Q&A With Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer

Nightlights, a lyrical picture book about all the lights at night, is written by a fun collaborating team: uncle and nephew Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer! The rhyming text is pared playfully with bright artwork by Alice Brereton.


We were lucky enough to sit down with Paul and Dan to chat about collaboration, a love of poetry, and Nightlights.

Q: How did you come up with Nightlights?

A: Paul: Years ago, my dad (Dan’s grandfather) planted and pruned his garden according to the phases of the moon. When he passed away we started writing a series of moon poems in his honor. Ultimately that series turned into the poems that make up Nightlights.

Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: Dan: Chewing on a pencil, staring into space, calling a friend, wondering what I’m going to have for dinner…but then eventually the words come and it’s off to the races.

Paul: Writing for me is sort of like a road trip with a destination in mind but no map. I get lost, there are detours and stopovers, joys, frustrations and surprises. When I do arrive I feel happy and proud.

Q: What is your process for collaborating?

A: Dan and Paul: Well, first of all, we are an uncle and nephew team, so luckily any disagreements we have are all kept in the family. Usually one of us comes up with an idea and together we push and pull and massage that idea into something larger. We also live some distance from each other so we spend a lot of time discussing ideas on the phone, and emailing and texting. If those fail us, skywriting is always an option too.

Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?

A: Dan and Paul: It was wonderful. When we wrote our first book [Silver Seeds: A Book of Nature], we had a fantastic illustration team, and the book turned out wonderfully, but we didn’t have any real hand in the final process. Here at [Albert] Whitman, Wendy [McClure], our editor, and Jordan [Kost], the art director, really involved us in the process and the look of Nightlights from beginning to end. I guess you could say we were not kept in the dark at all!

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: Dan and Paul: We really love what Alice [Brereton], our illustrator, has done with our words. The combination of her style, which is unique, quirky and really out-of-the-box and the soothing rhythm of our poems is a perfect match. For an illustrator it must be difficult to try and get into an author’s head and bring their vision to the page. So kudos to Alice!

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: Dan: We both come from the education field. I’m currently a high school English teacher and Paul is a retired school psychologist and family therapist. Our goal has always been to inspire kids to read and write poetry.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Dan: Paul and I love to write poetry books for children. Recently we have been working on some narrative ideas and a book of non-fiction on the origins of the names for the days of the week. But all writing, if it’s done well, is poetry.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid?

A: Paul: My very first books were comic books: Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck were my early favorites. Later of course, the super heroes took over: Superman, Batman and Robin. As a teen it was science fiction by the volume: Issac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt and on and on.

Dan:  The Hardy Boys A to Z and then back again!

Thanks so much, Paul and Dan! To find out more about Nightlights on our website. And to hear from the illustrator, Alice, check out her blog post.

Q&A With Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer