AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stacy McAnulty
I'm a big fan of Stacy McAnulty's picture books (and her chapter books are on my to-be-read list - they sound brilliant!), so I'm thrilled that she stopped by my blog to answer some questions for my Author Interview series.
Stacy writes funny, informative, meaningful books that kids just love, and she also gives back and helps aspiring authors through the mentoring program Writing with the Stars, which I've mentioned on this blog before.
Read on to learn about Stacy's favourite children's books, publishing tidbits, and her latest picture book, Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert. This newly-released book is illustrated by Deborah Hocking and published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (distributed by Penguin Random House in Australia).
I'll be reviewing Max Explains Everything soon, too, so keep an eye out for that.
Can you tell us a bit about your book, and the themes/issues it explore?
Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert is the first in a series. Each book features Max giving us the lowdown on a topic he knows well. We start at the grocery store, then we tackle youth soccer, and finally puppies. We’re calling him the ultimate kidsplainer.
How do you hope readers will connect with the book, and/or what do you want them to take away from it?
First, I always hope the reader is entertained and laughs. That’s my number one goal. Read a book, have fun! With the Max books, I also hope kids see a bit of themselves. Kids are smart and perceptive. They don’t have as much knowledge or experience as adults, so we often don’t give them the credit they deserve. Let’s celebrate the perceptive and curious child. May they always stay that way.
Do you have any suggestions on ways parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers and readers can get more out of the book?
The art in this book deserves time for study. When I read a picture book to kids, I have a bad habit of turning the pages too quickly. Once I’m done reciting the words, I flip the page. Let kids savor the art in Max. There’s a lot going on, just like in a grocery store. Notice the customers, the products, and the silliness throughout. We’ve also created a few activity sheets to accompany the book that you can find on my website. Kids can draw their own map and decorate a cereal box. Fun stuff!
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?
This book took a long time to make its way through the publishing process. I had interest from Penguin in December 2014 and received the offer in February ‘15. It finally publishes this month— over three years later. That’s a long time to wait on a project you love. But the illustrations are perfect, and Max is darling, so I’d say it was worth it. Luckily, the next two books will only come out a year apart.
Can you let us in on any sneak peeks into your next books or other projects?
Right on the heels of Max’s publication is my first novel. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl hits shelves on May 1st. It’s a story of a 12-year-old homeschooler, who after being struck by lightning, is a math savant and essentially ready for college, but instead, her grandmother sends her to middle school for the first time. I also have two picture books coming in the fall. It’s a busy year.
Do you have a favourite picture book (or top three) you can never get enough of?
When my kids were little, we couldn’t get enough Sandra Boynton. We could all recite The Going to Bed Book by heart. As they got older, we became fans of Robert Munsch, Doreen Cronin, and Kevin Henkes. But my favorite book, when I was a child, was The Fourteen Bears Summer and Winter by Evelyn Scott and Virginia Parsons. We read it over and over, and I studied the pictures — even tried to duplicate them on my own. The copy at my dad’s house was held together with duct tape. Love that book!
Where do you do your writing, and do you have any particular rituals in your creative process?
I have a home office. It’s about 20 feet from my coffeemaker. A perfect location! I try to write while my 3 kids are at school, but I also work most nights and weekends. The mornings are best for writing and revising my creative work. Afternoons and evenings are better for emails, paperwork, marketing, and all the other requirements of being a small business.
Do you have some tips for other creatives?
For me, quantity is the key. I can’t wait for the perfect story, or the perfect line, or even the perfect word to pop magically into my brain. I tell myself, “Keep writing. You can edit later.” Most of what I write initially is garbage. But can I truly know that at the time? Also, when I’m working on a story, especially a longer project, I can’t take a day off. Even if I only add 100 words, they count. Feed the story every day or it may disappear on you.
Can you tell us something not a lot of people know about you?
I play Plants vs. Zombies 2 every day — usually before bed. Somehow, defeating all those zombies helps me unwind.
(Kellie's aside - I think I'm going to have to check this one out. I sometimes play Solitaire before bed, but defeating Zombies sounds good fun, too!)