It’s another fairy tale revision! And today I get to interview both the author and the illustrator about their work on this wonderful book.
Rebecca Kraft Rector is a retired children’s librarian who has written over thirty children’s books and has been published in several magazines for young readers. For as long as she can remember, she has loved reading and writing stories and poems. She also loves animals, especially cats and horses. She lives in Virginia. You can learn more about her at her website.
LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR is a very clever revision of Little Red Riding Hood. Here a modern Red has written a letter to her Grandma that she brings along with her basket of goodies on the way to Grandma’s house. The Big Bad Wolf is SO distracted by how terrible her writing is that he keeps forgetting to eat her. It’s a hilarious spin that also somehow manages to slip in some teaching about writing! I LOVE IT! And this is definitely a book I need to add to my classroom collection.
Me: I love a fairy tale adaptation that can still manage to be fresh after so many revisions out there and you definitely freshened up “Little Red Riding Hood” in this story. How did you come up with this idea?
Rebecca: I like wordplay and I like playing with titles. I came up with Little Red Writing Hood and decided she’d be writing a thank you note to Granny. I checked Amazon and WorldCat.org to see if anyone had already written the story and they hadn’t! So I gave it a try. Now, as a lifetime horse lover, I’m wondering if anyone has twisted Little Red Riding Hood into a story about Red and her horse. Maybe the horse’s name is Hood…hmm, I’ll be right back. Just have to jot down a few ideas. 🙂
Me: You have quite an extensive resume! You’ve been a librarian, a cleaner, babysitter, shampoo girl, filer, typist, reading and study skills teacher, and elementary school network manager. But I don’t see 1st grade teacher (like myself) on this list, so I’m dying to know HOW you knew about the key writing elements being taught (repeatedly!) to young writers? I swear it takes an entire year of me reminding my students to use finger spaces before they get it!
Rebecca: I have to take my hat off to first grade teachers. So many things to teach your wiggling, giggling students! And you all do a first-rate job. As for me, I also write for educational publishers and testing companies, so I had a good idea of some of the basic skills that would be needed. Input from people with children helped a lot, too.
Me: Ahhh, okay. I love the double entendre in the thank you letter at the end. (NO spoilers given!). It’s so succinct and hilarious. I laughed over it for a good long time. How long did it take you to come up with that? Or was that the illustrator’s idea?
Rebecca: Thanks! Endings aren’t usually easy for me. But this story was different. Once I had the concept of the Big Bad Wolf correcting the letter writing mistakes, the final thank you letter came to me. All I had to do was write everything leading up to the end. 🙂 The ending now is exactly what I came up with back then.
Me: Wow, that’s amazing. Speaking of illustrators, the illustrations by Shanda McCloskey are a perfect fit. I love her character’s expressions and movements. Were there any illustration surprises for you? Any favorite illustrations?
Rebecca: Shanda’s illustrations are fantastic! She brought energy and sass to the story and added lots of her own ideas into the illustrations. Mr. Wolf’s glasses and turtleneck sweater, for instance, make him less intimidating to the reader. So smart! I love all the art, but the skateboard scene is one of my absolute favorites.
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Rebecca: It shouldn’t have been a surprise because I’ve told myself this before, but the story really didn’t come together until I stopped trying to force the words and let myself have fun. Part of the fun was coming up with all of the figurative language. I challenged myself to include lots of metaphors (because I totally can’t write them) and I had lots of fun with it. Then, surprise! I realized I had written similes and not a single metaphor. Sigh.
Me: LOL! I love that. Any advice for other new picture book writers?
Rebecca: Have fun and don’t give up! Try a different approach or a different style. Keep learning and writing. Remember, it only takes one yes.
Me: When you were a child, who was your favorite fairy tale character? Have you already written a story for them?
