The Hippo


Jan 19, 2020








More on David Elliott and Bull
Visit his website at

Serious business
Warner author on writing for children and Bull

By Kelly Sennott

 Warner writer David Elliott’s introduction to Greek mythology was a comic book he read as a 9-year-old kid: Uncle Scrooge: The Golden Fleecing, published by Walt Disney in the late ’70s.

“I loved that story of Scrooge McDuck. Later, when I learned about the real myths, I said, ‘Wait, they stole that from Scrooge!’ The pleasure I had of the myth was rooted in the pleasure of reading that comic book,” Elliott said via phone from his home office last week.
The experience taught Elliott that children’s literature can be both funny and informative, a lesson he takes to heart as the author of many stories for kids, most recently This Orq. (He #1!) released by Boyds Mills Press in September. It’s the third in a series of picture books featuring Orq and his interactions with bullies, competition and friendship, and they’ve been printed in multiple languages, including German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Swedish, Korean and Chinese.
This December, Elliott is in the midst of many projects. He’s concocting poems for an upcoming book, In the Woods, and he’s in the process of writing two novels, one with his son, Eli Elliott. 
But most importantly, he’s getting ready for the March 2017 release of his 200-page novel, Bull, which presents a new spin on the ancient Greek tale Theseus and the Minotaur. 
Elliott has been contemplating bringing new life to this story for years because of his unique perspective of it. He wondered, what was the Minotaur’s life like as a baby? As a toddler? As a young adolescent, or a teenager? What was the process that changed him into this monster? 
“Theseus, even though he is the father of democracy, he was a thug. He was a frat boy. He was a bro,” he said. “My sympathies have always been with the Minotaur in that story.”
But what’s truly unique about Bull is that it’s written entirely in verse, with each character speaking in a particular poetic form. The book’s Amazon description compares Elliott’s tactic to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s in Hamilton, turning a classic on its head in form and approach. 
“I love books that have one foot in objective reality and one foot in the landscape of imagination and all its possibilities,” Elliott said. “But one thing that has to be there for me is the opportunity to explore the playfulness, the resilience and the depth of our language. So Bull, yes, is about the minotaur — it’s about that myth — but it also very much is about language, and the way language can work.”
He had some concerns about getting such an unusual story published but was very happy when his agent, Kelly Sonnack, loved the idea and the first 15 pages of his “crazy manuscript.” They got two offers and took the one with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is packaging Bull as a dark, comedic young adult novel. 
At his publisher’s request, Elliott has been working hard getting the word out, updating his website, organizing book events and creating a blog to promote the story. 
“All writers are balancing the day-to-day stuff of life,” Elliott said, noting that there’s the publicity stuff, administrative work and editing. “But all that surprisingly takes a lot of time.”
And if you’re not careful, he said, those things can overtake the most important work: writing. 
Elliott didn’t always want to be a writer; first, he wanted to be an opera singer and studied classical voice at a conservatory. He feels privileged to be able to do this job instead. It’s a surprise what comes out every time he sits at his desk.
“When I sat down to write the book, as always, I had no idea what the book was going to be about. … I think Eudora Welty said, ‘If you haven’t surprised yourself, you haven’t written.’ And that’s true as much for writing a novel as it as for writing a picture book,” he said.
To date, Elliott has so many titles to his name, from picture and poetry books to middle-grade and young adult novels. They cover all topics — animals, dinosaurs, orphans, jungles — and even though humor is an important element in his stories, he takes the job very seriously.
“Even if you’re writing funny books, it’s a serious business because you’re providing fodder for people who are not yet fully developed — physically, emotionally, physiologically. And I feel very privileged to be able to do it. I do it the best I can,” he said.

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu