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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Too Many Visitors for One Little House Blog Tour




Susan Chodakiewitz is currently on a virtual blog tour with her wonderful children's book - Too Many Visitors for One Little House. She is here today and has graciously answered a few questions for me.



Hi Susan! Thank you so much for taking time out to answer these questions for me and my readers.

1. I have read in other interviews where your inspiration for Too Many Visitors for One Little House came from - and thought it was very entertaining. Can you share that story here?

Too Many Visitors for One Little House - is based on the crazy summer we moved into our new house in Beverly Hills and ALL THESE VISITORS came to stay.

First my sister arrived in a giant BOUNDER (the biggest camper on the market) with 4 children, 1 husband, 1 housekeeper, a set of grandparents and an uncle from Russia. They brought a ton of blankets, pillows, piles of laundry, toys and lots of clothing.

Then my sister-in-law called that she was arriving from Houston. She was getting a divorce and was moving to LA. Where else could she go? She arrived with 3 kids, a housekeeper, tons of suitcases and lots of psychological baggage.

Then my mother-in-law who was in a wheel chair moved in with her nurse.

Things were not quite complete until a scraggly dog followed me home from the supermarket one day while I was walking home pushing a giant wagon filled with food for all the VISITORS! The dog decided to camp out on our front lawn for 2 weeks until we brought him in.

The neighbors were NOT at all happy to see their once quiet neighborhood transform into a cacophonous carnival of celebration. The police were summoned anonymously on several occasions.

It took 16 years for the story to germinate and finally be set free as the picture book: Too Many Visitors for One Little House.

Isn't that a great story!? I bet some other good stories could come out about what happened DURING the visit too!

2. How did you hook up with your illustrator, Veronica Walsh and how important do you feel that aspect of the book is?

The illustrations are as important if not more important to making the book a success. Illustrations bring the story to life and set the mood, the tone and make the magic happen. I wanted the story to be exuberant in joy and warmth. Veronica’s lovely illustrations totally exude this joy of family. Her rich illustrations are layered with subtext enabling readers to continue to see new things each time they read the book.

I saw Veronica’s work at an SCBWI illustrators’ showcase two years ago in LA and grabbed one of her post cards. A year later I was scouting for an illustrator. I put a notice out about the project on various illustrator websites. I got about 100 submissions. But I did not find what I was looking for.

Then one day I was searching through my files and came across Veronica’s postcard. I called her and asked if she wouldn’t mind submitting a preliminary sketched of a page of the book so I can get a feel for her take on it. Once I saw her work and we spoke on the phone I knew we would work well together.

Veronica and I worked very closely together to develop the characters. We had long conversations about the back story of each character, their personality quirks dressing style, pet peeves, flaws and weaknesses.

I think this collaborative experience has taught me so much about character development as well as how important it to leave room in the text for the illustration to take over the story.

I think that is very interesting about working together developing the way the characters actually look - that alone will make me take a second look at children's books!

3.You are the founder of Booksicals. Can you tell us a little about that?

About 4 years ago I was writing a musical based on a children’s picture book. It was a book that by chance (I don’t believe anything is really by chance) had been left in my garage along with a lot of other junk, by the house’s previous owner. I loved that book and read it often to my children throughout their childhood.

I optioned the theatrical rights to the book and my collaborators and I got to work on the musical.

Two years into writing and work shopping the show, the option rights ran out. Re-negotiating the rights became complicated and the option expired. It was at that moment that a light bulb in my head went off. Why not start to write my own books?

One day while working on Too Many Visitors for One Little House I found myself thinking up songs for the characters and visualizing it as a musical. The idea of a picture-book musical got me really excited.

A few days later I woke up with the words BOOKSICALS in my head. In a flash I understood that this would bring together my two passions - theater and children’s books -- in a way that could really impact children and encourage the love reading.

In 2008 I launched Booksicals with the mission of encouraging a love for reading through the arts. I published Too Many Visitors for One Little House as Booksicals’ debut picture book.

I just went and visited Booksicals and listened to one of the excerpts from the show - it is just adorable. I recommend everyone go and listen!

4.You are also a composer - what sort of music do you compose and what instruments do you play? (I am a piano player myself, as is my oldest daughter - she has taken it a step further than me though and is beginning to write her own music.)

It’s wonderfully exciting that your daughter is starting to write her own music. My sons also play piano and when they started composing there own pieces I no longer had to beg them to play the piano….At one point, I couldn’t get them off the piano!

I started out composing pop songs and recording my own music. Then the bells went off in my head one day at a musical theater workshop—I realized that writing musical theater was my real calling.

I collaborated on two musicals, writing music and lyrics for both. I put composing on hold for awhile when I started pursing writing children’s books. To be honest I was very happy just writing stories as I see myself much more as a story teller than composer….

When I didn’t write a note for 2 years I felt emptiness. I really missed working on music. When I started doing the music and lyrics for Too Many Visitors I felt like I came home to an old friend. I’m glad to be back in balance now.

That is so amazing that you have found a way to combine two things for which you have a passion

5. Who/what are your favorite children's authors/children's books? What kind of influence do they have on your writing?

Roald Dahl’s book Matilda was in the back of my mind a lot while writing Too Many Visitors for One Little House. I love the tone of that book. Roald Dahl’s writing is a real inspiration to me and something I aspire to.

