August 30, 2013
My friend Pat Bourke tagged me for THE NEXT BIG THING a while back. I owe her an apology for taking so long posting my answers to her questions, but in truth there has been so much going on here that it’s been hard to know just how to answer the questions — I have a number of projects on the go right now that I could talk about. Especially as my next book as an author (or, as I prefer to call myself, AUTHORSTRATOR) wasn’t confirmed though it was in negotiations. So I decided to wait until it was a done deal and THEN reply to Pat’s questions.
And, in the interest of continuing this game of tag, I’m tagging my newish friends Kallie George and James McCann and Lee Edward Fodi . I felt that, having just moved to Vancouver, it might be nice to tag some other local authors.
So… let me tell you a little about the next book that I will be authoring. It’s been a long time in the making and I’ve been dying to talk about it for years.
What is the working title of your book?
CLOVER THE UNCREDIBLE!
Where did the idea for the book come from?
The book features a character, Clover, who I have drawn for many years in my sketchbooks and who has occasionally cropped up in illustrations in various forms. She’s a character whose personality leapt out of the first drawing so strongly that I instantly felt I knew her — she is very real. And she is tremendously fun to draw so I’ve been trying for many years to find a story for her. My editor and I have discussed doing a book about Clover for almost as long. She knew of my love for comics, picture books, and chapter books and felt that perhaps with CLOVER we could have some fun bending the rules to find a format that suited the character. So I guess the idea for the book really came from a need to learn more about the character I had created. It became an exploration of who she is.
What genre does your book fall under?
It is a chapter-book/graphic-novel. I realize that that isn’t really a genre, but hey, I’m not really certain what the genre is. There is a superhero in the story but it’s not exactly a traditional superhero story. Is IRREPRESSIBLE STRONG CHARACTER a genre? (think Pippi Longstocking or Clementine)
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I have no idea about current child actors! My daughter would make an excellent Clover though — she’s got a big enough personality to pull it off. If I were casting a Grumpy Bird movie I might choose Robert De Niro to play Bird. De Niro might be the perfect grumpy New Yorker to pull it off. Hahaha!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Clover the Uncredible is ready to start a new life at a new school in a new city, but is the new school ready for CLOVER THE UNCREDIBLE!?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Pippin Properties, my extraordinary agents, represented the book in my dealings with Scholastic. It wasn’t a typical process in some ways though: I dealt with Scholastic for a good four years or so while I wrote and rewrote and drew and edited before the story was ready to be acquired, at which point Pippin stepped in and negotiations were, uh, negotiated? I have an amazing relationship with everyone at Scholastic but Tracy (my editor) most of all. I can’t imagine anyone better suited to the editing tasks on CLOVER than her (and the editing tasks are big since I’m still finding my feet as a writer!). And Marijka (who art-directed my BIRD books) will be designing this one too.
While I’m not opposed to the idea of self-publishing I rely heavily on my “team” to help me make my books what they are. My instincts, while often good, are not always reliable. I’d rather work with people who can coax the best out of me and help me make my books the best that they can be. My books are MUCH stronger for the collaborative nature of their construction.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Five years of on-again-off-again writing. This was because I kept getting frustrated by my own limitations as a writer. And also because I wasn’t sure what format would be best. It began as a picture book (under 1000 words); grew to a reader; then exploded into something much bigger at almost 30K words. At that point I scrapped the entire manuscript out of frustration and began afresh. That was a difficult decision but clearly the right one. I was bogged-down by scenes I loved and didn’t want to edit or remove, always rewriting around them when they were as much a part of the problem as the other areas. Starting afresh allowed me to finally move beyond those areas and “unblock the creative flow” (how cheesy is that?).
And finding just the right story to tell was a big issue too. I love Clover dearly and she deserves a good story. Luckily I had a lot of freedom to explore format which helped immensely since my story didn’t fit neatly into any single one.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
CLOVER herself! The early drawings were honest and real. And FUN. There has been a lot of frustration over my still-developing writing skills but a lot of encouragement from Tracy (my editor), and Holly (at Pippin). They’ve kept me at it when my confidence flagged and believed in CLOVER all along (she is just that kind of character). My own stubborn determination and desire to be “an actual writer” has also kept me plugging away at it. And my family, with its many quirks and strange sense of humour, has provided a huge amount of inspiration too. My daughter in particular has been a strong advocate for CLOVER ever since I first told her about it. She even laughed at all the terrible jokes in my early drafts!