Rebecca: When I thought about your question, I was surprised to realize that my favorite fairy tale character is the sister in The Six Swans. I haven’t read the story in years, but I remember her determination to save her brothers and the sacrifices and pain she went through. I don’t write stories like that, but those emotions sure stuck with me. Now that I think of it, though, my middle grade stories do have a lighthearted way of incorporating some of those same emotions. Wow, what a great question! Thanks for asking it. And as for folktales, the three little pigs are some of my favorite characters and I’m working on a new story for them.
Ohhh! That sounds fun Rebecca. Thank you for stopping by my blog today.
BUT WAIT, dear readers! There’s more! I also interviewed the fantastic illustrator.
Shanda McCloskey comes from a family of different kinds of artists and entrepreneurs. She studied art in Atlanta and New York City. Before writing and illustrating kid’s books, she taught art to high schoolers. Shanda now lives in Ball Ground, Georgia, with her husband, daughters, and dog! She is also a cocreator of AuthorVisitCentral.com and the Author Visit Podcast. You can learn more about her at her website.
Me: Can you share about your artistic journey? When did you start creating art?
Shanda: Drawing was kinda my thing from the get-go and the only skill I excelled at as a kid, so naturally I felt like it was my calling to use it in a career. I definitely love what I do, but it was a rude awakening when I first went to art school and suddenly I wasn’t the best artist in the school! I learned that if I wanted to compete with lots of talented artists, I had to combine my talent with actual hard work!
Me: You have had several books published as either an illustrator of others’ work or an author illustrator now. How did you get into the work of illustrating picture books? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to illustrating this book?
Shanda: I started out thinking I just wanted to illustrate books, but I got nowhere fast on that path. It wasn’t until I put my art with my own story ideas and made a book dummy (Doll-E 1.0) when agents and publishers started to respond. After my first two author-illustrated books were published, I got the opportunity to illustrate someone else’s story- which was a whole different and new experience!
My agent paired me with Rebecca’s Little Red Writing Hood story (which I LOVED so so much), pitched us as a team, and sold our package to Aladdin/Simon and Shuster!
Me: What does your illustration process look like? Is it a blend of traditional media and digital? And if it’s only digital, HOW do you recreate those amazing watercolor textures so well?
Shanda: These pictures were by drawn digitally (with Procreate), printed out on watercolor paper, and painted with ACTUAL watercolors. Then, I scanned in the paintings and tweaked them in Photoshop. This is the first book I have drawn digitally, and I think I’m hooked. 🙂
Me: WOW! Now that’s a process! I loved the addition of the skateboard and helmet to the illustrations in the middle of the book. They’re completely unrelated to the text. What gave you the idea to add those?
Shanda: Oh thanks! I guess I figured that if Wolf kept catching up to Red (who was on foot) after each escape I’d need to (at least sometimes) explain how. In the city park scene, it made sense for Wolf to show up on a skateboard. And since Red is excellent at throwing food and fleeing, she commandeers the skateboard and helmet (safety first!) to get away fast and finish the trek to grandma’s house.
Me: Ha! That’s brilliant. What is one thing that surprised you in illustrating “Little Red and the Big Bad Editor”?
Shanda: I remember second guessing myself often on where to place the page turns and reveals. There were many ways I could’ve done it, but I ultimately I had to just decide each one and move on. I hope I made the right choices!
Me: What was your favorite part of this book? Is there a favorite scene you drew? What made you say “yes” to illustrating this particular book?
Shanda: Overall, I really enjoyed drawing the various expressions of Red (excited, scared, surprised, sassy, heroic, cunning, etc.) and all the riveting action moments! (Also drawing the food was pretty fun too.)
This story was delightfully fun to read the moment I saw the manuscript for the first time. It made me happy, and that’s all I needed.
Me: Any advice for other new picture book writers and/or illustrators?
Shanda: There’s a lot of really talented authors and illustrators out there. Combine your talent with hard work, over and over again, and I’ll bet you’ll be winning the long game soon enough.
That is great advice Shanda. Thank you for stopping by my blog today too.
Dear readers, this is a book that is not to be missed. It has tons of humor, teaches writing without being didactic, and has incredible illustrations. It’s well worth the read (and I’m definitely getting a copy for my classroom)!