I love Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith, illustrations by Marla Frazee - probably the best text of any children’s picture book I’ve seen and the pictures have beautiful movement.

I read that book over and over for the lyrical feeling of the words and the way the pictures and words swirl you into the story.

I love the Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neil with illustrations by Laura Huliska-Beith. The characters are delicious. The book is a total inspiration to me and makes me want to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. I wish I had written that book.

I love Kevin Henkes’ books: Julias, Baby of the World, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse – I just love Lilly’s attitude... Being able to create a lovable character with attitude is something to emulate.

Good Boy Fergus by David Shannon is such a lovable book. I love the way you see the world through the eyes of the DOG! A perfect study in point of view.

My all time favorite book is The Little Prince by Saint Exupery. I always keep him in the back of my head when I write and in life in general. The simplicity of his style yet the depth of his ideas are a real inspiration to me. I think has had a big influence on my writing.

When my oldest daughter was in elementary school I can remember her teaching recommending Roald Dahl to us to try to encourage her reading. This was my first "known" introduction to his work, though I realized later that I was award of some of his books - just didn't know he was the author. I love it that you have listed books that are unfamiliar to me - I get to go look them up now to read with my preschooler!

6. What is currently on your nightstand now?

I love historical fiction and just finished reading three books two about the middle ages and one taking place during the renaissance period: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, The Last Jew by Noah Gordon, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant.

On my bed stand now is The Hope by Herman Wouk (I’m in the middle of that) and Not Me by Michael Levigne.

I just got a copy of Brittney Ryan’s YA fantasy book, The Legend Holly Claus, which is on my night stand as we speak.

Those are some pretty notable books. I find that I cannot read such "heavy" books in the summer- those are my curl-up-and-stay-warm-in-the-winter books!

7.While on this blog tour - has there been any comments or questions that have taken you by surprise?

I’ve been totally humbled by the wonderful reviews. Especially by one reviewer who said that although family reunions are usually quite tense and she avoids them, after reading Too May Visitors she realized how blessed she was to have a loving family. I was moved to tears knowing my book inspired feelings of gratitude and appreciation for family.

I was taken a back by one commentary stating that a grandma with prune juice is a stereotype that should be avoided. Actually Too Many Visitors for One Little House is based on real characters and real events. It so happens the grandparents in our family drink a lot of prune juice! I didn’t realize that some folks would take offense at that.

I happen to like prune juice. And it really works!

8. Is there another book in the works?

Yes I have two books in the works. One is the sequel to Too Many Visitors which is in its preliminary stages. It features the scraggly dog as the main character. And I’m offering my readers a chance to help me name the dog for the next book by entering the Booksicals, Name the Dog Contest, found on the website: www.booksicals.com

I am also working on a new book called Dogstoyevsky about a dog that wants to be a writer but everyone keeps telling him he’s not any good!

I’d like to invite you all to visit my website www.booksicals.com, leave me comments on my blog, download the music to the book, and share your thoughts on writing, reading and ways of inspiring kids to love reading.

I went and entered my dog name suggestion - as well as the suggestion that my son gave me! Thank you Susan for visiting today! It was a lot of fun and I wish you the best of luck with your new books and with Booksicals!

Please everyone come back tomorrow when I will be reviewing Too Many Visitors for One Little House and having a giveaway for one copy of this book!

Please visit these other tour hosts for Pump Up Your Book Promotions and Too Many Visitors for One Little House:
Into the Wardrobe l Pets and Their Authors l Between the Covers l Divine Caroline l The Unadorned Book Review l Mom’s Not All l Introducing WRITERS Radio Show with Kim Smith l Mozie Esme l A Book and a Chat Radio Show with Barry Eva l The Writer’s Life l Beyond the Books l Blogcritics l Lady D Books l Joyfully Retired l American Chronicle l Brimful Curiosities l Marta’s Meanderings l The Review from Here l Write for a Reader l The Book Connection l The Book Faery Reviews l As the Pages Turn


8 comments:

Pam said...

This sounds like such a delightful story! I've heard wonderful things about it. I love the inspiration for it. Great interview!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

How interesting! Thanks for posting the interview!

Neas Nuttiness said...

Wow - 16 years to bring this book to fruitiion. Now I don't feel so bad about working on mine for 4 months, and only having a couple of pages written.

Great Interview.

etirv said...

I enjoyed reading about how Susan found and collaborated with her illustrator! What makes children's books magical is a combination of words and illustrations and I learned a lot from Susan's back story!

Gwendolyn B. said...

What an interesting interview! Well done! I didn't realize that authors and illustrators worked so closely together -- I mean, I just never thought about it, but it makes sense. I like knowing that the author's vision gets expressed through the illustrator's talents.

MJ said...

I teach kindergarten. I think my kinder kids would love this!!

mj.coward[at]gmail.com

RAnn said...

music and writing both, wow.

ruthjoec at aoldotcom (for contest)

ChristyJan said...

What an interesting interview. I'd never heard or even thought of the idea of a picture-book musical until reading about TOO MANY VISITORS FOR ONE LITTLE HOUSE.

hawkes(at)citlink.net

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