“What IS that? Uck! Man! It stinks. There’s a terrible smell coming from the fridge. Do YOU smell that? We’ve got to figure out what it is!”
We’ve ALL had that conversation at least once in our lives. Yet leave it to Josh Funk to take that conversation and run with it for a sequel to his “Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast” picture book. Brilliant!
Josh Funk is a picture book writer on a roll. This is his 4th picture book to be released, but not his last. He has another picture book coming out this fall, and 2 more under contract already. He is also a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.
Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts. You can learn more about him at his website www.joshfunkbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.
Josh: Thank you so much for inviting me back for another Simply 7 Interview!
Me: “The Case of the Stinky Stench” is a wonderful sequel to “Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast.” It expands the fridge universe delightfully. Is this something you did before you sat down to write the story? Did you draw a map of sorts? Or did the universe expand with the need for good rhyme?
Josh: The idea for a sequel occurred to me when I first saw Brendan Kearney’s sketches for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast. I realized there was so much more to this fridge world that could be explored … and I wanted to venture further into the depths of Brendan’s illustrations.
I didn’t draw a map. But I also try not to let the rhymes lead the story. I think my goal was to get as many different exciting illustratable terrain features that I could – Salsa Ravine, Casserole Cliff, Onion Ring Cave – all of these locations fit in Brendan’s World (in my mind), and I couldn’t wait to see how he’d eventually draw them!
Me: You found a very clever way to incorporate the previous villain, new culprits and even a funny literary device (“red herring” HA!). Did you have all that planned when you first started writing? Do you outline your writing or do you let the story surprise you?
Josh: I knew Baron von Waffle had to return (the previous villain), but it would be too easy to have made him the real culprit (I often ask the kids when I read it aloud, “Who thinks it’s Baron von Waffle?” and then tell them they need to watch more Law & Order as it’s never the first suspect).
And I did plan out that there would need to be other suspects. I’m not sure when the ‘red herring’ came in – but that was too juicy (or smoky) to pass up. I always try to make my stories enjoyable for the older crowd as well as the kids. So to truly answer your question, I think I do a little bit of both.
Me: The illustrations by Brendan Kearney are once again amazing. Was there a sequel already in the works when the first book was published? Is that how you managed to nab the same illustrator for both books?
Josh: I totally agree. Brendan’s illustrations are glorious! Sterling actually agreed to make a sequel before the first book was published, which is partly why this book came out so quickly after the first (only about 20 months). I can’t imagine a Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast book not illustrated by Brendan Kearney. But each book was a single book deal (by that I mean it wasn’t a two-book deal from the start).
Me: Dare I ask if there are future sequels in the works? Is this a world you’d be willing to revisit again?
Josh: Due to contractual obligations, I am not able to answer this question at this time. wink
Me: Ahhh. LOL! Ok, then let me ask this. What surprised you in writing a sequel that you hadn’t encountered in your writing before? Was there anything different in writing a sequel than an original picture book?
Josh: That’s an interesting question. I think writing a sequel was both slightly constricting, but also gave additional freedom. Constricting in that I had existing characters that I needed to and wanted to work in. But freeing in that I had a world that was already defined and created – and I didn’t have to redefine that setting – I could simply dive in and start telling the story.
Me: I love the book trailer for this one as well. Is this another one you created yourself? Do you find book trailers the best marketing tool to use as an author to get word out about your book? Or do you have another favorite publicity tool?
Josh: Aww, thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Just like the others on my Stuff for Kids page, I recorded the song on my phone using the GarageBand app and then used iMovie to make a slideshow (if only GarageBand existed when I was in college … I’d probably be a failed musician right now).
As far as publicity uses, the YouTube trailer currently has a hair under 2,000 views – not astronomically viral – but it certainly doesn’t hurt. I think that my best publicity tool is Twitter where I network with educators, parents, booksellers, and readers.
There’s no magic bullet. There are so many great picture books created today, it’s hard for any individual book to grab the attention of readers. The best advice I’ve heard (and used) is to do what you like. I like making trailers and I like Twitter – so that’s what I do.
Me: That makes perfect sense. Okay, the fun question: What is your favorite fridge friend in this series? Or place (Marshmallow Coast? Taco Bridge? etc.)?
Josh: Haha! That first spread is a huge winner! I’d love to spend a day (or just 10 minutes) at Marshmallow Coast after a meal at Taco Bridge!
But the truth is … my favorite character is … Baron von Waffle! Bwahahahahaha!
LOL! Thanks Josh. Readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet to check out this wonderful book, track it down today. It’s funny and the rhyme scheme is knocked out of the park. It’s definitely a fun read.