Gina Perry Interviews Debut Author Chana Stiefel about DADDY DEPOT + A DOUBLE-DAD GIVEAWAY!

daddy depot

Hi, Chana! Congrats on your funny and sweet debut, DADDY DEPOT. We both had Dad themed books debuting this year so it’s a treat to interview you! What were your favorite books as a kid?

I remember loving BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL by Robert McCloskey and ARE YOU MY MOTHER? by P.D. Eastman. Interestingly, these books are about characters who get separated from their parents (and have happy reunions). My debut picture book, DADDY DEPOT, is a little more cynical: it’s about a girl named Lizzie who returns her father to the daddy store. Just for the record, I would never swap my pop!

While this is your first picture book, you are a prolific nonfiction writer. How different was the writing process for DADDY DEPOT from your other books?

Before DADDY DEPOT, I wrote 20+ nonfiction books for the educational market about natural disasters, stinky castles, farm animals, and other kid-friendly topics. Many were work-for- hire projects, with either a flat fee or an advance with royalties. The publishers contacted me as a freelance writer to research and write the books. They had a pretty quick turnaround time of five to eight weeks and they were published within a year. Word counts ranged from 500-5,000. Those books sell mainly to schools and libraries.

DADDY DEPOT is more of a journey—and fulfillment of a dream. It’s my debut picture book and my first published work of fiction. The idea popped into my head as a bedtime story about eight years ago (!). My daughter was upset with her dad and we conjured a story about a girl who returns her father to the daddy store. We laughed a lot about a shopping spree in a store filled with dads. Afterward, I went downstairs and started writing. That began a multi-year process of learning the ropes of picture-book writing. At the time, I knew next-to- NOTHING about the craft, format, and style of PBs even though I loved them and read them to my kids every night. Once I learned the craft and went through dozens of drafts, the journey continued with finding an agent, selling the manuscript to Feiwel & Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), and seeing it through to publication.

I still write both fiction and nonfiction—depending on where my heart and brain take me. (I very rarely take on work-for- hire projects. My new nonfiction books are my own ideas that I pitch.) Writing fiction and nonfiction are very different skills. For example, the research process for nonfiction involves reading lots of books, researching newspaper clips, interviewing people, doing online research, and digging for facts. The research for DADDY DEPOT involved walking up and down the aisles of Home Depot and Costco for inspiration. I love nonfiction because it can illuminate the world in new ways for kids. With fiction, I can have more fun and be free to be goofy and let my imagination run wild.

I think you’ve not only made a funny book, but one that touches on the highs and
lows of the father-daughter relationships. What inspired this story?

Thanks Gina! The story started with the bedtime story mentioned above. But the heart of the book is modeled on my husband—not my dad. My husband Larry is an awesome dad to our four kids. But I wanted to focus on imperfect parenting. As parents, none of us are perfect (well, I know I’m not.). The dad in the book is distracted by football, tells corny jokes, and snores during snuggle time. That’s Larry, Larry, and Larry. He also makes amazing pancakes and does a wicked funky-chicken touchdown dance, also featured in the book. My kids all adore their dad and would probably never return him. (Me, on the other hand…?) Bottom line: “Write what you know.” Base your characters on real-life people in real-life situations but stretch them to the max. (Funny anecdote: When I told my dad that I was writing a book about a girl who returns her father to the daddy store, he said, “What?! My hearing aid isn’t working!” BTW, his hearing is fine.)

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SPOILER ALERT! The Dad party is my favorite spread. Did you request any specific
type of Dad or did you let the illustrator have full reign over the crowd? Also, do you have a favorite?

That’s one of my favorite spreads too. I had written a list of dads from A-Z as an illustrator’s note. I think Andy Snair used that list and more. I don’t have a favorite but I always ask kids which one they would choose. They have a lot of fun pointing out the different dads. By the way, for readers who love GO DOG, GO, the Dad Party is a wink to the Dog Party!

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Working toward a book debut can be a hectic time. Now that you’ve had a chance to share DADDY DEPOT with children, what is one of your favorite moments from a reading?

I loved it when one kid asked, “Did you write THE CAT IN THE HAT?” LOL! At readings, I’ve been having kids dress up as various dads in the book and we act out the story. There’s Rocker Dad, Astro Dad, and Chef Dad. The kids get really into it. I love when kids are uninhibited and let loose. (Well, I’m not their teacher or mom.)

 

 
Chana and Gina are giving away a signed copies of DADDY DEPOT and IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD. Enter for a chance to win both HERE!

 
stiefelchanaframeChana Stiefel is the author of more than 20 nonfiction books for kids about stinky castles, exploding volcanoes, and other wild stuff. Her first picture book, DADDY DEPOT (illustrated by Andy Snair, Feiwel & Friends), debuted in May 2017. ANIMAL ZOMBIES & OTHER MONSTERS IN NATURE will be coming out from National Geographic Kids in 2018. WAKAWAKALOCH, Chana’s semi-autobiographical picture book about a cave girl who wants to change her unpronounceable name, will be coming out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019. Chana is repped by agent John Cusick at Folio Literary. Visit her at www.chanastiefel.com and her blog for authors, www.kidlittakeaways.com, which she writes with her critique partner, Donna Cangelosi. Follow Chana Stiefel on Facebook and Twitter @chanastiefel.

 
perryginaframeGina Perry is an author and illustrator working under the tall pines in New Hampshire. Her debut picture book, IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD (Tundra, April 4, 2017), written by Dan Bar-el, is a hilarious story about imagination, play, and the best parts about being a dad. Her picture book debut as author/illustrator, SMALL (little bee books, August 29, 2017), is an empowering story about a small girl in the city, who shows us what happens if you take one big and brave step. Visit her at ginaperry.com or on twitter @ginamarieperry or instagram @ginapineapple.

