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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Stephan Pastis, the creator of ‘Timmy Failure’ and ‘Pearls Before Swine,’ is a success story

Stephan Pastis has an enviable type of attention deficit disorder. The creator of the cartoon strip “Pearls Before Swine” and the author of the children’s book series “Timmy Failure” is creatively restless.

While on the set of the film “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” in 2019, Pastis had a difficult time focusing while waiting for a scene to be shot. Pastis’ fast-moving mind drifted toward his comic strip and what he could have been writing while he was stuck in tedium.

“That’s how I get at times,” Pastis said while calling from his Santa Rosa, California, office. “I just love to create. I’m happy if I’m creating all day.”

Pastis, 52, works 12-hour days six days a week. “And that’s not enough for me,” Pastis admitted. “I love it that much.”

Every Sunday, he reconnects with his wife and two children who are 18 and 22. “I do love my family, but I’m passionate about what I do professionally.”

Every day, Pastis drives to a studio in Santa Rosa where he writes, draws and consumes endless cups of coffee.

Unlike many of his peers, Pastis has an impressively diverse resume. “I can’t help myself,” Pastis said. “I like to challenge myself.”

After enjoying considerable success, the winner of the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year for 2019 is hoping to move in a new direction after completing the seventh and final book in the “Timmy Failure” series.

After co-writing the “Timmy Failure” script with the film’s director, Tom McCarthy, Pastis, who is a huge fan of writer-director Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up,” “Funny People”), is ready to move on. Pastis would love to write an adult comedy film or series.

“I’m cocky enough to think I can write a 90-minute comedy movie,” Pastis said. “It would either be that or a 10-episode comedy series.”

Pastis learned a great deal from McCarthy, the writer and producer also behind well-received films such as “Up” and “Spotlight.”

“I was well-trained by Tom,” Pastis said. “I’m ready to take the next step since I know the structure of how to write a script.”

However, Pastis, who is an ardent fan of comedy, knows his limitations. Even though Pastis makes up material out of the ether like standups, the accomplished humorist will never try to crack wise onstage.

“I have so much respect for comedians, and I just could never do what they do,” Pastis said. “I was invited to an event at the University of North Carolina a few years ago since I’m in comedy as a cartoonist. I watched Lewis Black, John Oliver and Rob Riggle perform. They’re each great at what they do, but I can’t do that.

“Comics are wired differently than me. I’m someone who likes to create while not under the gaze of people. It’s hard enough to be at a festival like Sundance and get in front of people. It’s nerve-wracking.”

However, Pastis has no problem doing book tours. “That’s different than getting up in front of a crowd at a film festival,” he said. “I have fun going out and talking about a book I wrote. I put myself out there for an hour, and that’s it and it’s fine.”

Fame, which has become a type of currency in the age of reality television, is something Pastis cannot imagine dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Pastis winced while watching actor Craig Robinson, who appears in the “Timmy Failure” film, deal with fans when they were off the set in Portland, Oregon.

“I honestly don’t know how people who are famous full time get comfortable with strangers constantly coming up to them,” Pastis said. “I was at a bar with Craig Robinson. We were sitting outside at a table, and we couldn’t go five minutes without having someone say something to him. How do you deal with people who constantly want selfies with you? What if you’re in a bad mood?”

Pastis, who basks in relative anonymity, is looking forward to his appearance for the Northwest Passages Book Club online forum on Thursday. It is Pastis’ first virtual event.

“I don’t know what to expect, but it should be fun and interesting,” Pastis said. “I think a lot of authors will be doing this. Maybe this is the wave of the future. I’m curious to see how it goes.”

Pastis is keeping it close to the vest when it comes to his follow-up to the “Timmy Failure” book series.

“I can’t give you a name or really talk about it since I don’t want to jinx this new project,” Pastis said. “All I can say is that it’s different than ‘Timmy Failure’ and that while I was working on it, I was listening to the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ on repeat.”

It is not going to be easy to follow up “Timmy Failure.” The graphic novels in that series about a charming boy who fancies himself as a great detective with his imaginary pet polar bear are funny, poignant and quirky.

“You have to move on and switch things around,” Pastis said. “I’m off to something new, and I love it. This is how I do things. I live to create.”