If you are a cat lover like me, today’s sequel by Isabella Kung will both tickle your fancy AND your funny bone.
If you’ve been a follower of my blog for a while now, you may remember Isabella stopping by for her author-illustrator debut NO FUZZBALL! Isabella grew up in Hong Kong where she would spend hours prowling through the library; creating her own narrative for every one of her stuffed animals; and drawing all over her textbooks. Now she works as an adjunct professor of illustration and lives in San Francisco with her husband and two cats. You can learn more about Isabella at her website (which is full of gorgeous illustrations) or by following her on Instagram or Twitter.
NO SNOWBALL! is a delightful follow-up to NO FUZZBALL! Fuzzball is less than blessed to find out that there’s a new invader in the house and she reacts as you would expect. I admit that I laughed when I first saw the new kitty (as she looks quite similar to our own new little princess), but I also laughed all throughout the book. Isabella knows her cats and their quirks very well. And her art is (as always) stunningly beautiful. How she manages to capture so much in traditional watercolor never ceases to amaze me. You won’t want to miss this book.
Welcome back Isabella!
Me: I loved NO FUZZBALL! and I’m delighted to see a sequel. Were you asked by your publisher to do another story with this character, or did you come up with the idea yourself?
Isabella: Thank you so much! I came up with the idea myself. It all started as a bluff when an agent casually asked if I plan on developing my story into a series during a conference. I remember I said yes without thinking and listed a few ideas off the top of my head (fake it till you make it, am I right?), and introducing a white kitten was one of them. That idea stuck and NO SNOWBALL! was pitched as a potential sequel even as I was submitting NO FUZZBALL!
Me: Wow! And I assume the pitch was successful, since we’re seeing the sequel now. Another younger cat in the same house is a great plot premise for a sequel. What gave you the idea?
Isabella: I just loved the concept of Queen NoFuzzball encountering her complete opposite – an itty-bitty, clueless, overly enthusiastic, and affectionate white kitten! With that in mind, the nature of their relationship – the classic sibling rivalry and love, just fell into place. It was so fun writing such opposing characters and imagining their reactions to each other. I drew inspiration from my own experiences as the younger sibling who always wanted to be included; as the older cousin who got annoyed at my younger cousins; as the caring babysitter who watched over my host sister and neighborhood kids… of course, I learned a lot from my own cats’ reaction to a foster kitten too!
Me: After writing the first book, was this sequel easier or harder to write?
Isabella: Only slightly easier because I know what works from the first book and there is a foundation to build on, but it’s hard to compare because the process and challenges are just so different. The main challenge was figuring out a good balance between introducing a new character to the book and adding new elements (eg. dialogue) to the story, while still staying true to the previously established voice, jokes, rules, and structures set up in the first book. Another element I had to carefully balance was the two main characters, I wanted the sequel to still be a No Fuzzball book but with a new co-star! Initially, I was worried about Snowball taking too much spotlight away from Fuzzball. Fortunately, I found that the two characters complemented each other and their personalities only shone brighter together.
Me: Can you talk about your art process for this book? Did you use the same materials? Are you still working in traditional media? Do you feel your process is getting any quicker?
Isabella: Yes, I still work in traditional media. I used the same materials (Watercolor and ink) for Queen NoFuzzball and her subjects but I added white gouache with watercolor to create Snowball’s fur. I find it creates the perfect fluffy texture we all find so irresistible in kittens. As far as speed, I do feel like I’m slightly quicker this time around. Not so much the painting speed, I think I just figured out a few hacks that make my process more efficient. For example, I make myself finish all difficult and complex illustrations by the halfway mark, that way when I’m running low on steam towards the end, I only have simpler paintings to get through and will have an easier time keeping pace. This was a lesson learned from painting the first book-when I saved the most complex painting for last. I literally took double the time I usually need to complete it because I was so burnt out.
Me: Oof! Good idea to start with the hard illustrations first then. What is one thing that surprised you in writing and/or illustrating this story?
Isabella: What surprised me the most was how much I actually enjoyed developing this sequel and expanding Fuzzball’s world. It was a lot of fun imagining Fuzzball’s more nurturing side and exploring how she reacts to a new interloper. Also, Snowball is just full of love and enthusiasm, it’s hard not to smile when she is around. Of course, writing sequels has its own set of challenges too (as mentioned above), but all those challenges were fun to solve. Maybe I’m looking back with rose-tinted glasses, but what’s more surprising is I already have ideas for book number 3 and 4, rose-tinted or not, I hope I’ll get the opportunity to continue their story!
Me: Oh! I hope so too! Do you have a favorite scene or moment in the book?
Isabella: YES! I have two: the scene where Snowball tries to follow Fuzzball up the cat tree after they first met and the last spread where they ride off to the sunset together on a Roomba. These two moments were sketched out in the first round of storyboards too! It’s funny how some visions never change.
Me: Do you have any other projects we can look forward to seeing from you? What’s next for you?
Isabella: I have one story on submission about two twin Koalas who are similar in many ways but are very different at the same time! I hope it can find the right publishing home soon! I am also started working on my very first near-wordless picture book this year. It is very different from anything I’ve done in the past. It is an especially emotional and personal story for me, so I had to dig deep for this story. Admittedly, I was trepidatious at first, doubting why I even want to work on something so out of my comfort zone. But this idea and vision have been revisiting me again and again for the last 4 years, so how can I not feel compelled to create it?
Indeed! I have a story like that myself. Thank you for stopping by my blog again Isabella.
Dear readers, this book was released this last Tuesday on November 1 and is already out in the world. Don’t miss your chance to track it down and read it. I guarantee there are laughs and surprises in store that will delight cat lovers everywhere.