Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Fan Brothers Interview - It Fell from the Sky

Photo Content from The Fan Brothers

Brothers Terry Fan and Eric Fan received their formal art training at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. Their work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. The Night Gardener was their widely acclaimed debut picture book.

Terry spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. Eric has a passion for vintage bikes, clockwork contraptions, and impossible dreams. 


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories are one of the ways we make sense out of life. By taking the often chaotic and random events of life and organizing them into a meaningful structure, we gain insight into the world, and into our own lives. Stories also give us a window into other people’s lives and experiences that we wouldn’t ordinarily have access to. A good story can expand the bandwidth of your imagination, and give you new ways of looking at the world, which in turn can impact your life in meaningful and tangible ways. Reading is also simply fun - a doorway into a new adventure and into other worlds.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
We’re currently working on final art for our next picture book, but it’s still early days so I’m not sure we can talk about it too much at this point.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
Eric: That’s a tough one. Probably the time we spent in Hawai’i. I love the ocean, and we spent a lot of time on the beach, or snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. The reef was still very healthy and bursting with color and life back then, and I remember swimming out past the shallow part of the reef, where it suddenly dropped off and got deeper. Below me were enormous brain coral, bigger than I had ever seen before; like luminous brains on the seafloor. I swam down and found myself surrounded by schools of colorful fish: trumpet fish, angel fish and parrot fish. It was so peaceful and beautiful. I’d probably be a little nervous about snorkeling in the ocean now, but a certain fearlessness comes with youth.

Terry: Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay ranks as one of my favorites as well, but I don’t have a specific happiest childhood memory. Some periods of my childhood bring back beautiful memories. Family trips to Hawai’i and Australia stand out, and the whole time we lived in the Rosedale area of Toronto during the 1970s.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
My two favorite classes were art and home economics. Art, because it was something I was good at and I loved to draw, home economics because they had a full kitchen and we were taught how to cook. One day we learned how to make pizza, and there was something magical about that to me; it was almost another form of art. Those classes stayed with me and I still love to cook till this day. I also loved creative writing, and had a teacher who was very encouraging about my writing. He would single out my stories and read them aloud to the class, which was both mortifying and thrilling.

Terry: I also loved art and home economics and have strong memories of the pizza-making class. I remember the teacher introducing us to the secret of what makes a pizza taste like a pizza, which was oregano spice. Like Eric, I also love to cook, and I think it all started with those mini pizzas. Another favorite class was History. I’ve always had a fascination with history, and at the time, I was especially enthralled with the Medieval period. I was collecting Medieval toy knights, along with miniature castles, trees, and catapults etc. A friend of mine had his own vast collection, and we would stage these epic battles between our armies, with elaborate, improvised stories to go along with them.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I’m tempted to say “learning how to cook pizza” but I think the greatest thing was learning how to read, and being introduced to many great books.

Terry: I’m going say learning how to cook pizza then.

In your new book; IT FELL FROM THE SKY, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it.
It Fell From the Sky is about a strange object that falls into a garden one day. It’s an ordinary toy marble, but to the insects of the garden it’s a wonderful mystery. Each of them speculates about its origins and what it is, but it’s the spider who sees the potential to profit from it. He claims the marble as his own and begins to exhibit it and charge admission. In doing so, he eventually alienates his community and ultimately discovers that sharing is more rewarding than selfish materialism.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
We hope it offers readers some insight into the idea of materialism, and where we derive lasting happiness. We didn’t want the story to be didactic, but we did want to challenge the idea that happiness comes from endlessly acquiring material things or wealth. Ultimately, happiness comes from the relationships we build, along with a sense of purpose and meaning in life; that’s really the underlying theme of the book.

Did you learn anything from writing IT FELL FROM THE SKY and what was it?
I’ve always been something of a collector - in fact, Terry and I both collected vintage marbles when we were younger – and I think the spider’s journey in the story gave me some insight into my own marble collecting, and how it ultimately lost some of its magic. As we learned more about the different kinds of marbles, and started coveting the rarer and more valuable ones, some of the enjoyment began to fade. What started as a purely aesthetic journey – finding a sea glass marble washed up on the shore, or an interesting marble for ten cents in an antique store – became something else. Soon it was all about rarity and value, and that’s when we both stopped collecting; the simple joy of seeing them as humble but beautiful objects was gone.

Terry: Eric summed that up nicely. I think we all have a little bit of the Spider in us.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would like to introduce William from The Night Gardener to Oliver from Oliver Twist. I loved reading Oliver Twist when I was younger, and it might be one of the reasons we made William an orphan in our book, so I like to think that they would strike up a friendship and both feel a little less alone in the world.

Terry: I’d like to introduce Spider from It Fell From The Sky to the Grinch from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. I have a feeling they would be best of friends.

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
When I was still in grade school we moved to Australia for a year. I was upset at the time, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience. When you move to a different country, you see the world in an entirely new way. The same thing happened when we visited our ancestral home in Taiwan years later. It’s one of the best things about traveling: seeing the world filtered through the lens of a different culture.