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Comics! Manga! Pictures! Action! Humour! Chapters! A character named after a lucky plant! Superpowers! Doggy tricks! Words! Thrills! Tyrannosaurus Rex! Radiation! Theme songs! Giant robots! Did I already say comics? I’ll say it again: COMICS!
April 12, 2013
Today only (April 12th) there is a Big Promotion for IT’S A TIGER! on Kindle. Only a $1.99 and this fine book could be yours! Hours of scrolling entertainment for you and your little one! Buy it! If you have a Kindle!
March 7, 2013
Here’s a BIG piece of news (especially if you’re Canadian!): I will be illustrating Dennis Lee’s new collection of children’s poetry. Here is Quill and Quire’s announcement. I find it funny that they refer to me as an “up-and-comer”. I would have thought that with five books under my belt I’m not really an up-and-comer anymore. But I guess alongside Mr. Lee I’m still a bit of a newbie! This is a fantastic piece of news and I’m SUPER excited about it.
In other news I will be announcing a more, um, Big News soon. Keep your eyes peeled.
March 7, 2013
I realize I’ve not posted any images here in AGES. So here’s a quick drawing for you. My daughter has choir practice downtown and I often take my sketchbooks and work at Starbucks while she has her practice. This is a quick sketch of another customer.
January 1, 2013
So 2012 ended on a high-note with a phenomenal review from the wonderful Elizabeth Bird at School Library Journal. She says, amongst other really nice things, “the all-around best readaloud of the year, bar none as far as I can tell, has got to be It’s a Tiger!” Thanks Betsy! Go, give it a read, it’s one of the nicest reviews I’ve ever had.
November 29, 2012
My two 2012 books are both available for as Ebooks. And, if you buy them right now, or in the next couple of days, you can save big! PIGGY BUNNY can be found in the Apple store here (but also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble) for only 2.99. And IT’S A TIGER! can be found here (along with 13 other bestselling Ebooks) here.
PIGGY BUNNY is available at the sale price until the 3rd of December. IT’S A TIGER! is available until the 4th of December.
September 10, 2012
And finally a great review from the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books:
The young protagonist invites us into a story in a jungle setting of picturesque tranquility, until … “Wait a minute. That’s not a monkey. That looks like … // A TIGER! RUN!” We follow our narrator into a shadowy cave for safety, but what’s that lurking there? You guessed it: “A TIGER!” The pattern continues, with each seeming escape leading the plucky kid right into a new tiger trap (on a departing boat: “Say, I’ve never seen a sea captain with a tail before, have you?”).
Finally, the tiger gets what he wanted — some ear-scratching and belly rubs — and everything calms down, until the protagonist starts telling a story which begins it all again with a crocodile. Any child who’s ever delightedly fled from a playfully roaring adult will recognize the game here, especially with a reader-aloud who can ham up the tiger’s part for maximum effect. The clear absurdity of the situation papers over any logical glitches, and the structure that suggests an endless chain of good-humored, persistent predators provides for a satisfying final joke.
Tankard’s art, familiar from the irresistible Grumpy Bird (BCCB 3/07), is dense with thick, playful lines, while digital colors, often mottled or striated, fill and sometimes overflow the elements. The critters are somewhere between toy and cartoon, so the tiger’s threat is mitigated by his adorably simplistic, babyishly round shape and the fanciful details, in both text and art, that frame the proceedings as make-believe.
Youngsters may press stuffed animals into service to enhance the narrative here, but there’ll be plenty of goofy fun just in the shriek-and-giggle sharing.
September 10, 2012
And here is a great review from Booklist:
“A little boy addresses the reader: “Are you ready for a story?” So begins a jungle tale featuring one gleeful monkey swinging from a vine, another hanging upside down, and two more with just their tails visible. But wait. What’s with that thick, striped orange-and-black tail in the mix? The typeface explodes in the following spread: “A TIGER! RUN!” And thus readers embark on an exciting reversal of hide-and-seek, with every spread featuring a telltale stripe of tiger hidden somewhere on the page—which, of course, leads to more desperate screaming and hiding. Tankard’s thick-lined, off-kilter, ink and digital-media renderings of a bat cave, a snakes’ nest, a flowerbed, and more add drama to each scenario and extra wattage to every jolt. Obviously, this will make for a boisterous soft/loud/soft read-aloud, and it comes with a nifty twist at the end, too. What’s that scaly green tail hanging from the boughs” - Booklist