I love a fresh take on a fairy tale and when it adds in a tea party? I’m SO there!
Gayle C. Krause is a member of SCBWI, a past member of the Historical Novel Society and the Poet’s Garage. She’s served on the Rhyming Revolution Selection Committee, choosing the “best” rhyming picture book for 2015-2018. A Master educator, she’s taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Ms. Krause writes fantasy, contemporary, and historical fiction for Young Adult, Middle Grade, and young children. She’s been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Scholastic Book Clubs, and in various Young Adult Anthologies. Her previous work, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper was a 2013 nominee for the Boston Globe/Horn Book and International Reading Awards. You can learn more about Gayle at her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
ZADIE AND THE WITCH’S TEA is a delightful new take on Cinderella’s story without a prince to rescue her. Plus there are witches and a fabulous tea party! Zadie dreams of attending the Grand Witch’s Tea, but her two older sisters won’t let her go. Yet with the help of her Hairy Godspider, she is able to attend after all and her kindness shines through. This is a fun witchy celebration that is perfect for an October read aloud in any classroom or any fan of fairy tales (or witches).
Me: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey as a writer? What made you want to write picture books? What brought you to this book?
Gayle: I have been writing for children since 1999, when I attended my first SCBWI conference. I taught Early Childhood Education at an upstate New York Career and Technical Center, where I trained high school students interested in becoming Elementary teachers, Child Care workers, and Day Care Center owners.
Sitting on the floor with preschoolers for over 30 years, I loved the excitement on their faces when I read something new. Voice inflection makes the difference in reading to children. But not only did I read, I prepared the stories in flannel board presentations, made puppets for each character, or had the children participate in creative dramatics. So, when I retired it was an easy transition from teacher to children’s author.
During my former career, I taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers. Fairytales are my favorite genre. I’ve read the psychological implications of fairytales, as well as Charles Perrault, Carlo Collidi, and Hans Christian Andersen’s tales. Everything you see in Disney, came from one of these tales. By the way, most people don’t know that The Grimms did not write their fairytales. They collected them from oral traditions in western Europe.
A prime example of observing this is the opening scene of Ever After, starring Drew Barrymore and written by Wendy Loggia, editor at Delacorte.
I love to teach about fairytales. Another thing that fascinates me are quirky Halloween witches. Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler is a great example of a fun “witchy” movie. And my two sisters and I dress up as witches every summer just for fun. So, it wasn’t a far stretch to go from Cinderella to Zadie Witch with two sisters of her own.
Me: I love Zadie! She’s such a great character. What gave you the idea to reimagine Cinderella without a prince and with witches?
Gayle: See answer above. And who needs a prince? I wanted Zadie’s story to be about achievement and kindness, not the approval of a prince or a king for that matter.
Me: Your story has a wonderful rhyme woven throughout. Was this always there? Or did this come about in the revision process? How many revisions did your manuscript undergo to get to this published stage?
Gayle: For picture books, nine times out of ten, I write in rhyme. I think in rhyme! I belonged to The Poets’ Garage for six years and was on Angie Karcher’s Rhyme Revolution committee, where I helped choose the best “rhyming” picture book for three years.
During the revision process, I was asked by editors to change the rhyme to prose. Though it followed the Cinderella story more closely, it was too long. Writing in rhyme keeps me in check for word count.
The trick is you can’t let the rhyme overtake the story. Very hard to do!
I first wrote Zadie’s story in 2016. It underwent roughly ten revisions. Eight rhyming. Two prose (by request of two editors, who ultimately passed) In the end, I went back to my heart and rewrote the final version encompassing all the suggested revisions along the way.
(In this case, some of the verse was swapped out for illustrations).
Me: The illustrations by Kate Talbot are absolutely perfect for this story. Were there any illustration surprises for you? What were your favorite illustrations?
Gayle: Yes. The Hairy Fairy Godspider. I was surprised to see she wore red heeled shoes and a crown.
One of my favorite illustrations is the boo-fae table and the moment the Hairy Fairy Spider transformed Zadie’s dress. It just oozed “magic.”
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Gayle: How many different versions one author could create.
Me: You have published several other books as well. Do you have a writing process? How frequently do you sit down to write?
Gayle: I am a panster, not a plotter. When I get an idea, I start right in with a verse or two, for picture books. Then I think about where I want the story to go. When I have a direction, I sit down and write a few more couplets. I try to knock out as many as I can in one sitting. (It’s easier to cut than to add)*
For MG/YA novels, I come up with a main character, a villain, a sidekick, and a mentor….and then off I go. And I write a scene until I have no more to say. Then I think about the story more and when a snippet comes during a walk or watching TV, I add it to a list and write from those ideas.
Me: Any advice for new picture book writers and/or illustrators?
