Birds Fly, A Cat Tries is a wordless picture book that follows an adventurous tabby who tries to take flight. What was the inspiration for the wordless idea behind your story?
I enjoy finding ways to help children understand the importance of working together and never giving up in many of my stories – to keep trying no matter the obstacles that are placed in front of us. As a child, our family had a pet cat named Buttercotton. He was an orange Tabby, and this cat loved to hide behind furniture and jump out and try and scare us. He always found a different hiding spot and was forever improving on his scare tactics. I loved that cat’s tenacity.
I find this book to be wonderfully educational for children to insert their own dialogue. Was that the intention or was there a different educational aspect your aimed for?
Wordless picture books are my favorite to work on because I know that children can find many different educational aspects within the story without even knowing that the author has designed the plot with specific educational elements. With their unique ability to imagine the world in so many different ways, children can sense and feel so much within the story of a wordless picture book. And even though my intention, for all my wordless and near wordless picture books, is for children to insert their own dialogue into the story and use their imagination, I always design my picture books to have some kind of positive influence.
I loved the art in this book. What was the funniest scene for you to draw, and what were some sources of inspiration?
That is a difficult question for me to answer. There really isn’t any particular scene that wasn’t fun to draw. I did however enjoy creating the elephant at the end of the story. She went through many variations in order for me to find the right look on her face. As for my source of inspiration, well, I was no different than most children when growing up and wanted to jump off the roof of our house holding an umbrella and float down to the ground. Did I try taking the great plunge? No. But I did think about doing it.
What is the next book that you are working on, and when will it be available?
I am working on two new picture books right now. The Lost and Lonely Tumbleweed, which will be published in June 2022. It is another story about never giving up and to keep on trying, no matter what. Although, The Lost and Lonely Tumbleweed has a lot of words in it. The other book I am working on is titled, Never Was A Grump Grumpier. It will be available in June of 2023, and it is a story about the choices we make in life, particularly the not-so-good choices where we have to accept the consequences that come with the choices we make.
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A Dog Named Zero and The Apple With No Name is a wonderful children’s book that teaches counting in an fun and imaginative way. What inspired you to write this book?
My older brother is a mathematics professor, and he said to me one day that he has spent a lifetime with numbers because of the number zero. And when I did my research and checked on what kind of counting picture books used the number zero, I didn’t find any. I am sure there are some, but I couldn’t find any, and the number zero is the most important number of all numbers.
How do you see this book being used by teachers and parent to educate their children?
That’s difficult to say. I hope teachers and parents will enjoy the humor in the book and use the boohooing and sniffing words in a way that will make children laugh. There is no better way to learn than through laughter.
Did the art in the book follow what you had already written, or did the writing follow the art?
That’s an excellent question. It happens both ways for all of my children’s picture books. I might draw a quirky character, and then the story comes from the drawing. There are times when the story comes first, and then I decide the art style I’ll use that fits the story.
Do you have plans to write more educational picture books?
I feel all children’s picture books are educational. Some are more specific with one point to be made, as in A Dog Named Zero and the Apple With No Name, than others. I have a new picture book that was published March 1st titled Letting Go. It’s about a leaf that doesn’t want to let go, a cycle of life story. And I have another picture book coming out titled Birds Fly, A Cat Tries on June 1st. It’s a wordless picture book about a cat who wants to fly. Each time the brave tabby tries, he fails. But in the end, with some help, the cat finally takes flight.
Both stories have a message, and although they are not as educational as a counting book, my point is, there is always a lesson to learn from every one of my picture books. Or at least, that is my hope.
My plan, though, is to publish at least one picture a year. This year is different, as I will have published the two I mentioned above, Letting Go and Birds Fly, A Cat Tries.
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The Good Witch of the South brings a new evil witch to the land of Oz that is amassing an army to overthrow the Head of Oz. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
TC – The inspiration for the story came from the dust jacket cover art. I had just finished my memoir, Roads Over Brown County, which took me two years to write, and I was playing around with a fairy design and thought it would be a fantastic image for a book cover. I keep thinking how nice a fantasy book cover it would make but didn’t know what kind of story it should be, and I didn’t have a title. For some unknown reason, while I was working on the cover art, I was also reading Frank L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz again.
After I added tattoos on the fairy’s arm and some glowing orbs behind her, it came to me. I knew exactly who this fairy witch was. It made perfect sense; she was a good fairy witch, Glinda’s daughter, the Good Witch of the South. I instantly knew what I wanted to write.
For reasons I can’t explain, the first chapter I wrote in my journal was the epilogue. Everything else about the plot instantly fell into place.
What were some ideas that you wanted to keep from the classic Wizard of Oz and what were some new ideas you wanted to introduce?
TC – That’s a good question. I decided to combine aspects from Baum’s original book and the 1939 MGM movie with Judy Garland. Not many realize that in Baum’s books, Glinda was the Good Witch of the South, or also known as Glinda the Good, and not the Good Witch of the North. For fun, I decided to give Glinda the last name Glinda Goodwitch. I also decided to have the main characters from Baun’s book and the movie, The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion play a part in my book. I also thought it would be fun to add subtle echoes from the movie within my book.
One of my favorite moments in the film is at the end when Dorothy is back home in her own bed, and she is telling her family and friends about Oz. I wanted to capture this iconic moment in the book.
So when the main character, Samantha Goodwitch, Glinda’s daughter, is recuperating from a terrible injury from fighting the vicious red alpha dragon. She wakes up in an unfamiliar bed and looks up at her companions, and tells them about a dream she’d been having. She points a trembling finger at each one and says, “You, and you, and you . . . . . and you were there.” I also had the new Wicked Witch taunt her victims as she did in the movie, using some of the barbs the Wicked Witch of the West used. All of these small touches made the story special and fun for me when I was writing. It made me smile.
I added one piece of imagery at the beginning of the book when Sam is crouched on the roof of the castle looking out across the land of Oz that has been with me since I was a child. I am almost sure it started from the very first time I watched the movie. It happens when the Munchkins escort Dorothy to the center of Munchkin City to show her the Yellow Brick Road. Where the Yellow Brick Road spirals out from the center of the city, there is another spiraling brick road, but the bricks are red. That always fascinated me, and I have ever wondered what kind of adventures one would find following the Red Brick Road. To this day, when I watch the movie, I whisper, “Dorothy, take the Red Brick Road.”
Sam is an intriguing character that I enjoyed watching develop. What were some obstacles you felt were important to the characters development?
Mainly believing in herself and proving herself to her mother, to her sister, and to everyone she loved. Every time I start a new book project, I struggle with it, from my children’s picture books to my novels – especially my novels. So, I say to everyone, “Believe!”
Do you plan to write other stories within the land of Oz?
When I first started writing this Ozarian tale, I said to myself, “What am I think writing a book based on a classic like Oz!” Doing another book? Well, I will tell you this: I have already written an outline. But to be honest, the two years it took me to write The Good Witch of the South knocked the breath out of me. I am not sure I have it in me to write another adventure in the Land of Oz. But one never knows.
I have to admit. Now that this Good Witch story is finished, I find myself genuinely missing my daily visits to the Oz.
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