Creator Corner: Bee & Flea series author Anna Humphrey and illustrator Mike Deas
Welcome to Creator Corner! Each month we interview the creators of one of our recent books. This month, we interviewed Bee & Flea chapter book series author Anna Humphrey and illustrator Mike Deas. The second book in the series, Bee & Flea and the Puddle Problem, published in spring.
Owlkids Books: Anna, when did you know that you wanted to be an author?
Anna Humphrey: I was in grade 6 when I found out that Canadian author Gordon Korman wrote his first book in the seventh grade. I remember thinking, “Okay! I’ve got a year to get this done!” I never did finish (and definitely didn’t publish) the book I started that year. But I also never got over feeling jealous of Gordon Korman, which is how I knew I wanted to be a writer too.
OKB: Mike, when did you know that you wanted to be an illustrator?
Mike Deas: Probably around 8 or 9 [years old]. I have always drawn pictures, and [I] loved reading comics. When I realized it was a job I could do, I got excited by the possibilities. I started working in video game concepts first and moved into illustration from there.
OKB: Anna, what are your favorite things to write about?
AH: Almost all my books feature animals, and lately (in both the Bee & Flea series and the Megabat* series) unlikely friendships tend to play a huge part.
OKB: What inspired you to write this series?
AH: Did you know that there are microscopic creatures living in your eyelashes? Neither did I. And now I (and unfortunately you) can never un-know it. It’s okay though. Try not to worry. They actually help us out by feeding on the oil and grime that builds up around our eyes.
When I learned about eyelash mites (technically called Demodex folliculorum), it got me wondering what other itty-bitty creatures unseen were all around us doing important (and often unsung) work. But to see them clearly, I felt like I needed some characters who were a lot smaller than me: enter Bee and Flea and all their backyard adventures.
OKB: Mike, which spread did you most enjoy illustrating and why?
MD: My favorite illustration to do was (the one on page 77) when Bee finds the dried, flattened baby water bear before she throws it back into the puddle to rehydrate.
OKB: Which illustration was most challenging, and why?
MD: I think the most challenging things to illustrate from the Bee and Flea series are the insects. Making them cartoony and goofy characters to fit the stories, while still trying to somewhat stay true to how they look in real life.
OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
MD: I love the themes of friendship and different personalities Anna Humphrey has included in these stories. I hope readers can take away that notion of friendships can come from all different places!
AH: I hope readers will laugh at Bee and Flea’s antics, but that they’ll also leave the story just a little more aware of how—big and small—the creatures of the world work together in wonderful ways.
OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?
AH: Just like Bee & Flea, I spend a lot of time in my backyard! They work out of garden shed they call Shedquarters, and I work in a little cabin we had built during the early part of the pandemic when I needed a quiet place to write. We call it the Cabanna (with 2 Ns) since it’s a cabin for an Anna. Last summer, my neighbor even made me a cute little Bee & Flea whirligig that I keep on the front porch.
*The Megabat series is published by Penguin Random House.