Posted by Literary Titan
The World’s Greatest Mousetrap follows Reginald as he tries his best to rid his shop of a pesky mouse. How did you come up with the idea behind this book?
It really began with the text on the first page. When I began writing the book, I had intended on having the bookstore as a small library. The only idea I had at the time was that I wanted to contrast the small, quiet and familiar world of a building (and the person within it) that had managed to keep out the expanding and fast paced world growing up about them.
After the first page, I knew I could take the story in a number of directions, but I decided that I really wanted to focus on that idea of our small worlds being challenged – not from the outside, but from within.
The elaborate mousetrap that Reginald builds was cute, and I ended up staring at the image for a few minutes just to take it all in. What served as your inspiration when creating the mousetrap?
I’m happy to hear that you lingered on that page – that was exactly what I hoped readers might do. I’ve always loved books that invite you to spend time looking over them in detail.
I think perhaps what served as my inspiration for the elaborate mousetrap, were the strange inventions and Rube Goldberg machines in the classic film ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. I enjoyed the over-the-top attempts to solve a problem and I wanted to inject that humour into the book.
That page was actually one of the more difficult ones I think for me to describe to Fanny Liem (the book’s illustrator). I hope I didn’t frustrate her too much, but I think we went through three revisions. Each time, I asked her to make it bigger and more complex. In my mind, I had levers and tubes and gears crowding the shop so much that they were invading the street. In the end, I think she rightfully restrained the idea to something that someone of Reginald’s age could manage. She did a fantastic job I think with not only the mousetrap, but with all the illustrations.
I think, in the end, this book is about unlikely friendships. What was a guiding theme for you when writing this book?
I really wanted to create a fun and accessible story about prejudice and the worlds that we create around ourselves that can often hinder our capacity to see the similarities in others.
Reginald’s world is safe. He knows who he is and he knows what he likes. The mouse ends up invading that world and obviously setting into motion a series of events that leads to Reginald confronting his own prejudgements.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book is called Don’t Drink the Pink and is about a young girl and the magical relationship she has with her Grandfather. Like all my other books, there are a number of layers that I hope will appeal to a wide age group. It will be available August 1, 2019.
When Reginald finds a mouse in his bookstore, he will stop at nothing to catch the pesky critter. Even if it means building the world’s greatest mousetrap. Unfortunately for Reginald, the mouse always seems to be one step ahead.
Posted by Literary Titan
Action Men and Silly Putty follows Jack and Andy as they try to find what is so important about a teddy bear from 1915 that Jack purchases at an estate sale. What was the initial inspiration behind the setup to this fun novel?
This might seem strange, but I don’t know if I can even explain how certain ideas came to me, except that the bear and estate sale set up must have stemmed out of my interest in antiques. I watch both Pawn Stars and American Pickers and refer to them both collectively as “the guys.” I’ll pick up the remote and say, “Let’s switch it to the guys,” and, by that, I mean switch it to the History Channel for one of those two shows. I also have an Antiques Roadshow book at home, and in it, there is a … guess what? 1915 Steiff teddy bear. That is where I drew some of the details for the bear. I suppose that photo of the bear drew me in more than a lot of the other items in the book. How I figured out how to involve this bear in a crazy plot is harder to explain.
It might interest you to know that my Jack Donegal character first appeared in a short story that was not a mystery, featuring Jack and a supporting character, Ellen Danforth, the owner of the Salvador Deli. Andy Westin wasn’t yet even a character which is interesting for me when I reflect on it, because, by now, I’m equally attached to both characters! It was a friend who suggested that I write a mystery. I had already established Jack as a toy inventor before I entertained the thought of him as an amateur sleuth, so the estate sale and the bear was one way to get my characters to stumble into a mystery for them to solve.
Jack and Andy have a unique and often humorous relationship that lends well to the overall lighthearted mystery of the book. What were some themes you were trying to capture when writing their characters?
For a long time, I was interested in the absent-minded professor type character or the eccentric scientist character. I liked characters such as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future and was interested in some real life stories about scientists or inventors in history who had some quirks. My dad is actually a retired scientist and inventor, although not in the field of toys and, as a child, earned the nickname of “absent-minded professor” from his family. Dad and Jack do not share all of the same quirks … but perhaps a few of them. I’m also kind of fascinated with the individualist, and Jack is that. He doesn’t mind being different or dressing in his own unique style. I thought I’d rather make him a confident individualist than an awkward nerd, although he’s definitely still a nerd too by some definitions.
I really wanted Andy to be, more or less, his complete opposite. He’s the sensible, organized, in-the-moment practical guy who also has a kind of humorous way of looking at things. I wanted the balance of the two different extremes, so they can help one another out, as well as the comedy from being a sort of “odd couple.”
I enjoyed the twists and turns throughout the book. Did you plan the novel before writing or did it come organically while writing?
It was more like the second option. The story developed more spontaneously as I wrote, but I might have planned several scenes or chapters ahead when the creative juices were really flowing.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I am actually working on several things. The next book to come out fairly soon is unrelated to this series but is an illustrated children’s book called The Journey of Digory Mole about a little mole who turns a mountain into a mole hill. I have one other “Action Men” book already available and that is Action Men and the Great Zarelda which is a little shorter, a Kindle book novella. The two guys have a mystery adventure with a suspicious female illusionist. I also have a mystery short story for Kindle, starring a female sleuth, English professor, Grace Darby. That one is titled The Lit Club Mystery. I have several stories in the planning for both mystery series and even hope to do a spin-off series for kids starring Jack Donegal’s niece and nephew. Right now, I have a related mystery serial, Action Men with Duct Tape as a blog on my website, https://susan-joy-clark.com. I will likely publish that as a book when it is complete.
Jack Donegal is an engineer, toy inventor and the head of his own toy company but not a detective until he stumbles into a strange situation. While on a business trip, he stops to purchase a 1914 teddy bear at an estate auction. While still on the auction grounds, armed thugs, who mistake him for a Dalton Starks, seem to think he’s in possession of something they want. Although police rescue him from his first encounter with criminals, Jack and Andy Westin, his marketing manager, roommate and friend, begin to think there’s something special about this teddy bear to make it interesting to criminals. They engage in a cat and mouse hunt with various members of the criminal world, but who are the cats and who are the mice? With the help of their combined wits and various technical gadgetry including toy parts and prototypes, Jack and Andy help bring several criminals to justice. With two personalities like those of Jack and Andy, there is bound to be some silliness along the way in this comedy mystery.
Posted in Interviews
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