Thursday, January 3, 2013

Interview with Author & Illustrator Mikey Brooks



Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary.

I have two books that I’d like to share. Both of which I author/illustrated. The first is Bean’s Dragons. It’s a delightful story that was inspired by my daughters imaginary friends that wreck our house—her dragons. Have you ever had a dragon in your house? How about a dozen? Bean is a little girl with an imagination that is creating quite a mess. Although Bean loves each of her dragons, she forgets how untidy they can be when having so much fun. When Bean's parents discover what's happened in their short absence, Bean finds herself the blame of the dragons' giant mess.

The second is ABC Adventures: Magical creatures. And it’s the first installment in a series of ABC adventures featuring Professor Vontriponmybottom, a heroic explorer determined to share with children the alphabet through exciting and fantastical means. In Magical Creatures, you will find all sorts of enchanting beings such as: B is for Bigfoot, M is for Mermaid, and O id for Ogre. The professor shares fun facts about each creature he encounters and never shies away from getting a picture with them.  This book is sure to educate and entertain young readers and their parents.

I had a great time creating both books and I encourage you to check them out.

Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published?

I’ve tried for over ten years to break into traditional publishing but could never find an agent or publisher suitable for me. I was approached in September by an author interested in having me illustrate his Christmas book that he’d written. He wanted to self-publish it because he is older and didn’t want to wait till he was dead to have a traditional house pick him up. Lucius and the Christmas Star, by Jim Long was the first book that I independently published under my publishing name Lost Treasures Publishing and Illustrating.  Our Christmas book did very well and it wasn’t long before I released another picture book by Carolyn Quist, Ocelot Scott. Within the course of three months I was able to independently publish six titles all of which I illustrated. There are so many options available for authors that want to self-publish. It requires more work and costs upfront but the author control and speed is worth it. Although I still have a desire to be traditionally published I also love having my books available for children to read.

How did you get the idea for this book?

My ideas all stem from watching my kids. I have two little girls that have enough imagination to fuel a rocket to the moon. In fact, they have given me so many stories to write that it’s hard to keep up. I love to share with my girls everything that is fantastical and we love to read. I was at the library and we were reading an ABC book about farm animals. My daughter asked me where the ABC book about dragons was. Not finding one at the library, I decided that day that I had to write that book! 


What is a typical writing day like for you?

It really depends on the day. I manage a bakery fulltime so I only get a maybe an hour or two to devote to writing and illustrating each day. On my days off, I treat it like a second job. Lucky for me I have a very supportive wife. She’ll take the girls to grandmas if I need to focus on something. My time as a daddy is very important to me, but so is my work. I try to incorporate my girls as I illustrate. My oldest daughter has her own workstation next to mine in the studio and she helps me pick out what colors to paint my characters.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I absolutely enjoy creating characters and worlds. I love that my cheeks hurt at the end of the day because I’ve done nothing but smile. It brings a thrill of excitement to see something you imagined come to life on paper. It’s rewarding and I hope to always do it. 

 


What is the most difficult part of writing?

The most difficult thing for me is just letting myself suck once in a while. I used to be a fly by the seat of your pants writer and the words just flew from my fingertips. Then I went to school and got a degree in Creative Writing. It took a long time after that to get back into the creative mindset since I had been taught to write with a literary flare. In school, I was pushed to make every single sentence perfect and moving. If the sentence wasn’t moving, it didn’t need to be there. And that’s a problem. If you spend an hour trying to write the perfect sentence, you’ve wasted an hour of writing. It’s okay to suck. That’s what revision is for.

How has publishing a book changed your life?

It has made me feel like all the time and effort that I put into my work is now worth it. For so many years, my books have just sat on a computer not living. No one ever saw them except me. Now I get to see the eyes of children light up when they read a story about dragons ransacking the house, or about magic. It hasn’t made me feel more of an author than I was before, but it has made me feel like a successful author.


If your book is based on true events, how has that affected those around you or why made you choose to use historical events?

Because Bean’s Dragons is about my daughter, I have to read the book to her almost every night. I don’t mind though. I think this book has brought us closer together. We’ve bonded through a book.

What are your plans now?
My next plan is to get my middle grade series published. Right now, I am waiting to hear back from a publisher. If I can’t get a contract by the beginning of next year, I will be releasing it from the prison of my computer. I feel that a book doesn’t exist until it is read and I feel sad to think it’s just sitting there in a file. I also have another book in the ABC Adventures series coming out soon. In collaboration with my wife, who operates a wonderful recipe blog, we’ll be presenting ABC Adventures: Cooking with Kids. It is also hosted by Professor Vontriponmybottom and it shares the alphabet foods and recipes to go with them. After that a bunch more… 


What is your best tip for aspiring authors?

I believe that it is very important to treat writing like a job. I have no problem getting up every day at 3am to go manage a bakery and decorate cakes, but the minute I have a day, off it’s a different story—at least it used to be. Since I now treat my writing like a job, I get up and I write. I get up and I illustrate. It has to mean something to you in order to do it. The only drawback is that you are your own boss when it comes to writing. You don’t have a manager who will keep you on task. So my next tip would be to set yourself goals and deadlines. Schedule it out. By such and such date, I will have so many chapters done in my book. Make it reasonable, but stick to it. Give yourself rewards for doing it and maybe discipline yourself for not achieving it (say no TV tonight). Treat it like work. No employer is just going to ignore the fact you’re not completing your work, so you push yourself to get it done. I didn’t start thinking about this as my second job until the beginning of last year. At that time, I had three manuscripts, that had taken me a good ten years to finish, and none of them were publishable. I then made it a point to treat this as a career and since I have written two novels in my Dream Keeper series, author/illustrated three picture books, and illustrated three more picture books for other authors—all in the space of one year. See what can happen when you change your mindset and focus on something in a different light?

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership?

Just take it a day at a time and never give up. It’s a long and hard road with many detours, but it’s worth it in the end.

Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?

Yes I do! Please go to http://www.insidemikeysworld.com/

You can also find me on my blog at: www.writtenbymikey.blogspot.com. On Good Reads at: http://www.goodreads.com/InSideMikeysWorld, on Twitter: @writtenbymikey on Pinterest at: http://pinterest.com/writtenbymikey/, and on Facebook: as Mikey Brooks, or email me at: insidemikeysworld (at) gmail.com.

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