One of the reasons I keep doing these Simply 7 interviews with amazing picture book creators is because no book’s journey to publication is the same. That is certainly true for today’s story.
Brooke Hartman has visited my blog several times before. She is one of the Alaskan picture book authors I’m lucky to know. Brooke sometimes writes about Alaskan topics and sometimes not, like today’s book. Her many interests lead to the most interesting picture books. She has two wonderful daughters and an amazing husband who support her in what she does. And I’m sure her dog does too. You can learn more about her at her website, or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
KLYDE THE KRAKEN WANTS A FRIEND is the story of a friendly Kraken named Klyde who just wants a friend so so badly. He hugs every critter and ship within sight (rather tightly) to no avail and has to learn some boundaries. This is a great story for all those little huggers in your life, as well as fans of sea creatures. The illustrations by Laura Borio are spot on perfect for this story as they capture both the cute and funny nuances needed for the characters.
Welcome back Brooke!
Me: I don’t think most people think of a Kraken as misunderstood, let alone just wanting to make friends. What gave you the idea?
Brooke: I agree – usually we think of krakens as big, scary monsters with gnashing tentacles and teeth! Though maybe that’s what ultimately led me to the concept behind this book, which was prompted by a request from a literary agent (Clelia Gore, who later became my agent) to come up with a story featuring a kraken. Back then, I was deep into regular bath times for my kids and recall how my youngest’s favorite bath toy was the octopus. The octopus was her friend, and she was a friend to the octopus. I’m not sure when the two concepts (kraken = monster, octopus = friend) mashed themselves together in my brain, but the result was a kraken so desperate for pals, he tries to hug everyone—and everything—around him, to disastrous consequences.
Me: This book has had quite a publishing journey already. Can you tell us a bit about that? How did you come to this publisher?
Brooke: Yes! This book definitely has a rocky (or should I say wavy?) past with lots of ups and downs. When it originally went on sub, the story received multiple requests for publication with several small presses. The house my agent and I went with seemed to have a strong publishing record. By 2021, the book was essentially done and ready to go to print, but by then COVID had hit hard and the publishing world turned upside-down. Klyde’s original publisher lost a good portion of their income to low sales and ultimately didn’t have the funds to pull off publication.
Of course, I was devasted. As authors, we work so hard on each project, then you finally get an offer of publication and have the book illustrated and ready to go… only to get it yanked out from under you. I’m by far not the first author to ever have that happen to them and I won’t be the last, but boy does it sting!
Fortunately, this story does have a happy ending. Fast forward to 2022. My last agent had retired, and my new agent, Sera Rivers of Speilburg Literary, wanted to put KLYDE back on sub. One of the original publishers who’d made an offer on it replied within a week that they were interested. Hazy Dell specializes in monsterly stories just like this one, so it was truly a match made in book heaven!
Me: I love how this story explores personal space and boundaries through a character that has no clue. Why was that important for you to share with young readers?
Brooke: As every book does, this story went through several drafts before blossoming into its final form. At first, Klyde ended up just hugging the pirate ship itself and dragging it down to the bottom of the ocean while the pirates all escaped on a dingy. What was the message there, you might ask? None! I just thought it was cool that the kraken wanted to make a friend. So what if it’s with an inanimate object? Later, though, my critique group mentioned that perhaps making friends with the pirates might be better. The social-emotional learning aspect grew out of the concept that Klyde would have to do a whole lotta huggin’ to eventually learn his lesson that not everyone’s cool with that.
At one point in the story’s many (many, many, many) drafts, the SEL lesson of “ask before hugging” got really heavy-handed, with an entire spread devoted to making sure to ask before you hug, shake hands, etc (I blame COVID!). But while I liked the SEL aspect, I also didn’t want to beat readers over the head with it. Fortunately my new publisher was on board with that, too! The final version of Klyde has just enough of a message to give it depth, while sticking to the heart of its story: a hug-loving kraken who just wants a friend.
Me: Klyde is such a fantastic character with a great heart. I would be friends with him! Have you thought of other stories with him? Is there any hope of a sequel?
Brooke: I would love to write another Klyde story! I have one outlined and have pitched it to the publisher, but we’re waiting to see how this one sells before they agree to pick another one up. I totally get it, but… I wanna write another Klyde book!!
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Brooke: How many different ways one story can go. We think of novels or chapter books as they only formats that could work for “Choose Your Own Adventure,” but this book has had so many different formats, endings, and takeaways. And then there’s the rhyming aspect! Every time an agent or publisher wanted to make a change to a theme or the way a section went (and that happened a LOT), the rhyme had to be reworked along with it. I think the Rhymezone.com site might’ve crashed more than once with the amount of time I spent on it. But some of the original rhymes or stanzas that were changed got kept in other ways. For instance, the pirate who introduces himself as Dreadful Dave is a remnant of the stanza:
“Some give me handshakes, others just wave.
One introduces himself, “Call me Dave!”
So for my fellow rhymers out there; making big changes in rhyme can be excruciating. But not everything that gets the axe has to go for good.
Me: Laura Borio’s illustrations in this book are excellent. She manages to give heart to every single character, as well as humor on every page. And I think the title page may be one of my favorites of all time. Were there any illustration surprises for you? What is your favorite illustration?
Brooke: The pirates are my absolute favorite! Especially the little girl and the woman who’s a bit, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about the idea of hugging a kraken. And I agree, her illustrations really give these characters their own personalities.
Me: Were you a hugger like Klyde when you were younger? Or more like one of the sea creatures or pirates he chases away who would rather wink or wave?
Brooke: I was a “sit up in my room reading or drawing until someone dragged me downstairs to say hi to the guests” kid, so no, definitely not a hugger! I’m still not much of a hugger, to tell the truth, but I meet so many young kids that are (and frankly I’m a little jealous of all that unhindered enthusiasm!). This story is written just for them.
I love that. Thank you for stopping by my blog today Brooke.
But wait, dear Readers! There’s more! Brooke has also offered to giveaway one copy of this book to a lucky winner. You can enter the Rafflecopter here. Good luck!
9 thoughts on “Simply 7 with Brooke Hartman & Giveaway: KLYDE THE KRAKEN WANTS A FRIEND”
How fun! Can’t wait to add this to my collection of Kraken books! Sail on! Lynne Marie
What a novel idea. I would love to have a kraken as a best friend!
Thanks for sharing your journey! I’m glad that even though the road to publication was wavy, you still brought Kraken into the world! Great work! I love the concept and those illustrations are fantastic.
Great story! Thanks for sharing with us. And congratulations!!!
Congratulations on your fun book! I love the message of how we are more than our outside looks and can’t wait to study your rhyming text.
Yesterday I saw someone wearing a knitted kraken cap with long dangling tentacles. Brooke will have fun apparel options for school visits and story times!
My son would love this book!!!
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