Picture books, concept board books, AND early readers? That’s right! Vicky Fang is writing them all.
Vicky Fang has visited my blog a few times before. She is the author of the Layla and the Bots chapter books series, the Best Buddies early reader series, the I Can Code board book series, and the picture book Invent-a-Pet. She is the author-illustrator of Friendbots, AlphaBot, and the forthcoming Ava Lin series. A former Google product designer, she now writes and illustrates children’s books full-time. Vicky Fang lives in California. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.
BEST BUDDIES is an early reader series she is working on for Scholastic. One came out last month and one comes out next month (as well as another in the Spring). This is an adorable early reader series with a dog (Sniff) and a cat (Scratch) doing cat and dog things (chasing tails, getting into trouble, etc.). Each book contains three short stories that are very easy to read. These books will be gobbled up quickly by young readers who adore cats and dogs.
Welcome back Vicky!
Me: You have written picture books, concept board books, and now early readers. Do you set out to write in a particular genre when you start writing your first draft of a story? Or do you write your stories out first and figure out what genre would be the best fit afterwards?
Vicky: I usually have an idea that sits in my brain until I realize the right format for it. Often, I think I’m writing a picture book and then it turns out to be something else. This is actually true of 90% of my books.
Me: This is your second early reader series. What is it that draws you to early readers as a writer?
Vicky: I’m a big word puzzle fan, and writing an early reader feels like a word puzzle to me. You have to be so constrained in the number of words and the vocabulary that you use, while still creating a compelling story with compelling characters. Also, the stories tend to be light and fun, like little skits, which can be a lot of fun to write.
Me: What got you into writing early reader series in the first place? Did you come up with an idea that fit the genre? Or did someone suggest you write one?
Vicky: My agent, Elizabeth Bennett at Transatlantic, is amazing and she often nudges me in a direction. She’ll usually prompt me based on what she’s seeing editors are looking for in combination with my strengths and potential as an author-illustrator. She’s the one who prompted me to try my hand at early reader series with my FRIENDBOTS series.
Me: I love the characters of Sniff and Scratch. While they can talk (a people trait), they are VERY much a cat and a dog doing cat and dog-like things. What gave you the idea to turn these characters into an early reader series?
Vicky: Like so many of my ideas, this one started out as a picture book. And actually, at that time, Elizabeth suggested it be an early reader but it didn’t quite click for me! Then, during the pandemic, I think I found out that my editor Katie Carella was open to new ideas from me. And at the same time, my kids and I were watching lots of funny pet videos online. That suddenly gave me a perfect approach—these funny, skit-like stories with these two pet friends!
Me: These stories feel SO simple and realistic (to what cats and dogs are really like), yet we all know that writing can sometimes take a lot of work to look simple. Were these stories difficult to write? How many revisions did they undergo?
Vicky: It took a lot of work to get these short stories to work with so few words! Every book has gone through dozens of revisions to ensure that the stories are clear, readable, and funny. We worked on tiny word changes to create engaging patterns of repetition for early readers, tweaked panels repeatedly to get the timing of the humor to work, and looked at overall patterns to make sure style, voice, narration, and dialogue were consistently treated throughout the series.
Me: The illustrations by Luisa Leal are an absolutely perfect fit for these stories. They feel like they were always a part of the concept! Were there any illustrating surprises for you? Any favorites?
Vicky: Luisa has done such an amazing job bringing out the humor and heart in these characters! I was definitely surprised by the quirky style and unusual color palette she brought to the table—but in a good way! Who would have imagined a purple cat would feel so natural? The colors are so much fun and I love the hilarious facial expressions.
Me: I love that these books can appeal to young cat AND dog lovers. Do you have a favorite pet? Are you more of a cat lover or a dog lover?
Vicky: Aw, I love both cats and dogs! I’ve never had either because I’m pretty allergic, but we’re always talking about getting one. I think I’d prefer to own a cat, but I love visiting and playing with dogs!
Aww! I’m sorry you’re allergic. Thank you for stopping by my blog again Vicky.
Dear readers, if you haven’t yet had a chance to check out this new series, I highly recommend it. I can easily see this series in my classroom appealing to my young readers.