AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Julie Gonzalez
If you’re an animal lover like me, head to Julie’s website to check out a variety of photos of creatures she has spotted in her backyard over the years, including the beautiful black bear that inspired her picture book. I’m so jealous of all the amazing creatures she gets to see!
Anyhow, let’s find out more about Julie, her book, her writing path so far, and more…
Welcome, Julie. Can you tell us a bit about your book, and the themes/issues it explore?
Of course! I would describe HOW COULD A BEAR SLEEP HERE? as a lively, humorous read-aloud with a refrain, some fun alliteration, and lots of onomatopoeia. Shelby, the tired bear in the story who just wants to hibernate, thinks the luggage compartment of a bus is the “perfect cave” and winds up far from home when he falls asleep inside it. He’s woken up again and again as he searches for a peaceful place to snooze – until he finally finds a way home. And though home might be the best place of all, the story delivers a positive message about travel. I learn incredible things when I visit new places, and so does Shelby!
What was the inspiration behind writing this particular story, and did it change much as you were writing it?
One morning I was brainstorming and thought: “Hibernation + Vacation = HIBERCATION! A bear wants to hibernate, but winds up on a vacation instead!” But as I wrote the story, many things changed: themes, the ending, even the bear’s transportation. (The bus was originally a car belonging to an elderly couple!) And through these revisions, the title became less and less appropriate. Also, the story has a refrain: How could a bear sleep here? My editor felt the refrain should be the title instead, and I realized she was right. So the very thing that inspired the story was ultimately cut!
Inspiration for the bear character, on the other hand, was this huge black bear that used to roam through my yard:
He destroyed my bird feeder! Usually, though, he was a peaceful guy, who always wanted a nap – much like the bear in the story.
Are there any tidbits from the publishing process of this book that you could share with regards to working with the publishers and/or the illustrator?
Once the manuscript was acquired by Holiday House, we went through a few revisions, mostly small things, and then I didn’t see the project again until it was near completion . . . and I liked it that way! I really wanted Stephanie Laberis, my talented illustrator, and the team at Holiday House to do their own thing and work their magic without any more input from me. I did have quite a few illustration notes, so I figured I’d already contributed enough.
I think a project really benefits from multiple people working on it and offering their unique perspective. It’s been a growing process for me to give up total control of a project. In school I practically did every group project on my own out of fear the others in my group would let me down. I wanted that “A!” But when it comes to publishing a picture book with a reputable publisher, you can be sure your team will surpass your expectations.
What got you into creating books?
I’ve always wanted to write books for children. I suppose I was so in love with books that I wanted to make some of my own. Here is a picture of me in fourth grade, writing a picture book in class:
I’m the one on the right, holding the pencil. My class was featured in the local newspaper for “publishing” our own tall tales. “Publishing” meant we gave our words pictures and made the story into a little book, which was much harder to do without fancy software and apps!
Do you have some tips for other creatives?
I rarely give writing advice, or any advice at all, because I feel like everyone needs to discover what works for them. Of course, there are some obvious tips, like read, read, read and write, write, write – keep going and never give up! But other than that, I’d say follow your heart and trust your instincts. In other words, do your own thing!
What has been the best investment you've made for your writing career?
Without question conferences are worth every penny. When I started attending conferences, a whole new world opened up to me. Yes, they’re expensive, but you make friends, connections, and opportunities. Plus, you learn how to write from people who actually publish books. How great is that? Just give your introverted self a big pep talk and a few challenges before you go so you get the most from the experience, and then enjoy the food and have fun!
What about a favourite word or quote?
My favorite writing quote comes from the late Richard Peck:
We write by the light of every story we have ever read.
I heard Mr. Peck say this quote at an SCBWI conference in New York. I was very busy at the time and wasn’t reading as much as I wanted to. Hearing this quote, I thought, “My gosh, Julie! You’re writing by flashlight!” So I carved out more time to read every day. I carried a book in my bag or purse and found myself reading in waiting rooms, in the car, wherever I could. It’s amazing how much wasted time you can reclaim and put to good use!
My absolute favorite word: SERENDIPITY!
Isn’t it a beautiful word? So much of life, I feel, is serendipitous if you allow yourself some spontaneity!
Thank you, Kellie, for hosting me. It’s been a pleasure to share with you and I look forward to meeting you in person some day!
You can find Julie on Twitter at @juliegz123 and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/juliegz123