The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters

Click below to see clips from Maxwell’s interviews with the author and illustrator of The Jolly Regina.

Author Kara LaReau and illustrator Jen Hill have set sail with a new middle-grade series called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters (Harry N. Abrams, January 2017).

The Jolly Regina is the first book of the planned trilogy. It tells the story of Jaundice and Kale Bland, two sisters who will do anything to avoid excitement. But the girls are in for lots of adventure when they get kidnapped by an all-female band of pirates.

I had the chance to talk with LaReau and Hill at a recent book signing at An Unlikely Story in Plainville, Massachusetts. Both artists agreed that “serendipity” brought them together for the book project. Here are highlights from our conversation.



Can you tell us about your writing adventures?
I’ve been writing all my life, and I went to school for writing. When I graduated, I ended up getting a job editing children’s books, and it was a great education for me. But the more I edited other people’s books, the more I wanted to try writing my own books. I started writing picture books, and then from there, I started writing chapter books.

What inspired you to write The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters?
It was meant to be a really funny joke for my sister and me. My sister and I aren’t normally boring, but sometimes we have a tendency to be homebodies. I thought that it would be fun to write a scene about these two boring sisters. It turned out that they had more to say, and they kept talking to me. Before I knew it, there was a story there, and I couldn’t stop writing.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
My friend Scott Magoon is one of my favorites. I also love the work of Matthew Cordell, Dan Santat, and Kate DiCamillo.

What is a common trap for writers just getting started?
When you’re first writing the draft of a story, you have to let yourself be OK with the writing not being very good. After you’re done with the draft, you can go back and clean it up. I sometimes call my draft “the gargoyle” because it’s ugly. My advice is to let it all hang out.



Who is your favorite character in the book, and why?
I like the Smokey and Princess duo because they’re weird best friends. Also, they’re always in the background.

What do you think makes the book appealing?
The names and word plays just draw you in. This book is rich with humor and characters who get into crazy stuff.

How would you describe your artistic style?
All over the place. I’m influenced by darker artists like Edward Gorey, but also humor. Sometimes I draw creepy characters, and sometimes I draw silly characters.

How do you overcome creative block?
A lot of times the best thing to do is not do it. Take a walk, go to the mall, or go see a movie. Then things come and hit you when you least expect it.

Who is your favorite illustrator?
I love James Marshall, who is the creator of George and Martha.