I told you there was some amazing things in store for the blog this summer. Today, it’s my 5th interview with Diana Murray. FIFTH! She is a writing fiend!
Diana Murray is an author to watch out for. She has published at least two picture books every year for the past few years. She has several books already assigned contracts and several poems sold to Highlights as well. I have a feeling that she is a writer we are going to see quite frequently over the next few years. You can learn more about her at her website or from some of the previous Simply 7 interviews tagged here.
“Doris the Bookasaurus” is an adorable story about a little dinosaur who looooooves books. She is CRAZY about ALL kinds of books: joke books, adventure stories, etc. There is NO limit to Doris’s love.
Me: Welcome again Diana! You now have 5 picture books out, another one out soon, and several more that have been sold (as well as poetry). What’s your secret to success?
Diana: Writing, writing, and more writing! I’m very passionate about what I do. My husband yells at me for working on vacation, but it’s what I enjoy! It’s fun for me, even when it’s hard work. Another big motivator is financial need.
Also, over the years, I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been to exchange loads and loads of critiques with other writers. When you crit the work of others, it helps you build revising skills when you look at your own work.
Me: SO true! I learn from others critiques as well as getting feedback. Can you describe what your writing process looks like? Do you write ALL the time?
Diana: Yes, I pretty much write all the time. LOL. Whenever I have a spare moment. I’m perhaps a little too obsessive. Which sadly leads to things like not putting away the laundry or not doing the dishes for far too long. But hey, that lead to a book idea, too–GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH–so it’s cool.
Me: LOL! Touche! “Doris the Bookasaurus” is basically about a dinosaur that likes to read. What gave you that idea?
Diana: Firstly, I wanted to write about a bookish character that might be described by some as a “nerd.” Because I like to smash together opposing characteristics, I thought it would be fun to make it about dinosaurs. Secondly, one of my favorite things about watching my kids read is when they incorporate books into their playtime. I love it when reading time and playtime mesh together. That was the main thing I wanted to show. That reading enhances play. That the two aren’t so separate.
Me: Ohh! Good point! Were you an avid reader when you were young? Or did you struggle to learn to read?
Diana: Not at all. I enjoyed books that were assigned in school but I could never find books that interested me on my own, for some reason. I tried. I remember buying a book with a really cool dragon cover. Alas, all the characters were male and it wasn’t my cup of tea. My parents weren’t into reading either and they also weren’t native English speakers. My mother used to read me a Russian version of Thumbelina, which I remember fondly. I also listened to books on records. But that’s about it. I do recall reading dictionaries and encyclopedias just for fun. That’s what I had easy access to. If I could go back in time, things would have been different.
I always loved libraries, though. The quiet. The smell of books. The endless possibilities. But no, I can’t say I was an avid reader.
Yet I did love writing, on the other hand. I wrote my first book in third grade. I buried it under a willow tree in front of my apartment building in Queens, imagining that future archaeologists would dig it up someday. I guess I didn’t understand the properties of construction paper.
Me: Oh dear. I buried some toys when I was a kid too for a time capsule. Interesting. Speaking of kids who don’t like to read, I heard somewhere recently that girls will read books with boy characters, but boys won’t read books with girl characters. In this story you have a boy-friendly subject (i.e., dinosaurs), but the main character is a girl (although the two brothers are there too). Did you think about this when you were creating this story at all? Any thoughts about the struggle to get reluctant readers to read?
Diana: Wow, so glad you brought this up! Great question. Because, guess what? I had this story under consideration at another house and they asked me to change the MC to a male for that very reason! So I played around with “Boris the Bookasaurus” for a while. It just never felt right. Also, it kind of upset my daughters when I told them. That was the worst.
As far as reluctant readers, I think incorporating book topics, characters, or themes into playtime is one of the best things you can do. And of course, finding the right kind of book. I wanted this book to show how many different kinds of books are out there. Maybe a book of records could spark imagination? How about a joke book? There’s a book out there for everyone!
Me: As an avid fan of books, I have to agree! Do you have any stories you can share that are unique to this book? Did it have a unique publication journey? Or a struggle with revision? Or a surprise in the illustrations that you didn’t know was going to be there?
Diana: Struggle with revision? Oh boy. This started out as a prose story about a dinosaur who builds the first library because she can’t find a quiet place to read. Slowly evolved into this. Over about a year. Many, many, many versions.
Me: Really? Well, that’s a surprise! I saw the rhyme in this one and I know how much you like to write in rhyme. I never would’ve guessed. When I was a kid the Triceratops was my favorite dinosaur. Seeing “The Land Before Time” almost changed my mind on that, but when I saw “Walking with the Dinosaurs” I knew I would always love the Triceratops. What is your favorite dinosaur (or do you have one)?
Diana: Ha! “Land Before Time” was one of my eldest daughter’s favorites. She used to call it “Dinosaur Friends.”
Hmmm, I think I like sauropods. They’re gentle giants.
Interesting! Long necks. How can you not love them (especially after “Land Before Time”)? If you haven’t had a chance to read this book yet, track down a copy. It’s adorable and sure to absorb some of those reluctant readers.