Friday, January 4, 2013

Interview Friday with Mikey Brooks, author & Illustrator


VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. How long have you been writing?

Mikey: I started writing when I was about 14 year old. I lived in a rural town in Missouri and our nearest neighbor was about a mile away. So friends were hard to come by. I fell in love with stories like Narnia and the Wizard of Oz and wished I could escape to these worlds. I had a hid out in the woods that surrounded our farm and I wrote about a world that existed in the reflection of a pond. I have a lot of fond memories about those woods.

VS: What inspired you to write your books?

Mikey: My children are the inspiration behind a lot of my stories now. Bean’s Dragons is based on my daughter and her imaginary dragons she has flying, parading, and trashing throughout the house. She was kind enough to let me glimpse into her world for just a moment to capture the magic within. My girls also love ABC books and shows. Because I love fantastical creatures, I wanted to share them and be a little educational at the same time. I never know what new story will come up, but with the imagination of these two girls, anything is possible.

VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?

Mikey: I have to keep a schedule in order for anything to work out. Because I am an illustrator as well as a writer, I have to balance the time I spend drawing or painting with writing. Sometimes it’s hard and the writing gets put away for a while. I manage a bakery fulltime and I get up rather early—3am. I am off a little after 1pm so I come home and work for a few hours on the most urgent project (normally the freelance work I’m being paid to do). Then after being daddy and the girls are asleep, I try to type out the scene I was planning in my head while working.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?

Mikey: I am the luckiest man on earth, because I married a very supportive wife. She helps me out by taking the girls to grandma’s house when I need to focus on something and she is my very first editor. I love her honesty. When she something that is not working, she doesn’t shy away from telling me. I also find that if I incorporate my girls in my work I get more done. I have a drawing and coloring station set up next to my table in the studio. It’s fun to sit next to my daughter and create characters together.

VS: If this isn’t your first publication, what was the first thing you ever had published?

Mikey: The first thing I ever published was a set of poems in a university sponsored literary journal, I then had personal essays published a few years after that. I’ve always wanted to write middle grade and picture books it just took a little longer for those dreams to become reality.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?

Mikey: Yes! Bean’s Dragons is a great story that is very dear to me. As I said before it’s based off the experience, I had with my daughter and her imaginary 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.

ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures is 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.

VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Mikey: I do. I have been working closely with my wife on an ABC book. This will be part of the ABC Adventure series. It’s cooking with kids. My wife has an amazing recipe blog. She likes to promote cooking with children and we thought this would be a fun thing to do together. I also have a middle grade series that I have been shopping around. I hope that we’ll have a buyer soon and that will be available. *fingers crossed*

VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Mikey: Just to keep at it. There are days that you will never get to lay a figure on a keyboard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be working on your book in your head. I have found that during the times I have to break away from the computer to be daddy I can prewrite in my head. If I have planned out what is going to happen in the next scene of my book the time I get later, even if it’s much shorter, is more successful.

VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?

Mikey: A very relatable/believable character is a must. Next, a great plot. I really mean a beginning, middle, and an end. So many books have great beginnings but mess it up on the end. Your reader should feel satisfied at the end of a book—even picture books. The last thing I would say is to have conflict. Although conflict isn’t always good in our world, it’s great in the fictional world. Readers love to hear about other people’s problems and see how they go about fixing it.

VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?

Mikey: I have three things: make them imperfect, don’t make them whiny, and make them real. I’ve learned that these three things help me when creating a great character. I’ve also learned that if you make them as real as possible it will help you out in your writing. Interview your character. Find out their likes and dislikes. What kind of candy bar they like, anything to let you know what type of person they are and what they might do in a certain situation.

VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?

Mikey: I think as writers we tend to judge our merits of success on how many books we are selling. I think this is wrong. We should be judging it on our feedback from those reading our books. Nothing makes me feel better than when a child tells me that they loved my book. So I would suggest to share with your kids what success really means. Is it a monetary symbol or a feeling in your heart? I have also found that when I tell my daughter I could tell she worked hard on something rather than just a ‘good job’ she is more likely to be successful her next attempt at doing it.

VS: Have you received any awards for your writing?

Mikey: I was awarded an honorable mention for my personal essay, Waiting for the Morning Sun to Rise, in the Utah Arts 23rd Annual Writing Competition, 2011. It was a wonderful experience to meet new people and get an award signed by the governor.

VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?

Mikey: I’m pretty much everywhere. The best place to go is 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 him at: insidemikeysworld (at) gmail.com

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?

Mikey: Just to keep writing and think of it as a journey. It doesn’t stop once you’re published; then comes the marketing and networking, and then the next book. Set goals and achieve them. And always remember that you are the one who determines whether you are successful or not. Oh, and go and get my book to read to your kidlets!



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