Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ten Random Facts About the Lunch Lady Series

Cover sketch for Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute!

With the impending release of Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle, I offer you ten little known facts about the Lunch Lady series!

Lunch Lady's apron was almost grey! I finished shading and coloring the entirety of Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute and wasn't happy with how drab it looked. It had looked fine in the few samples I had made, but repeated over and over again, it just didn't work. I went back and edited each page to make her apron yellow.

2. ROOM 208B
My first big gig as a cartoonist was with my high school newspaper. We met outside of classroom 208B. I was also commissioned to paint a mural on the newspaper's bulletin board across the hall from 208B. My mural remains in the halls of Holy Name C. C. H. S. to this day!

By now, many know that the Lunch Lady series was inspired by my real, live lunch ladies from childhood. But did you know that the character of Milmoe was based on a friend? I met Chris Milmoe in the summer of 2001 when we both worked at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Chris always went by "Milmoe," and is anything but a bully. He is a loud and gregarious fellow, though. Always the athlete, Milmoe went on to teach at boarding schools and coached many a varsity team. (Milmoe's sidekick, McKenna, was also named for another camp friend, Brian McKenna.)

My favorite summers with Milmoe were in cabin Green 15, where incidentally the idea for Punk Farm came to me.

An old photo from camp from the early 00's. That is Milmoe, Hilary (who is the namesake for a counselor in LL & the Summer Camp Shakedown) and John McNeil (in order to needle my friend, I gave Orson the last name of 'McNeil'!)

Coach Birkby is also named after an old camp pal, Erich Birkby. We met back in 1996 and were housemates in Boston for seven years. One summer session at camp, we ran the Sports & Rec department. So we dressed as old gym teachers and barked "hustle" to everyone playing kickball.

I did my research and talked to actual lunch ladies when writing the first book. As I visited schools, I would introduce myself to the cafeteria staff. Once they learned I was writing a book about a superhero lunch lady, I got a VIP pass to their kitchens, and was allowed to photograph their equipment.      

Hector was originally named Victor, but I felt that name sounded too much like "victorious," which didn't fit with the underdog status I wanted to give the Breakfast Bunch kids. (Incidentally, Victor was another friend from camp, but alas, his name didn't make it into the books. Sorry, Victor!)

By the time the Lunch Lady books were picked up and I was working on writing the first book, I had proposed to my girlfriend, Gina. Amongst the early notes for Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, you can spot Gina practicing her signature for her new name.  

In the 2nd Lunch Lady book, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians, I hid our pug one one of the book covers. Also in the Book Fair scene, Gina drew a flower on one of the book covers—without telling me! I spotted them after the book was published! Can you see it?

Gina was expecting our first child as I was finishing up the art for Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians. Every day, I contemplated pulling an all-nighter to get the art done,but I just knew that if I did, she would go into labor. One night, I did just that--plugging away on all of the art until four in the morning. Shortly after I went to bed, Gina went into labor. She let me sleep for a few hours before waking me and informing me it was time to get to the hospital!

Steve DePino is an old friend from art school, and now a hot-shot photographer. He's taken my author photos in the past and even photographed my wedding. When writing Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril, I named the evil school photographer Stefan DePino. But then I realized I had too many male villains in the series and there was a gender switch. So Stefan DePino became Stafani DePino!

I first had the idea for the Lunch Lady series in the fall of 2001. It's amazing what has happened to my life in the past twelve and a half years. The Lunch Lady series will be the last new book idea that both of my grandparents knew about. (They thought it was hysterical.) The first book was dedicated to my fiancĂ©, the tenth book is dedicated to our two daughters. Here I am on the day that the first book was published. Gina always gifts me with a little something to commemorate a book's publication. 

Thank you to all of my readers!!!


Anonymous said...

so fun to know all the inside scoop. such a legacy to give these friends who have impacted your life. Keep up the good work!

Milmoe said...

Hello Lunch Lady and JJK fans!

The real Milmoe here. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to have Jarrett create a character after me in the Lunch Lady series. Every time a friends' kids learn how to read I purchase a Lunch Lady book and send it to them.

In 2010, my parents were contacted by a distant relative who teaches third grade. She ranted about one of her students bringing in a Lunch Lady book that had her name in it! Corny and Alex happily told her the origin story.

Jarrett remains a great friend and I think everyone that reads this should contact him demanding a Milmoe and Mckenna spinoff. JJK give the fans what they want. Love you buddy.