In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Alison Goldberg interviews debut author Joy Keller about MONSTER TRUCKS illustrated by Misa Saburi (Godwin Books/Henry Holt, 2017).
Alison: Congratulations on your debut! Before we discuss MONSTER TRUCKS, I see in your bio that you have experience driving trucks on a blueberry farm. What was that like?
Joy: I drove a pickup truck that was converted into a surrey. I’d pick up customers and drop them off to pick blueberries. The farm was forty acres. Sometimes the surrey also doubled as a rescue truck, so I’d have to drive really fast over the bumps in the field. It was a fun job, and a chance to learn to drive a stick shift.
Alison: And great research for writing a truck book! If you could visit the world of any picture book, which would it be?
Joy: If I had to pick a character that I would want to hang out with, it would be Otter from the OTTER books by Sam Garton. Otter is so funny and gets into so much trouble. She reminds me of my own kids. If I was just looking at pictures, I would choose the very old-school fairy tale worlds created by Trina Schart Hyman. LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD and SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON books from when I was a kid have amazing illustrations. I’d like to walk through those worlds.
Alison: Where did the idea for MONSTER TRUCKS come from?
Joy: When my kids were little, my daughter only liked Halloween books and my son only liked truck books. We would check the same books out of the library all the time. I wondered why there wasn’t a book combining the two. It could be called MONSTER TRUCKS! Once I had the title, the story followed.
Alison: MONSTER TRUCKS is such a perfect blend of these two themes. Do you have a favorite Halloween costume from childhood?
Joy: My parents did a really good job making elaborate homemade costumes for me. One year, I was the Queen of Hearts. My mom copied every little detail of a playing card onto the front and back of my poster board costume. I didn’t want to take it off at school, but I couldn’t sit in it, so I stood for much of the day.
Alison: What’s your favorite truck?
Joy: When I was a kid I loved the street cleaner with a vacuum tube used to suck up debris. I called it the elephant truck.
Alison: That sounds like the start of another truck book. As a teacher, do you ever share your picture book manuscripts with your students?
Joy: I do. I also share my revisions. Kids often think that when you are a writer you only need to write something once, and I like to show them that even published writers need to rewrite stories many times. I share my rejection letters, too, so they can see that part of the process.
Alison: How will you celebrate the release of MONSTER TRUCKS?
Joy: My release party is taking place in an ice cream shop called Moonlight Creamery. They’re going to rename all of their ice cream flavors to match the book, including a flavor called “Tire Tracks.”
Alison: How fun! You have a few other picture books coming out after your debut. Can you tell me about them?
Joy: I’m so excited about MISS TURIE’S MAGIC CREATURES (Innovation Press, 2018), a book about a pet store that sells mythical beasts.
I also have a nonfiction book about fungus coming out in 2019 called THE FUNGUS AMONG US (Innovation Press, 2019). My son developed a fascination with mushrooms when he was little, so we go on hikes and get pictures of different varieties. They’re cool to look at and learn about, but I don’t especially like to eat mushrooms!
Alison: I look forward to reading these books. Thanks, Joy! Congratulations!
Joy Keller isn’t a monster, but she does have experience driving trucks on a blueberry farm. Her debut picture book, MONSTER TRUCKS (Henry Holt, 2017), is all about monsters and the vehicles that match their personalities, from the skeleton crew that fixes roads to the werewolf who digs, digs, digs. Joy currently teaches elementary students of all ages and lives in Fairport, NY with her husband, two children, and four cats. You can visit her at www.joykellerauthor.com or find her on Twitter @jrkeller80.
Alison Goldberg is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, December 2017) is her debut picture book. Before becoming a children’s book author, Alison worked for economic justice organizations and wrote a resource guide about social change philanthropy. These days, she blogs about activism in children’s literature and loves researching everything from marine life to contemporary art for her books. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Learn more at www.alisongoldberg.com or on Twitter @alisongoldberg.