Hello, Deborah, thanks for joining me here to talk about what’s new with you!
Thanks so much for having me, Dylan!
Tell us a little bit about your new book, Good Night Baddies.
Good Night, Baddies tells the story of what happens each night when the “bad” fairy tale characters—witches, wolves, giants, dragons, trolls, etc.—clock out of their baddie work and go home to their baddie castle. They chat about their days, have a lovely dinner together, change into their pajamas, brush their teeth (or fangs), read bedtime stories, and tuck each other in. Who knew?
What was your reaction when you first saw the illustrations that Juli Kangas did?
As a writer, I should be able to describe my feelings when I saw Juli’s first sample illustration, but I can’t. I think I gasped. It was as if she’d taken my words and transformed them, making them into something gorgeous and rich and adding a tremendous amount of depth at the same time. It was a feeling of, “That was exactly what I was trying to say, but I didn’t even realize I’d been trying to say it.” It couldn’t have been more perfect. And her finished art has absolutely lived up to that first impression.
Did I read somewhere that you have five books slated for 2017?
Yes! Only because of the vagaries of the business: two were supposed to publish this year, but they got pushed back. Given that, I would not be terribly shocked if one of next year’s books slips too, but Ned Young’s terrific art for Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten (Disney Hyperion) is finished, and Here Comes Teacher Cat (Dial) and Part-time Mermaid (Disney Hyperion) are well underway.
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
I sing dinnertime songs to my cat, Bella. She tolerates it. Barely.
If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?
Wow, I think one reason I’m making this career work is that I have no escape hatch! I worked as an administrative assistant for many years; I would be miserable if I had to do that again. Maybe I’d be a freelance musician like many of my friends, cobbling together various singing jobs. I also think it would be fun to work in a creative environment like the story department at Pixar: to be able to write, but have the ability to bounce ideas off of colleagues every day.
How did your career as an author start?
When I got out of college, I had a ridiculous stroke of beginner’s luck: Glamour bought an article I wrote for $1,000, which back then was nearly four times my rent! I made the mistake of thinking that freelance writing would be easy, and quickly learned how wrong I was. After that, I sold some puzzles and some greeting cards, wrote some screenplays no one bought, and generally flailed around till I realized that since I’d always loved children’s books best, maybe I should be writing them.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
I’m happy to say that I have nine picture books lined up over the next several years. And I really, really mean to work on something longer this year—either a chapter book or a graphic novel, or maybe one of the abandoned middle grade novels I never finished. It’s a scary thought for me, but we have to keep pushing ourselves and growing, right?
And I’m hoping to make more music. I dropped out of the chamber choir I sang with for nearly two decades when my writing and singing schedules got too difficult to coordinate, but a few months ago I wrote and recorded a lullaby to go along with Good Night, Baddies. It’s a free listen/download at deborahunderwood.bandcamp.com, and I’d love to do more things like that.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
Just thanks for reading, and I hope they enjoy my books! And I’d like to thank YOU, Dylan, for all you to do support writers and illustrators, and to get kids interested in reading.
Thank you, Deborah, for joining me here!
My pleasure—any time!