Gayle: The industry has changed since I started writing. You used to be able to meet editors and agents at local, affordable writer’s conferences. That’s how I met my Scholastic editor, Jenne Abramowitz, at a Rutgers One on One Conference. (Rock Star Santa -2008)
But these in person conferences, and even some of the online ones, are very expensive, and no “personal” contact with the people who can make your dreams comes true. So, for those of you starting out now, become a detective and search for value in the conferences or digital webinars you register for. Choosing the right ones will put you on the “write” path for success.
And don’t get discouraged. Nobody said writing for children was EASY!
That’s great advice. Thank you for visiting my blog Gayle.
But wait, dear readers! There’s more. I also interviewed the illustrator!
Kate Talbot is a Children’s Book Author and Illustrator who has a passion for quirky stories, especially when told in rhyme. Her first ever children’s picture book (written at age 8) was a reinterpretation of Little Red Riding Hood, which promptly landed her in detention for its cheeky nature. Since then she has focused her talents on bringing a smile to her two sons’ faces, through mischievous characters and vibrant illustrations. She has a degree in filmmaking and spent several years as a Film Producer (the highlight of her career was spilling an entire tray of drinks in Russell Crowe’s lap before falling butt-first into a fountain). In 2011, she made the shift to children’s writing and illustration, when she moved to Germany with her Spanish husband. Until recently she lived there with her family, but has now relocated to New Zealand. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
Me: What was your artistic journey? When did you start creating art? How did that lead you to illustrating this book?
Kate: I’ve been sketching and doodling since I was a child and I’m often reminded by my family that at the age of five I declared (to anyone who would listen) that I wanted to be “an artist”. So while it’s taken me a while to arrive at picture book illustration, I’ve been on this path all my life.
Me: Can you tell us a little bit about your process for the book? Did you work with traditional media or digital or both?
Kate: I work digitally, starting in sketch form on my iPad using a program called Procreate and going right through to final art in this medium.
Me: I love all the details you’ve included in each page. How did you decide what witchy elements to illustrate for each page? For instance, I love your interpretation of the Hairy Godspider. What made you decide to give her high heels, wands, and a crown?
Kate: Because this book is essentially a retelling of a classic, I felt it was important to visually reference some of the more iconic visual aspects of the original tale. For me, when I think of a fairy godmother, I think of a Glinda the Good Witch (yes, writing this I realise I was channeling the wrong story) so as I as sketching I was thinking about glass slippers, wands and that magical glittering crown (I LOVED that crown as a child!).
I also had many conversations with Gail about what elements we should include. For example, we spent a long time discussing who should be included as tea party guests in the opening spread. We felt that a doll would paint Zadie as very young, and she needed to be old enough to brew tea later in the story. So a lot of energy went into working out if each visual elements made sense within the world we were trying to create.
Me: Do you have a favorite spread that you illustrated for this book? If yes, which one?
Kate: I really loved illustrating the banquet table page. I had a lot of fun googling Halloween food and then bringing it to life in the illustrations. I really hope that one day I can recreate that page in my kitchen. =)
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in illustrating this story
Kate: We had a few issues during the printing process. Despite researching thoroughly prior to starting the illustrations, Gail and I ran into some issues when our printer changed their printing specifications upon finally delivery. We were thankfully able to resolve the issue, but it was a really great reminder, that as an illustrator, it’s important to establish a process that allows for changes down the track. Changes to illustrations is always going to be costly and time intensive, but there are a few things you can do to help smooth the process if you run into issue. Know what they are and make sure you’re doing them. And back up your work frequently, and throughout the process. Being able to go back a few step (instead of back to square one) has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.
Me: Any advice for other new picture book illustrators?
Kate: Just keep going. I feel like a broken record saying this, but it’s so true and so important – Just. Keep. Going! This industry is hard, brutal at times, and it’s so easy to throw our hands in the air and say, “I’ll never get there! I give up!” But don’t. Take a break, recharge, then find a way to keep on, keeping on. Everyone has something important to say, so keep trying to say whatever it is you want to say. Create for yourself. Create for your folio. Create for fun. Just don’t stop creating. Because every time you pick up that brush or pen, you’re improving your skills and honing your voice. And I truly believe that if you keep on showing up, one day your audience will too.
Me: Do you have any future projects planned?
Kate: My debut picture book as an writer/illustrator HOW TO DRAW A DRAGON from Allen and Unwin is set for release in November 2024. So I’m currently in full swing illustrating that. It’s a humorous conversation between two characters as they debate the correct way to draw a dragon. At its core the story is about creativity and I hope it inspires artists, young and old, to produce art free from judgement and rules – because deep down, we’re all artists and have something to share.
Ohh! That sounds fantastic Kate and I can’t wait to read it. Thank you for stopping by my blog today!
But wait, dear readers! There’s EVEN more! Gayle and Kate have agreed to giveaway one copy of the book and some swag to one lucky winner in the USA. You can enter the rafflecopter here.