Since 1997, New Yorkers with a penchant for early morning television news have turned to NY1's Pat Kiernan. Kiernan is the channel's morning anchor and the principal host of its popular "In the Papers" segment, which features the anchor combing through national and local newspapers, picking out stories of particular interest. Now the host has written his debut book, Good Morning, City! (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), which releases in November. The picture book chronicles a typical morning in New York City as the city begins to wake. Kiernan spoke with PW about his morning routine, what it was like to work on a picture book, and his natural curiosity for the world around him.

What made you decide to write a picture book? How did you come up with this idea?

I noticed that one of my new Twitter followers was a children’s book editor, and I said, ‘Hey, thanks for following. If you ever need a children’s book about the news business, let me know.’ It wasn’t really intended as a pitch, it was more of a friendly greeting. And she said, "Oh, we should meet sometime." And we met – this was Janine O’Malley at FSG – and we had a wide-ranging conversation: is there a book for junior high school kids about the media, is there a picture book I wanted to do? We left the meeting unsure of what the connection would be. And then she emailed me out of the blue and said, "I’ve got a whole different idea that I think is exactly what we were talking about but not something that we hit on in our meeting, which is the notion of a waking up book for kids about the city." And it was a perfect fit for what I’ve been doing for 19 years now. And we ran with that concept and pulled it all together probably two years ago now. This has been a lesson for me in long lead times in the publishing business.

How did you choose which morning scenes to use, and how to order them?

I probably have more experience than anybody at driving through the streets of New York City and looking out and seeing how the city comes to life. I really drew on that experience to come up with some of the themes that we were talking about. We knew that we wanted things like groceries and newspapers being dropped off on the stoop and transportation coming to life and traffic building and joggers coming out in the morning. It was just a matter of organizing it and adding words to it and eventually finding an illustrator – who I couldn’t be more happy with, to work with Pascal Campion, [although] Pascal and I have never been in the same room. We definitely wanted someone who was great at dealing with light, because light is such an important part of the illustration in this book. Janine had been familiar with Pascal’s work because he puts up a picture of the day on social media, and she kind of had him in her back pocket as someone she wanted to use for something. And he jumped into the project and spent countless hours coming up with these illustrations.

The order is mostly a chronological sequence. I’m up at 3:00 a.m., I’m on my way to work at 4:00 a.m., and it must be 4,000 times over the past 19 years I’ve woken up before most of the city and chronicled the rise of the city. The sequence is really what’s happening at 4:00 a.m., what’s happening at 4:30, what’s happening at 5:00 a.m., what’s happening at 5:30. Not that we signpost it like that, but it’s more or less a progression of matching where the light is in the book – the bakers are doing their work when it’s dark, the delivery trucks are doing their work when it’s dark, the runners are running in Central Park at first light, then the school buses and people are on the street, and you start to see more light as we work toward the start of the day.

Are there any specific scenes you wanted to fit in that you couldn’t? Are there some specific moments in your time seeing the city unfold that you were able to capture?

I don’t think Janine and I needed to exchange words to understand that when I see the drunks on the street from the previous night that that wouldn’t be part of my children’s book. That’s less about waking up and more about being out past your bedtime. I think we covered all the main areas. Obviously, you could get more into transportation and subways, you could get more into the routine of kids walking to school, but we almost wanted to have it all happening before that moment, when the children themselves are out on the streets, because that’s a time of mystery for them. They know that the city did come to life, but it didn’t happen in front of them. So there’s a little bit of mystery behind telling them about a world they’ve not been privileged to be part of.

What was your favorite part of working on Good Morning, City?

There’s some pain in getting up at 3:00 a.m. every day. So if I can share it with people and do something like this, it brings joy to me. It’s not an expertise that I signed up to develop, but over the years I’ve developed this knowledge of what the rhythm of the city is as it wakes up, and I wanted to put in themes that kids should be learning about at three, four, five, six years old. There’s all these community helpers they’ll see at work, and we made sure there was diversity in the book, so it’s really a reflection of what’s happening in the community early in the morning, and I think the readers can project how those people continue into their days.

This was your first book. What surprised you about the publishing process?

What was really the surprise was the number of people who have to be involved in the making of a work of this quality. You start with the idea, and it wasn’t that long before we had the words on the page, but that was just the beginning. Now here are the words, here’s the plan and the illustrator, here’s revision one of the illustrations, now here’s revision two of the illustrations, now we’re going to put them in a format to show where on the page the text goes, and do we break the text here or here? All of that was a fascinating level of detail. And I claim some expertise as a parent who read a lot to my kids when they were smaller, and so I knew what I liked and I knew what resonated with them, but none of that means anything when you’re not thinking at the moment about things like whether this is a one-page illustration or a two-page illustration. All of that was stuff I didn’t know, so thank goodness I had people to work with who knew.

How was writing a picture book different from other kinds of jobs you’ve done? What are some similarities between reporting the news and telling a story in a picture book?

I probably write more words in three minutes in a morning at New York 1 than were required for this whole book. I don’t write words with the quality and thought that went into this book, but it’s funny – if I look at my number of words, number of pages output after a morning at New York 1, it’s this long trail of broadcast copy. It’s a very different muscle to think about something this much, and to have that much emphasis on every word and how it’s going to be read, the theme it fits into and if it matches the illustrations. So that was different. [As for similarities], I’m a curious person. I like to know what happens in a world that I don’t see. And this, in a children’s book concept, is a little bit of that. It’s me giving people a sense of something that happens outside their usual view. Were people clamoring for a book about the city waking up? Not necessarily. But I think once they see it, they’ll realize that there’s a time and place where it fits – whether it’s reading one on one or to a class in the morning, it’s something very relatable, and plugs into natural curiosity that kids and adults have.

Good Morning, City by Pat Kiernan, illus. by Pascal Campion. FSG, $16.99 Nov. ISBN 978-0-374-30346-4