Interview: Deborah Diesen

[Text from my Q&A column in Story Monsters Ink Magazine, Feb 2018, check out SMI here!]


Q & A with Deborah Diesen, author of The Pout-Pout Fish series!

Deborah, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for all our Story Monsters! The Pout-Pout books have been a staple in our house since my daughter was born, and we recently added The Not Very Merry Pop-Pout Fish as a holiday treat this year!

Pout-Pout fanatics know how our favorite lovable and grumpy fish turns it all around in the end for a happy ending. What was the inspiration for your Pout-Pout character? Where did our unlikely yet utterly-relatable champ come from?

Many years ago, my elder son, who was a toddler at the time, was having a pouty day. I tried to cheer him up by making an exaggerated pouty face at him. He smiled, and then he made a pouty face back at me. We both started laughing and I said, “We look like fish. Like pout-pout fish!” And just like that, the idea appeared. Mr. Fish has been swimming around in my head ever since!

The illustrations (by the fabulous Dan Hanna) are so captivating – how much art direction did you have on the original project and how on earth did you ever explain your idea for the sulky yet adorable fish?

Dan’s art is amazing, and the series wouldn’t exist without his talent and vision. As we began work on the first book, I provided no art direction to Dan. I wasn’t actually sure what Mr. Fish looked like! But as soon as I saw Dan’s illustrations? I said, “That’s it, exactly!”

At events and book signings, I’m sure you hear “I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book…” Any words of advice you’d like to give our readers?

I typically give four pieces of advice to would-be authors (and I regularly repeat the same advice to myself).

  1. Writing grows from reading. The more you read, the more you understand about story structure, plot, character development, and use of language.
  2. Meet with other writers to receive feedback on your work. Writing starts as a solitary activity, but it develops from the input and encouragement of others.
  3. All aspects of the writing process, from first drafts to revision to finding a publisher, require doses of hard work, and you’ll occasionally be doused by discouragement along the way. So commitment to your craft is crucial.
  4. Have fun! Enjoy what you’re doing. That will always improve your writing.

Your latest release, The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark just came out this fall! Any behind the scenes tidbits or interesting facts on this new addition to the Pout-Pout family that our Story Monsters might love to know?

When I was writing The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark, I felt a little stuck for a while, because I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted the story to unfold. So I just skipped ahead and wrote the ending first! That made it easier to go back to the beginning and see where I was headed. The writing got easier after that.

“We are kind. We are fair. We are all potential friends. So we speak up when we need to – that’s how bullying ends.” 

With the full and mini versions of his adventures available, our favorite gloomy hero has a dozen books out now – as well as an adorable stuffed animal – since that first release in 2008! How has Pout-Pout evolved through you? What would you like to see Pout-Pout swim towards as he celebrates his tenth birthday?

As I’ve written Mr. Fish’s stories, I’ve learned something new with each adventure. I look forward to continuing to learn as I write, exploring topics such as how to fall asleep, what to do with good advice, how to handle anger, and how to clean up the ocean. I’m delighted and grateful that so many children, families, teachers, librarians, and more have welcomed The Pout-Pout Fish books into their lives. A writer and an illustrator may create a book, but it takes readers to bring books to life!


Deborah Diesen is the author of many children’s beautiful picture books, including the favorite Pout-Pout series kicked off by the NYT-bestselling The Pout-Pout Fish. Connect with amazing Deborah Diesen through her website!


Julianne Black has written and illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet the multi-award winning Augmented Reality picture book. She is an internationally recognized graphic artist, fine artist and author. She can be reached at


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