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.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Benvenuto! Bainvegnì! Welcome!