Hi Alastair! Thanks for stopping by my blog to reveal the cover for your 2018 picture book, Hello Door.
Thank you, Dylan, for being gracious enough to host the big reveal! I sincerely appreciate it.
Tell us a little bit about your new book, Hello, Door!
HELLO, DOOR is the story of Mr. Fox (or “Foxy” as Alisa Coburn, the illustrator, lovingly coined him) as he breaks into a beautiful house that isn’t his. As he sneaks around throughout the lavish home, he enthusiastically greets everything he sees (and steals) with a polite, “Hello!” But, just as “Foxy” thinks he’s going to get away scot-free, well…he gets his well-deserved comeuppance.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process.
I usually think of a book title first, even before I have a story figured out for it – with a few exceptions here and there. HELLO, DOOR was actually a title that I had written down back in 2012, though I didn’t have an idea for the story until 2016. I try to set aside a little time, each day, to think up new book titles. 99% of them will never go anywhere, because they’re terrible titles, but I have to get them out of my head so that better ones can find their way in.
Once I have a story worth telling, I tend to write my first drafts very quickly. It’s the editing and re-editing that takes a bit more time. Sometimes that takes a day or two, but it oftentimes can take weeks. When I’m finally feeling good about a particular manuscript, I send it off to my agent. She also makes editing suggestions when something’s not quite working or if I have gotten a bit too wordy here and there – which happens a lot.
I am part of a local critique group, too, which I highly recommend for writers looking to sharpen their craft and tighten their storytelling. The folks in my group are always good about being completely honest about my work, which I greatly value. By the time my agent submits a manuscript to a publisher, it’s usually been seen by a number of my most trusted advisors – my kids included.
Have you always been into writing?
Yes. My passion for writing really began with a story I wrote in sixth grade called BAR WARS. It was a parody of STAR WARS, featuring a cast of candy bar characters with deliciously delightful names such as Jelly Rolo, Charleston Chewie and Granola the Nut. A few years later, in high school, I wrote a poem for my freshman English class that was called DETENTION. Unbeknownst to me, my English teacher submitted the poem to a statewide poetry contest and I ended up winning second place. The poem went on to place fifth runner up nationally and I received a check for a whopping $19 (I affectionately refer to it as my “first paying gig”).
To be honest, though, the thought of writing books professionally had never really crossed my mind after I reached adulthood. It wasn’t until my first child was born that the inspiration and motivation to pursue picture books really took hold. I truly owe all of this to my kids, which is something I tell them all the time.
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Reading my books to kids at schools, by far, has been the greatest part of this whole experience. Kids are smart, perceptive and funny and it’s always awesome to watch them react when I’m reading aloud to them. Kids are also my best critics and aren’t afraid to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about your stories – especially my own children.
Another aspect of the job that I absolutely ADORE is when I get to see illustrations for the first time. I can’t draw to save my life (I wish I could), so to see my stories through someone else’s eyes has been amazing. I’ve been lucky enough to have been paired with three incredibly talented illustrators – Alisa Coburn, Sara Not and Kim Smith. They have brought these books to life in ways far better than anything I could have imagined. It’s really an honor when someone puts as much thought, charm and love into the illustrations as I try to do with the writing. And these three incredibly talented artists totally knocked it out of the park – in my humble opinion.
What inspires your creativity?
While I’ve always had a weird, creative, writer-ish brain, there are two things that consistently inspire me – COMEDY and MY KIDS. I am a huge fan of humor and try to weave it into every story I write. I really want my books to be entertaining, read-aloud experiences for both parent and child. It’s important for me as a dad to find books that I enjoy reading and my kiddos love hearing over and over again. That has heavily influenced what I write and how I try to shape my writing.
My kids provide a constant stream of inspiration. My first two books were directly a result of me interacting with my kids and, frankly, being in the right place at the right time. In fact, “There’s no tooting at tea!” was something one of my daughters actually said to someone else. Had I not been in the room when she said it, there wouldn’t be a book at all – which gives me anxiety about all of the wonderfully inspiring and book-title-worthy things my kids say when I’m not around them.
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
I grew up in a tiny farming town in rural Wisconsin – population 1,200. After college, I moved to a very big city in Missouri – population 2,000,000.
If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?
Although getting to write picture books is an absolute dream job, my OTHER dream job would have to be a record producer. Listening to music has been a huge part of my life and it would be incredible to work with bands in a recording studio on a regular basis. I love the art of creating and helping musicians write music and craft their songs would be such a challenging-yet-rewarding experience. So, if Radiohead ever decides to part ways with their producer…I’m totally available.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
Thank you for asking! My third book is called THE GREAT PUPPY INVASION and comes out on October 3rd. It’s the story of what happens when hundreds of puppies suddenly show up in Strictville – a no-nonsense, no-fun town that has never seen puppies before. After HELLO, DOOR releases on January 2nd, I have a fifth book coming out in the Fall of 2018 that is a prequel to NO TOOTING AT TEA called NO PEEKING AT PRESENTS. It features the same older sister, albeit a bit younger, who has a lot of rules for her little sisters on Christmas Eve. I also have a sixth book coming out sometime after that, but the title and release date have not yet been announced.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
From the time I started writing picture books in 2008 to the time my first book LOVE YOU, TOO came out in December of 2016, it had been nearly nine years. Throughout that almost-decade of my life, I got discouraged, doubted myself, and even gave up completely a few times along the way. So, to have the front cover of HELLO, DOOR revealed by you, Mr. Teut, is, very much, a dream come true for me.
The reason I bring this up is that I want people to know just how much I appreciate it when they read one of my stories. I do not take the privilege of getting to write picture books for granted for a single second. Getting to do this was never a certainty for me. My wife can tell you just how much I struggled and questioned whether having a children’s book published would forever be a pipe dream. In fact, I still have to pinch myself that this is actually real, and it’s a wonderful gift to know that my books are actually being bought, checked out of libraries and, most importantly, read by parents and their children.
And now…. the big reveal!