Here is the 9th post in this series of interviews with our published members. This post is special because it's the first time we are talking about a series of books which have two authors. Please welcome Katie Hayoz and Laurie Theurer who have just self-published their series of picture books entitled 'A Monster's Guide to Life... In a Pandemic'. This is a series of four books: Zombie Covers His Coughs, Witch Washes Her Hands, Werewolf Howls at Home, and Mummy Wears a Mask.
Tell us about your new series of books.
Katie: The books are actually a subset of a different series that we haven’t yet published. We were originally planning on writing A Monster’s Guide to Life series about monsters learning life skills. However, the pandemic is something that we could not ignore and it only seemed right for the monsters to learn how to deal with life in these weird times as well. The children’s books that we’d read on the pandemic were mostly informative and/or serious. We wanted to talk about some COVID issues through humor.
Laurie: Katie hit the nail on the head here. As soon as we got started on writing the original series, the Coronavirus started spreading exponentially. It made sense to switch focus and concentrate on pandemic-related books that we hope can help children to understand what’s going on and what all these new social rules mean. We also hope to give them a giggle or two and make the whole thing a little less scary for them.
What inspired you when working on this project?
Katie: We got inspired by bouncing ideas off of each other. In early March, we went on a writing retreat together. We both have a similar sense of humor, so when discussing a monster project Katie had put aside for years, together our ideas snowballed into something bigger and better. The enthusiasm and creativity of two brains was inspiring. That’s when we decided to partner up to write these books.
Laurie: Exactly what Katie said! The most inspiring part for me was not only our very similar senses of humor, which is terrific and keeps us laughing, but what turned out to be an incredibly good balance of knowledge and experience when it comes to writing and self-publishing. This made us able to support each other in areas where one of us had more experience and the other less. No matter what challenge came our way, at least one of us seemed to have the answer to it!
Tell us about the creative process for these books.
Katie: We had to figure out how to go about writing a series together because we have quite different writing styles. We’re used to giving each other honest feedback, though, as we are in a critique group together. We each took the lead on two of the four books but exchanged thoughts and suggestions. Sometimes we wrote passages together over Skype.
Laurie: It’s been an absolute pleasure developing these books together. As Katie mentioned, we’ve been in a critique group together for some years, so we were already able to be open and honest with each other. I cannot stress enough how priceless these are in a collaboration. If certain parts of a given book weren’t working for some reason, this ability to communicate openly with each other allowed us to work through the text together until we had something we both felt was strong.
Did you encounter anything unexpected while working on this project?
Katie: Unexpected? The whole writing a monster series for the pandemic was unexpected! But as we were in confinement, it became clear that was what we wanted to do. In order to go quickly, we decided to publish them ourselves. The work involved finding an illustrator, creating the layout, editing, setting the books up for sale, etc.—all a bit of craziness in the midst of working at home with our families. But another unexpected plus was connecting with the illustrator, Maria van Bruggen. We never thought we’d come across an illustrator who was as quick and easy-going as she is.
Laurie: Ditto what Katie said. The whole series was quite unexpected, that’s for sure. There we were, calmly planning for a “regular” series of books about monsters and along comes a pandemic. I was working on the book dealing with Witch learning to ride a bike when I had the sudden realization that she could be learning the importance of washing her hands instead. Next thing you know, Katie and I had four re-imagined books solely about the pandemic...with a very unclear timeline. We had no idea at the time whether it would pass by quickly, whether a treatment or vaccination would be available shortly, or whether the virus was here to stay. So, we got to work.
Now for something completely different! Hiking in the Mountains or Lazing by the Pool, Why?
Katie: Uh…lazing by a stream in the mountains? Not a hiker. Not a pool person. But definitely a lazing about person…
Laurie: If these were my only two options, I guess I’d choose hiking in the mountains (with a splash in the pool afterwards). I’m not very good at lazing anywhere, though.
Thank you so much, Katie and Laurie, for such an interesting interview. It's wonderful to see how co-authorship can work so well. We wish you and your monsters in a pandemic series all the best.
Bio: Katie Hayoz (Katie Lee Koz)
Katie Hayoz is originally from Wisconsin, USA, but has been living in Geneva for 23 years. She writes for adults, teens, and now—under the name Katie Lee Koz—also for children. Her young adult novel, Untethered, took second place in the Mslexia international children’s novel competition 2012-13 and is an Indie BRAG medallion winner. Her Clockwork Siren series (for adults) has been chosen to be part of the curated Library Journal’s Self-E Select module. In 2018, her unpublished chapter book, Kelsie Carter and the Evil Chihuahua Army, was included in the Europe/British Isles SCBWI Undiscovered Voices anthology. She’s written picture books and video scripts for Kyowon publishing. Her shorter work has appeared in various places.
