Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blog Book Tour - Bonny Becker

For those of you who have not yet read Bonny Becker's new book, let me tell you that you are in for a treat. It is an utterly delightful picture book and I can almost guarantee that it will bring a smile to your face. You can read my review of the book on the Through the Looking Glass Book Review website.

I have been lucky enough to interview Bonny this month. Here are my questions and her answers.

1.Did this story come to you out of the ether or did some person or event give you the inspiration for it?
I was thinking about how things can keep coming back up in your life--you know, like the wrong type of boyfriend or the same mistake at work and how they'll keep coming back until you face that pattern and, in a way, "befriend" it. For some reason, that morphed into the image of a pesky little mouse who keeps popping up and a grouchy bear seemed the perfect one for the mouse to pester.

2. Why did you decide to use a bear and a mouse as your characters?
They fit so well with the story. Mice do have a way of showing up in unexpected places. Bears are big and make good grouches. The two characters came quickly and felt just right.

3. What are you trying to say to your audience in the story?
I think underneath the story, for me, is this idea about things coming up again and again in life. But as I was writing the story, I mostly was having fun with the characters and the absurdity of the situation. In my first draft, Mouse leaves and never comes back. All my critiquing friends agreed this was much too sad, so I spent another big chunk of time figuring out how to bring grouchy Bear and ebullient Mouse together in a fun, not-too-sappy way.

4. Is this your favorite book so far?
I think it's a toss-up between this and my book "A Christmas Crocodile." Both involve persistent, life-affirming characters and rather grumpy sorts who try to deal with them--but I have to admit, I didn't realize the similarities until after "A Visitor for Bear" was published. That theme must be one of those things that pops up again and again in my life!

5. How do you feel about all the success the book has had?
I'm so happy about it. "A Christmas Crocodile" illustrated by David Small was one of my earlier books and it got a lot of attention, too, including a big review in the NY Times Review of Books. It was also read on NPR, as was "Bear" and even got read on national television. At the time, although I was thrilled, I didn't realize exactly how rare that kind of attention is. Now, almost ten years later, I do know. I'm working hard to promote and support "A Visitor for Bear" but mostly this kind of attention is out of your hands. As I told a friend, "If you swing enough, sometimes you're going to hit a home run and then, mostly all you can do is sit back and watch it fly!"

6. Judging both from this book and your website you obviously have a keen sense of humor. What makes you laugh?
I am the world's cheapest laugh. My husband can attest to that--he's counting on me for a chuckle on the same old quips and I oblige. I love shows like Saturday Night Live, the Steven Colbert Report, Jon Stewart, 30 Rock, the Office. I eat up movies like "Dumb and Dumber" and "The Wedding Crashers" and Austin Powers. Dumb, stupid, broad humor--although I hate the Three Stooges. And I like clever humor--wit, satire, sarcasm and irony. I think I particularly like pompous characters.

7. I see from you website that you also edit manuscripts. Do you learn a lot from the mistakes that you see others making in their writing?
Yes, definitely. But it's also true that it's much easier to spot problems in someone elses writing, than your own. (see question 8)

8. Can you see the mistakes in your own work?
I'm better at it than I used to be. But, often, no. I totally need to get feedback. I probably do 30 or so drafts of a typical picture book. Five to six of those drafts might involve fairly significant story changes--a character eliminated, a new story event added, a different starting point, a different turning point, a different ending--that kind of thing. The other drafts are polishing, polishing, polishing. Rhythm, pacing, patterns, precise wording are critical to a picture book and that takes a lot of drafts to get just right. The polishing I'm pretty much doing on my own. But in terms of outside feedback, I probably go through about three cycles of getting feedback.

9. After writing several picture books did you enjoy writing a longer book when you did Holbrook: A Lizard’s tale?
Yes. I love middle grade novels, too. And I really like being able to go back and forth between the two forms. I have a new middle grade novel, "The Magical Ms. Plum", coming out Fall '09. And a second Bear and Mouse book "A Birthday for Bear" in Fall '09, too. "A Bedtime for Bear" is coming out in 2010. And I'm working on a fourth Mouse and Bear story. And a new middle-grade novel is starting to percolate in my head. I'm letting it kind of slosh around for now, but I'm excited about getting to work on it.

10. Did you grow up in a house full of books, and what was your favorite book when you were a child?
Yes. There were bookshelves in virtually every room. I think there were probably over 1,000 books, not to much the steady flow of books in and out of our house from the library. I particularly loved books about magic. Probably the Oz series was my favorite.

To find out more about Bonny do visit her website.

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