want to be a cartoonist and here’s the cartoon, the comic strip that I do for my college newspaper. Can you give me some advice?” This was before the days of email. He sent me a letter. I sent him a letter back and we became pen pals. We wrote letters back and forth. We did that for a couple of years until he finished college and then we sort of lost touch. But then he got back in touch years later. So right on the front of Big Nate book it says “ ‘Big Nate is funny big time,’ according to Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Because we’re friends he did that nice thing for me, recommended my book to other people. That was really nice of him. So, no, we don’t have a rivalry at all.

Did you get in trouble as a kid?

Sometimes, not as often as Nate does. I would say I was a pretty well-behaved student, but I was not as well-behaved as my older brother. He was very quiet, a very good student, very respectful. And I was a little more rambunctious and I got into a little bit more trouble than he did.

Where do you do your writing?

My house in Maine. If you’re looking at my house, it has these two little sunrooms attached and before we owned the house an elderly couple lived there, friends of ours, and they sold the house to us. The elderly gentleman used one of these sunrooms as his little library. He had a lot of book shelves in there and when we bought the house I said, “That little room would make a perfect office for me,” because it had a lot of shelves and has a little space where I can put my desk. When I’m trying to think up ideas I usually sit on my couch with a little notebook and I’ll sort of write and doodle like that. When I’m ready to start writing for my books I’ll write on my laptop and when I draw, I draw on my little drawing pad. I do lettering by hand. Most cartoonists do their stuff almost on the computer now. I do things the old-fashioned way.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

I just had some strawberry ice cream last night. So that’s right up there, but I can’t pick just one. Can I pick many? I love maple walnut, mint chocolate chip, I live in Maine and there’s a place that I used to take kids for ice cream when they were little. You get a flavor there called Indian Pudding, which I loved. So those are my top four.

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