We are delighted to be the first stop in Rebecca Colby’s ‘It’s Raining Bats & Frogs’ blogtour. Rebecca answered our questions about her writing, her inspirations and, of course, her favourite picture books. ‘It’s Raining Bats & Frogs’ will be published on August 11th and as part of Rebecca’s blogtour you can also take part in her online scavenger hunt to win a $50 or £30 Amazon voucher (more details below).
The Story: All year Delia has been looking forward to flying in the annual Witch Parade but on parade day it rains heavily. Delia uses her magic to change the rain to cats and dogs which thrills everybody at first but then brings more problems. Hats and clogs also causes problems as does each new type of rain that she tries. Finally Delia comes up with an idea which ensures that everybody can enjoy the parade.
Thank you for visiting Story Snug Rebecca. How did you become a writer?
If I’m honest, I think part of it is down to my introverted personality and part of it due to the fact that I was a latchkey kid who enjoyed being outdoors, rather than at home behind the latch. I spent a lot of time in my childhood sat on our front lawn staring at cloud formations, searching for four-leaf clovers, and watching cars drive past on the highway, wondering where they were going–all rather dreamy, meditative pursuits that served as perfect training for a future writer.
But although I wrote bits and pieces for most of my life, I didn’t actually get serious about my writing until nine years ago after my first child was born. Every night I would read picture books to my daughter, and every night I would think, “I can write these books.” So finally I did!
Do you have a favourite location or environment to write in?
I’m one of these people who can write anywhere. I don’t need my writing space to be quiet and distraction free–although I do prefer it that way. Nor do I need to be in a specific environment to connect with my muse. More often than not, I write in bed, although I also like to write outside at the nearby horticultural gardens. But my all-time favourite location is probably on a train—if only because I tend to have my most productive sessions on trains, and if I get bored, there’s always plenty of people to watch.
Where did you get your inspiration for ‘It’s Raining Bats & Frogs’?
On a walk in the rain in November 2011. Every November I participate in a month-long writing challenge run by Tara Lazar called Picture Book Idea Month, or PiBoIdMo for short. Earlier in 2011, I’d written a book about some witches and I had so much fun with these characters that I decided to write a further book about a witch. While out in the rain trying to think of ideas for a witch character—and more ideas in general for the challenge—I came up with the ‘Bats & Frogs’ story line.
How much collaboration did you have with your illustrator, Steven Henry?
I was shown his sketches for the book early on and asked if I had any concerns, but otherwise there was no collaboration between us. That’s often the way it works. With my first book, ‘There was a Wee Lassie who Swallowed a Midgie’, I never saw the illustrations until they were finished and ready to send to the printer. And I don’t think that’s a bad idea really. We’re each bringing our own vision to the book, and while it is a collaborative work, that doesn’t mean that I should be telling an illustrator how to do his or her job, or vice versa. I’m quite happy to release the images I’ve created for my book and characters in my head, and let myself be pleasantly surprised with the illustrator’s imaginings.
How did you picture your main character, Delia, when you wrote the story? Does Steven Henry’s illustration match the image that you had of her?
This is a case in point about not telling the illustrator how to do their job. I pictured Delia as being an older witch, much like the other witches depicted in the story. But when I saw Steven’s illustrations, I far preferred his image of her as a younger witch. And while I’m talking about witches, here is today’s scavenger hunt answer: Broom-Hilda.
Our favourite illustration shows the marching ghost band!
Do you have a favourite illustration from the book?
My absolute favourite is—appropriately enough–when it’s raining down bats and frogs. Steven has portrayed the bats and frogs with bulging eyeballs, lending to the humorous effect of the illustration. Also, the image of the witch collecting these creatures in her hat never fails to bring a smile to my face.
Can you tell us more about what an author’s role involves once their book has been published.
Funnily enough, I’m writing a blog post on this topic at the moment. It’s titled, ‘So You’ve Got a Book Contract, What Next?’ You can read it next Monday on Clare Helen Welsh’s blog.
