By Jason A. Heidemann
J. Otto Seibold’s children’s books broke into our collective consciousness in 1997 when he and co-collaborator Vivian Walsh created Olive, the Other Reindeer, an instant holiday classic. The story is about a dog who believes it’s her destiny to join Santa and his team of reindeer as they deliver gifts and merriment to all the children of the world. The success of Olive has led to additional books, all of which share the same combination of humor and beautiful illustrations. Seibold’s newest book, Quincy, the Hobby Photographer, is a how-to guide for the emerging pet photographer in all of us.
Tails: How did you get started writing books?
J. Otto Seibold: I started writing them so that I could justify my drawings. It was in 1992 and I was becoming tired of the work I was doing. I did drawings for editorial and corporate needs. I became cynical about taking the money and undermining the intended messages. So I decided to try to survive on just my own creations….no hype, no agenda.
Tails: How did you dream up the idea for this book?
JOS: This book is ten years in the making! I do a lot of photography and one of my subjects was, and is, dogs. So I got them all together for the autopilot self-improvement guide, Quincy, the Hobby Photographer.
Tails: Are you really just a hobby photographer? In other words, is this the first time your images of dogs have been published?
JOS: Yes, it’s kind of my global unveiling. I hope to meet William Wegman at ‘The Dog Photography Institute’ some day.
Tails: You propose a special photography outfit when shooting dogs. Do you really wear a jumpsuit with action boots and a stylish hairpiece?
JOS: No, I didn’t propose that, Quincy did!
Tails: The book is illustrated in your signature whimsical style. Halfway through it switches gears to become a straightforward photography book before switching back to illustrations toward the end. Where did you come up with the idea to lay out the book this way?
JOS: Don’t call my signature whimsical! The switching of gears was inspired by my car. The photography section is like a lecture series slide show.
Tails: Tell us about your animals at home. How do they inspire you?
JOS: They uninspire me to work. They lie around a lot and then explode in rage if they think something is going down outside the front door. They also time their jumps to my lap for when I hit the “save” key and relax in my chair.
Tails: Your children’s books are very entertaining for adults. Would you say this is an adult book that’s also entertaining to children?
JOS: I’m not sure. This book is a rare hybrid of a fictional character taking real live photos. It requires the suspension of disbelief…I don’t know if kids or adults are better equipped for that. I do hope to reach a young audience that may be considering a life in the hobby arts.