Bio: Laurie Theurer
Laurie Theurer is originally from California, but left the USA shortly after completing university to volunteer for 2 ½ years with the US Peace Corps, assigned as an English teacher to a secondary school in Loei, Thailand. Afterwards, she relocated to the Zurich region, where she’s remained for the past 23 years. She writes for adults, primarily flash fiction and poetry, as well as for all children of all ages. She’s published several flash fiction and poetry pieces with Café Aphra, GWG Offshoots, Flash Flood, Into the Void, 100 Voices, Reflex Fiction, Lunate Fiction, and is a regular contributor to The Woolf Literary. She’s also been shortlisted for the Fish Flash Fiction Award and Flash 500. Her debut children’s’ book, Swisstory: The Untold, Bloody, and Absolutely True History of Switzerland was published with Bergli Books in late 2019 and won the SCBWI 2020 Crystal Kite Award for the region Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
This is the 8th in our series which highlights new books by our members. Please give a round of applause for Katelyn Aronson and her debut picture book, Piglette.
Tell us about your new book
Piglette is a story I originally wrote for my sister as a birthday present, so it was truly a “heart piece” of mine (as all writing should be). It’s about a very particular little piglet, who isn’t sure of where she fits in the world, but she’s eager to follow her snout and sniff out new horizons. Her passion is flowers, and when she leaves her farm to work at a perfumery in Paris, she thinks she’s finally found her perfect place. Major themes are leaving home, trying new things, homesickness, the search for belonging, and the ties that ultimately bind us homeward.
What inspired you when working on this project?
Even though Piglette is set in France, the spark of the story came to me thanks to a chance encounter in Italy. I was wandering the streets of Bologna and came across a magical perfumery, which you can read about on my blog. I never forgot that place, and months later, when the character of Piglette appeared in my mind (as characters often do!), I knew that a similar perfumery would be part of my little piglet’s destiny.
Tell us about the creative process for this book.
Piglette is one of my earliest manuscripts (I wrote it about five years ago now). So while I don’t remember the exact process, it started as my stories often do. A character appeared in my imagination, and I could tell right away that she merited a story all her own. So I spent time with her, trying to get to know her, finding out what that story was. At the very beginning, Piglette’s name was actually Paquerette (which in French refers to the little wild daisies that spring up on lawns and gardens). There were also a few more French references sprinkled through the text, which were removed to make the story more accessible to a young American audience.
Did you encounter anything unexpected while working on this project.
The most unexpected thing about Piglette’s publication process was…it’s speed! (We don’t often get to say that in the book industry, eh?) From offer to publication, my manuscript became a book in just one year. What a ride! I had the most wonderful experience working with my editor, Tamar Brazis, and fashion illustrator Eva Byrne. So I couldn’t be happier to announce that I get to work with them all over again. Piglette 2 is already slated to release in summer 2021, only a year after the first installlment!
Now for something completely different! Beach Resort or City Getaway, Why?
City Getaway for sure. Even if I do miss California every day, in general, lying on a beach is not for me. I like wandering a city, getting lost in it, discovering hidden treasures in little side streets—like the Italian perfumery that inspired Piglette, which I found by accident. Serendipity is to blame for my some of my favorite memories.
Thanks Katelyn for a lovely interview. It's very interesting to see how wandering the streets of Bologna, Italy and a character like Piglette come together to create a beautiful, heartwarming story. I'm sure kids everywhere will enjoy getting to know Piglette and we eagerly await the second book coming out next year.
Bio: Katelyn Aronson
I was born and raised in Orange County, California. I went on to work in independent children’s bookstores there until the age of 25, when I followed my “European dream" and moved to France. Today, I divide my time between France and Switzerland, teaching French and English as foreign languages and writing stories.
... to one of our Swiss region members, Laurie Theurer, on winning a Crystal Kite Award, for her book, Swisstory. It was announced in the latest Insight email from SCBWI.
The annual Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world. You can see the other winners here.
(Note: the website has yet to be updated at time of posting this blog post, please check back in a few days for the full list of 2020 winners for books published in 2019.)
(Update 9 June 2020: The full list of 2020 winners are now published on the SCBWI website.)
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