Terry: On one of our family trips to Hawai’i, we took a hike along the Manoa Falls Trail in Hawai’i. It’s a winding trail through dense, tropical vegetation, leading to a spectacular 150 ft. waterfall. There was a light, misty rain throughout the whole hike, which created a lot of mud along the trail. I was only wearing flip-flops, which were soon lost in the mud. So, I did the entire hike in my bare feet and felt like Mowgli from The Jungle Book. When we finally made it to the waterfall, it was a glorious moment. There’s a pool below the waterfall, and of course, we all jumped into it. I learned later that swimming in the pool below is highly discouraged because there is a threat of becoming infected with Leptospirosis. This disease causes mild to moderate flu-like symptoms that can last for up to 1 to 2 weeks. Anyway, luckily none of us got sick!

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
In terms of general advice, I guess it would be to not let fear or doubt limit your potential. It’s easy to get stalled in life when you give-in to negativity or self-doubt.

Terry: The most seemingly reckless decision of my life was quitting my day job in my late-forties to pursue art full time. It was also the best decision I ever made and led to things I could never have imagined, including a career in picture books. That one impulsive decision upended the entire trajectory of my life, and my only regret is that I didn’t quit sooner. So, be brave. Life can be full of surprises, but it needs a little help sometimes.

Name one thing you miss about being a kid.
The effortless access to wonder, which becomes more difficult to reach as you get older. When you’re a kid everything is new and there is so much left to discover. Part of staying “young at heart” is finding new things to excited and astonished by.

Terry: That’s too difficult to answer, because I miss everything about being a kid.

What is your greatest adventure?
Probably my current adventure as a picture book author and illustrator. It was always my dream to have a book published, and I wake up every day now amazed and grateful that that dream actually came true.

Terry: Yes, I can’t think of a more incredible adventure than everything that’s happened in the past ten years or so.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
My favorite book as a child, which was also the first book that had a profound impact on me, was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. The moment when the walls of Max’s bedroom dissolve, giving him access to the magical world of his imagination, was the moment I realized how transporting and powerful a book could be.

Terry: That was also my favorite picture book, for the same reasons. It had such a magical, mysterious quality and acted as a springboard for my young imagination.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
Aesthetically, there’s a lot to be said for any decade closer to the turn of the century; I like top hats, and horse-drawn carriages, and lamp light. Unfortunately, there are so many negatives associated those decades (in terms of medical advances and social equity) that I don’t think I’d actually like to grow up in any of them. We grew up in the 60s and 70s, which had some downsides of their own, but as far as childhood goes, we didn’t have cell phones or other modern distractions, so it forced us to engage with our imaginations, which might have played a part in us becoming storytellers, so I guess I’ll stick with those decades.

Terry: I’ll stick to those decades too. It was a wonderful time for me, and I have so many great memories from both the 60s and 70s.

Eric: Since this is a book blog, I’ll go with “Ten Favorite Books Read This Year”. I’ll let Terry handle the interview prompt. In no particular order:
  • 1) Exhalation, by Ted Chiang
  • 2) Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan
  • 3) The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster, by Cary Fagan
  • 4) The Bloom Trilogy, by Kenneth Oppel
  • 5) The Blue House, by Phoebe Wahl
  • 6) Dune, by Frank Herbert
  • 7) Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica Lee
  • 8) Stanley Kubrick, by David Mikics
  • 9) The Marvels, by Brian Selznick
  • 10) Telephone Tales, by Gianni Rodari, illustrated by Valerio Vidali
 Your journey to publication
Terry: I'll choose “my favorite quote/scene from It Fell From The Sky, which is the scene where Spider is gazing up at the stars.

“The night, as it sometimes does, shared a secret. He gazed up at the sky, and the stars shone down. They didn’t hide their light from anyone. Not even a selfish Spider. He knew what he needed to do.”

The stars share their beauty with everyone, not expecting anything in return. So, Spider has an epiphany and realizes what he must do, which is to share any future discoveries with the rest of the insects, free of charge this time. It’s such a pivotal moment in the book, and visually it’s also one of my favorite scenes because it has so much drama and poignancy.

From the creators of the critically acclaimed The Night Gardener and Ocean Meets Sky comes a whimsical and elegantly illustrated picture book about community, art, the importance of giving back—and the wonder that fell from the sky.

It fell from the sky on a Thursday.

None of the insects know where it came from, or what it is. Some say it’s an egg. Others, a gumdrop. But whatever it is, it fell near Spider’s house, so he’s convinced it belongs to him.

Spider builds a wonderous display so that insects from far and wide can come look at the marvel. Spider has their best interests at heart. So what if he has to charge a small fee? So what if the lines are long? So what if no one can even see the wonder anymore?

But what will Spider do after everyone stops showing up?

You can purchase It Fell from the Sky at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you THE FAN BROTHERS for making this giveaway possible.
4 Winner will receive a Copy of It Fell from the Sky by The Fan Brothers.


  1. Probably something simple and not too far removed from my current name. Maybe Charles would be a good choice.

  2. But, I like my name! I suppose I would look at my family genealogy and pick a name from there. Definitely not Zilpa or Dorcus from that name pool.

  3. I would change it to Karisma, I had 3 boys but if I had a girl that was going to be her name.

  4. "If you HAD to change your name, what would you change it to?" Ediberto Von Schnissell IV.