5 Questions with…John Rocco


Photo courtesy of John Rocco

Every summer, The Great Books Summer Program welcomes authors and filmmakers from around the country to our campuses at Stanford University and Amherst College to speak with campers.  This summer, we decided to sit down with a few of our authors and ask them five questions about their reading and writing lives both as kids and today.

John Rocco, author and illustrator of the award-winning Blackout as well as the cover illustrator for Rick Riordan’s wildly popular Percy Jackson series, gives insight into his love of storytelling.

GBSP: What role did literature play in your childhood?

JR: As a child I was surrounded by books. My dad was an avid reader and book collector and had a room filled with books up to the ceiling. Through him I was able to develop a love of books, but not necessarily towards what was inside of them, rather how they were bound, what the paper smelled like and how they felt in my hand.

GBSP: Did any parent, teacher, program foster a love of books?

JR:  My dad had a collection of Classics Illustrated comic books from the fifties that he let me look at. At first I loved that they were comic books, and easy to read, but as I devoured them I began to fall for the stories. It was in these comics that I first discovered The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, Moby Dick, Call of the Wild and The Last of the Mohicans, to name a few.

GBSP:  What was your favorite book as a teenager? Which writers and/or artists inspired you?

JR:  As a teenager one of my favorite books was The Old Man and the Sea. I worked on a shellfishing boat at the time and could relate to Santiago in many ways. Plus it was short, and I liked that too. I loved Moby Dick, but it is a beast to read.

GBSP. Did you always see yourself as a creative person?

JR: When I first went to college I studied engineering and archeology. It wasn’t until I shared a house with a working illustrator that I realized what I wanted to do. I just thought he had the coolest job I could think of and I wanted to do that too.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to young writers and artists, what would it be?

Create what makes you happy.

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