Jeff Anderson & Andrea Miller Reveal Their Process and the Just My Luck Cover

In anticipation of our second Zack Delacruz middle-grade novel, we thought we’d not only reveal the cover of Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck (Sterling Children’s Books, October 2016), but also reveal our processes as a writer and an illustrator.


Even though readers often assume authors and illustrators work closely together, the truth is often they have little or no contact. The two of us have met, but only after Andrea had completely illustrated the first book in the Zack Delacruz series: Me and My Big Mouth (Sterling Children’s Books, 2015). When we met, Jeff asked Andrea how she drew the characters exactly as he’d envisioned. “You wrote them so well,” she replied. And we’ve been each other’s biggest fans ever since.


But even though we are quite friendly now, we still work separately—in different places, at different times. When Jeff’s process of drafting, plotting, developing characters, revising, and editing ends, Andrea’s process begins. Using Jeff’s words, she begins sketching in pencil. Next, she uses a brush and black ink to create the lines. She’s scans that and then uses special brushes (created by Kyle T. Webster) in Photoshop to color and fill in the line art.


Here we reveal more answers about our processes and thinking in creating Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck.



Author: Jeff Anderson



Illustrator: Andrea Miller

What is your favorite character in Just My Luck to write about? Why?


I love Zack because he oozes the discomfort and self-consciousness I felt in early adolescence. But in the end, it’s Janie who makes me laugh a bit more—even more than El Pollo Loco. She’s totally unique and strange. Janie has fun with her quirkiness and goes all in. When I get ideas for what Janie can say or do, I often laugh out loud and race for some paper.


Who is your favorite character to draw? Why?


While I absolutely love drawing the titular character, Zack, I think that Janie may be my favorite one! She has such a love for drama and has a magnificent range of expressions. Cliche’s hair makes her my #2 pick. Those braids are so fun!



What is your favorite setting in Just My Luck to write about? Why?


I loved describing the botanica—Mama Lupita’s. I researched by visiting a botanica (a few times) in San Antonio and taking notes. But the most challenging and eventually most fun part was designing the fiesta-val grounds (school carnival) behind Davy Crockett Middle School. Even though I’m an author not an illustrator, I had to draw a map to figure it all out all the action and locations.

What is your setting in Just My Luck to Illustrate? Why?


While most of my drawings focus on characters, I really enjoyed drawing the botanica, with all of the details of the outside of the building and the rows of candles on the interior.



For you, what’s the best thing about being an author?


I love the chance to entertain people. I was an actor in high school and college, which brought me out of my shyness. When I write, I still create a feeling—a laugh, a connection, a tender thought. The characters I create become a part of my life, my world. It’s a blast sharing them with young readers.


For you, what’s the best thing about being an Illustrator?


Making stories even more real. Words can transport us far away, and being able to draw the pictures that help us imagine a story more clearly is fantastic! Plus, I get to act out scenes by myself to use as reference before I draw!

What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer?


Finishing the work is the most challenging. I love beginnings—they’re so shiny and new. I can circle around the beginning forever. I’ve learned to push all the way through to the end—no matter how rough the draft is. When I face the darkness of the middle of a project, I face it with my characters. And we are both transformed—every time.

What’s the most challenging thing about being an illustrator?


Details! Tiny details about characters are sometimes mentioned in the story, and I love to include those things in my drawings – but sometimes the details are so small that I forget to add them in! Luckily I double-check things before I finish.


Cover Reveal


zd final copy


We also wanted to share a bit about the cover we’re revealing here.







As the writer, what part did you play in deciding the cover? Do you like it?


Let me say first, I love everything Andrea Miller does. This cover just adds to it. The only part I played in the cover is based on the story I wrote, and I think they got it right.


I adore Zack rolling his eyes on the cover with all the attitude and confetti pouring down. The project’s editor, Brett Duquette, and book’s designer (Andrea does that too.) are great at choosing cover illustrations. There is much more going on it that moment than the picture captures, but we see the essence—just enough to invite a young reader in. It was Just My Luck to have such a great team.

How did you decide what to put on the cover? What was the original thought and how did it change?


The book’s editor, Brett Duquette, came to me with some ideas, and I chose the option he offered that seemed, to me, to be embody the story and that would work well as a cover. After discussing my ideas and thumbnail sketches with the Art Director, Editor, Editorial Director and lots of other people who work with the publisher, I brought in a finished piece of art and began the task of designing how the image would work with the title and author’s name as well! I’ve been fortunate to be the book’s designer as well as the illustrator and had far more input because of that. But that also means that I had to do dozens of rounds of design ideas until everyone was satisfied!


Illustrators and authors work together to create characters and worlds where young readers can lose themselves for a moment. Maybe readers lose themselves in laughter. Maybe they find a character like themselves. And maybe they simply go along for an experience that makes them consider their own more deeply. We are honored to be able to help young readers find that, and we thank those who put our books in kids’ hands.



Jeff Anderson is the author of several books for teachers, including
10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know.  His second humorous middle grade novel is Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck. He lives in an old house in San Antonio with his partner and dogs. Find him online at or on Twitter @writeguyjeff.


12047200_10206275367697797_7024647038310922080_nAndrea Miller is a children’s book and comic illustrator, as well as a children’s book designer. She lives in a not-so-glamorous but wonderful neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY with her wife and a hoard of books. You can find her on Twitter @andreacecilia and view her work at