This post is part of “The Next Big Thing,” which is a world-wide blog tour—someone described it as a kind of chain letter for authors. It began in Australia, to showcase authors and illustrators and their work. If you Google “The Next Big Thing blog tour” you’ll get introduced to dozens of talented authors and illustrators.
Gabby illustrator Jan Dolby and I were tagged by two talented kidlit creators whose book, Skink on the Brink, comes out later this month. Skink was written by Lisa Dalrymple and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo, a three-dimensional media artist.
In the blog tag, each kidlit creator answers the same six questions about their book. Here are the comments from Jan Dolby and myself.
What is the title of your next book?
Our first book, Gabby, came out in January 2013.
Our second book in the series is called Gabby—Drama Queen, and it comes out in September 2013.
Where did the idea come from for the book? How did you come up with the final character illustrations for the book?
Joyce: I’m very passionate about literacy. Something I discovered in my research is that if reading can be “tactile,” many kids will absorb and understand it better and possibly faster. So I thought, ‘what if there was a way to have the letters in a book be touchable, and moveable?’ And there it was!
As for Gabby herself, I knew that we would have to have a character who was smart and quirky enough to just go with the flow when strange things started happening around her. The actual name “Gabby” came up in a brainstorming session with my editors/publishers, Christie and Cathy. Before that, the character was named Sarah, after a little girl I know. I think “Gabby” really suits the character—plus it’s a mild pun, which I really like.
Jan: I draw and draw until I create a character-drawing that I fall in love with. With Gabby I fell in love fast. I’ve always enjoyed book characters that have red hair and a spunky personality. I had to give Joyce’s book one of those.
I tweeked the character a little to give her more height and width—with an “emotional flower” and crazy curly pigtails.
After awhile, the tiny little girl—Gabby—with the red glasses and yellow socks arrived!
In what genre does your book fall?
It’s a children’s picture book, for ages approximately 3 to 6.
At the back of the book there are also literacy activities that parents can do with their kids.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Joyce: It would have to be someone young and very quirky and smart. Maybe someone like Miranda Cosgrove when she was a little younger (she played Carly in iCarly).
Or what about Quvenzhane Wallis – the girl who was in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”? She’s pretty smart and, I think, quirky.
Jan: When I came up with the Mrs. Oldham character, I was constantly thinking of Phyllis Diller. I loved her outbursts of laughter, her crazy hair and body language. I’m also a big fan of Rico Rodriguez (Manny) from Modern Family. His character on the show is so confident. That’s how I see Gabby’s friend, Roy.
What is a brief synopsis of your book?
When Gabby and her friend Roy want to put on a play, what could go wrong?
They soon find out, as “Queen Gabriella” loses her precious crown! They’ll find it in the most unlikely place – with the help of Gabby’s magic word-making book and her nutty but loveable neighbour, Mrs. Oldham.
Who is publishing your book?
Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, Publishers in Toronto.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? How long did the illustrations take to complete?
Joyce: It took about a year to write the first Gabby book, and then re-write and revise it eight or nine times. When you don’t have many words, you have to make sure each one works really hard. Plus, you have to leave room for the illustrator to breathe.
It took a bit less time to write the second one, because I had less time—actually, we’re still revising but we’re pretty close to the final product.
Jan: Creating the new characters for Gabby—Drama Queen was a blast and didn’t really take me that long. That for me is the most fun. Between the storyboard drawings and the final painted illustrations, I would say it has taken me about 3 to 4 months to get the illustrations ready to scan. I’m at the digital stage where the magic of Photoshop and Illustrator come in. That process will take just a couple of weeks to finish.
Thanks for reading, blog tour-ers! I’m happy now to tag the next person in this blog tour, multiple award-winning illustrator and cartoonist, David Anderson. I’ve known David for a long time, back when he drew brilliant editorial cartoons for a publication I was an editor with, called Canadian HR Reporter. Of course, his drawings have also appeared in some lesser-known papers like, oh, the New York Times and Time magazine. Enjoy!