Regardless of whether an author is traditionally published or self-published, their role after their book releases is very much one of promotion. Publishers will only do so much, and if an author wants to ensure their book is successful, then they need to help with marketing. My top tip to authors would be to write out a marketing plan and follow it. Like it or not, their role has become one of a publicist and marketing assistant, as well as that of a writer.
Last year you recommended a favourite picture book, Mostly Monsterly, on Story Snug. Do you have a current favourite picture book?
“Mostly Monsterly” by Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon is still one of my all-time favourites. I think it will always rank up there near the top of my list but one of my favourite books released this past year is “Ninja Red Riding Hood” by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat. I’m a huge fan of fractured fairy tales and picture books in rhyme, so to find both combined in one book made this a real winner for me. Not to mention the fact that it involves ninja training. Corey’s rhyme is effortless and incorporates fantastic dialogue between Little Red and the wolf, and Dan’s illustrations are a perfect compliment to this high-energy text. This is the kind of book I aspire to write!
You’re American but now live in the UK. Do you have a favourite American childhood picture book?
Like with all my favourites, it depends on which day of the week you ask me. On Friday, I’d probably say “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. On Saturday, “George and Martha” by James Marshall. And on Sunday, “Amigo” by Byrd Baylor and Garth Williams. But seeing as how it is Monday, I’d have to say, “Good Little, Bad Little Girl” by Esther and Eloise Wilkin. Having been a good little girl throughout most of my childhood, I was fascinated by badly-behaved children and couldn’t understand why they weren’t ashamed of their behaviour or scared of punishment. Nor could I fathom that the good little girl and the bad little girl were the same little girl. In my child’s mind, you were either one or the other.
Can you tell us about any future titles or projects that you’re working on?
I’m very excited to have just sold a picture book entitled Motor Goose. It’s a collection of Mother Goose-inspired poems about vehicles and will be illustrated by Jef Kaminsky. As to projects that I’m working on, I plan to revisit some non-fiction picture books I’ve started and push ahead with an idea for a screenplay. I’ve never attempted a screenplay before so I’m not expecting anything to come of it. I’m just looking forward to the challenge. And if I complete it, then I’ll write a second screenplay with perhaps higher aspirations. Thanks for asking me about my writing, Catherine, and thank you so much for having me on Story Snug today!
You’re very welcome Rebecca, it’s great to be part of your blogtour.
About author Rebecca Colby
Rebecca is an American expat living in England who writes picture books and poetry. Before writing for children, Rebecca worked for a Russian comedian, taught English in Taiwan, travelled the world as a tour director and worked as a librarian. Her first book, There was a Wee Lassie who Swallowed a Midgie, came out last year with Floris Books, Picture Kelpies. Rebecca’s second book, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, releases tomorrow with Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan US).
Join the Raining Bats & Frogs Online Scavenger Hunt to win a $50 (or £30) Amazon voucher!
Once their blogtour posts have been published some of the following blogs will mention a fictitious witch somewhere in their post. Leave a comment on the blog where you found the name (but please DON’T reveal the name). At the end of the blogtour tour send Rebecca the eight names that you have found via her website contact page and enter her Rafflecopter entry form.
You have until 11.59pm EST on 5 September to enter. Entries are open worldwide but the Amazon voucher will only be given out in US dollars or GB pounds – winner’s choice. Rebecca will also magic up a couple of surprise runner-up gifts which will remain surprises until the giveaway ends!
Blogs participating in the blogtour
10 August – Story Snug
11 August – Tara Lazar’s Writing for Kids While Raising Them
14 August – Yvonne Ventresca
15 August – The Children’s Book Review
17 August – Clare Helen Welsh
18 August – Marcia Strykowski
19 August – Teaching Authors Part 1
23 August – Picture Book Den
24 August – Teaching Authors Part 2
25 August – Christina Banach
27 August – Laurie J. Edwards
28 August – GROG
Happy Hunting and Good luck!