 

Two Debut Interview – Gina Perry

Today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, Debut author Ariel Bernstein interviews debut author Gina Perry about Gina’s illustrator debut, IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD (written by Dan Bar-El)! 

Ariel: Gina, congratulations on your picture book debut, IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD!

Gina: Thank you so much, Ariel! I still love that the word debut applies to something in my life. It sounds so formal and celebratory!

Ariel: If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be? Why?

Gina: When I’m working hard on final artwork for a picture book it seems like I live in that world. It’s a wonderful, immersive feeling. If I had to pick another world, it would be Emily Hughes’ Wild. Her environments are gorgeous and mysterious and who wouldn’t want to roll around with friendly (but wild) foxes!

Ariel: You get to pick a pen name – what is it?

Gina: I actually have a pen name! My maiden name is Perry. My married name is very similar (it even rhymes!) so it gets a tad confusing at times. I do like the slight bit of intrigue of having an alias.

Ariel: If you could take credit for ANY other published PB out there, which one would you choose?

Gina: Oh, just about anything by Peter Brown but especially MY TEACHER IS A MONSTER! (NO, I AM NOT.) It has all my favorite things in a picture book: humor, horror, friendship, and a revelation. Every last visual detail is lush but also adds to the story.

Ariel: How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in the birth order? Did it matter?

Gina: I am one of three girls, and as I’ve heard all my life, “She’s the baby.” Being the youngest had an enormous impact on my life. I had a lot more freedom and independence, but I was also interested in very different things growing up (books, school, art) so I carved my own path rather than following anything they had done before.

Ariel: Tell me about the pet/s you had growing up.

Gina: Dogs were always part of our home. My favorite little guy was a Lhasa Apso mutt named Fred. He always looked dirty, attacked the mail as it came in the mail slot, and was generally disliked by most of my family. But he waited for me to come home each day and spent all his time with me. There is something really special about having a dog show loyalty to just you in a busy household. That helped me overlook some of his other personality (and hygiene) quirks.

Ariel: Most fun or funniest job you’ve had, besides author/illustrator?

Gina: My first job after college was at a small animation studio in Boston called Olive Jar Studios. It almost felt like an extension of college: all young creatives, fun work, long hours, lots of take-out. I get to impress my kids that I once worked on Pillsbury Doughboy and Nesquik commercials. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s where I met my husband!

Ariel: What do you think would be the perfect Father Day activity?

Gina: Well, hopefully you have a copy of IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD to read, followed by cards and goofy gifts for Dad, a big homemade breakfast spread, and a family ping pong tournament.

Ariel: You have two debut books this year – congratulations! IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD, written by Dan Bar-el and illustrated by you, and SMALL, which you both wrote and illustrated. How did it compare to illustrate a book you wrote versus one written by another author?

Gina: Thank you! I had been working on SMALL for such a long time before it was acquired that it felt easy-breezy and thrilling to actually get down to final art. IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD required a lot more time to brainstorm character, setting, and compositions. I worked on them back to back so it felt more like a happy blur than anything else. I fully admit to tearing up while working on both books. It has been a long journey to publication and I felt the joy of reaching a huge career goal every day.

Ariel: Do you have any advice for illustrators about preparing for a debut publication?

Gina: Absolutely! Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you have lots of advocates wanting the book to succeed. Reach out to anyone who can help you navigate new waters. I have moments where I feel totally clueless about marketing, but I know I can ask friends, my agent, my publicist and find the answers I need.

Ariel: What’s next for you? Are you currently working on a new project?

Gina: I am working on final art for my next picture book as author/illustrator, TOO MUCH! NOT ENOUGH! to be published by Tundra, Summer 2018. This was my very first completed dummy and I am over the moon to get this book into the world. After that I will be working on another picture book for Tundra and hopefully submitting an early reader series proposal that I’ve been too busy to finish.

DEBUT AUTHOR BIO

Gina Perry is an author and illustrator working under the tall pines in New Hampshire.

She grew up in Massachusetts, drawing, playing with yarn, and burning through all the books in the library. Gina went to Syracuse University and worked in animation and as an art director before realizing that children’s books were her true calling. Her debut picture book, It’s Great Being a Dad (Tundra, April 4, 2017) , written by Dan Bar-el, is a hilarious story about imagination, play, and the best parts about being a dad. Her picture book debut as author/illustrator, Small (little bee books, August 1, 2017), is an empowering story about a small girl in the city, who shows us what happens if you take one big and brave step. Future books include Too Much Not Enough (Tundra, Summer 2018) and a yet untitled picture book (Tundra, Summer 2019). Visit her at ginaperry.com or on twitter @ginamarieperry or instagram @ginapineapple

INTERVIEWER BIO

Ariel Bernstein is the author of I HAVE A BALLOON, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster, Sept. 26, 2017) and the chapter book series WARREN & DRAGON, illustrated by Mike Malbrough (Viking Children’s, Summer 2018). You can find Ariel online at http://www.arielbernsteinbooks.com , and on Twitter @ArielBBooks .

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