Interview with Picture Book Author Stephen Sperry
Interview sponsored by Stephen Sperry
The Children’s Book Review | August 19, 2015
The Children’s Book Review: Katie Karalana and The Mysterious Serious Nose Emergency is a humorous tale that showcases the wonderful relationship between a young girl and her grandfather. Before we talk about your book, can you tell us about yourself and how you came to be an author?
Stephen Sperry: An important key to this book’s genesis is the two children and nine grandchildren brought into the world through my wife’s forty seven year marriage to the likes of me. They have been a storage trunk full of children’s book ideas. Another key is that I’m now retired from the traditional workforce with time and opportunity for involvement in endeavors not previously open to me. Well I like to write, and when I do I spend a lot of time trying to communicate clearly and interestingly. I also want to remain creative and productive. A problem though (and I confess it) is that I’m prone to the injection of humor into much of what I write and say. Most of the time it works and folks (family, friends, associates and kids) respond in ways that stroke my ego. So I continue doing it. I’m sure I’m not the only grandparent who has discovered the immeasurable wealth of enjoyment, laughter, pleasure, surprise, tenderness and hilarity connected to just about any period of time spent dealing with kids aged two to six. Over the years, I’ve written about several incidents with these lovable little ones and shared them with the family. But not a few people have said that this Katie Karalana story should be marketed to a larger audience. Hence, I’ve become the author of a children’s book.
Which five words do you feel best describe Katie Karalana and The Mysterious Serious Nose Emergency?
I can share some descriptive words folks have used after reading the book.
“Different — haven’t seen one like this before.”
I have to say I agree.
“The lead character, Katie Karalana, seems convinced that an unwelcome alien has taken up residence in her grandfather’s nose.” This is definitely an interesting and, surely, entertaining story idea. Will you talk to us a little bit about how the idea for your book came to you?
A true life incident. I was holding my three-year-old granddaughter Katie (first name real; second name Karalana is a play on words because she lives in North Carolina and that’s how lots of folks here pronounce it). She was supported in my arms at an angle that allowed her to gaze directly and close-up into my nostrils. Based on what she observed and in shocked astonishment, she urgently and loudly advised me: “There’s a spider in there!” The book was developed around that incident and Katie’s imaginative personality. At this point, I must clarify something and assure you that what she saw should in no way be interpreted as negligence on my part with respect to personal nasal hygiene.
Your granddaughters were some of the book’s first critics. What feedback did they give you?
Katie, now age six, laughed easily and often as her twelve-year-old sister Anna who displayed numerous grins read the book to her. Katie was enthusiastic and involved, offering her own spontaneous commentary about the story as it developed. Of course she was aware that the book was named after her. It was the kind of feedback I wanted so it was a reward for me.
How long did it take you to write the story and can you describe your writing process?
I suppose it took about ten hours to write the text, counting the time for an outline, typing, rewriting and editing. I have to guess at the hours I needed to produce the illustrations. It took me perhaps thirty hours to compose and color them. Then I needed professional help with scanning and preparation for printing and publication. The basic process was just one step after the other: hand written outline; type and rewrite on the word processor; develop illustrations based on what was suggested by the text then doing what was needed to get the book published and available to the public. About twelve weeks went by from concept to publication.
Katie and her grandpa have some great character traits. Can you tell us a little bit about how and why you chose their specific traits?
The real Katie is like the book’s Katie. She has a vivid imagination with propensity and capacity to engage others in whatever she is planning, creating, playing or verbalizing. She is an intelligent and obedient child who likes to take charge and lead in play with others including her grandfather. She tends to be a little bossy but not demanding or tyrannical. I have to admit that the character traits of the book’s grandpa are reflective of those I believe to be true of me.
What do you hope readers will take away from a reading of your book?
Laughter and a measure of affection for Katie Karalana and her grandpa. I would hope readers can identify with the characters in the book and feel compelled to read it over again several times.
What do parents have to say after they hear or read it?
Similar to the descriptive words you asked for earlier. One dad told me: because of that book I had become famous at his house and that he had been asked by his children to read it at least twice more. I gave a copy to a friend who then ordered two more for his grandchildren.
How did you create the illustrations and the overall presentation of the book?
I did the illustrations with watercolors and ink. I needed a great deal of help with all the technical production gymnastics and with a few welcome corrections to the script from a friend who is a journalist.
What’s next for you? Do you have any more children’s books in the pipeline?
I’ve been writing down some ideas for more Katie Karalana antics: an interview with the tooth fairy for one; a visit to the senior citizen’s center for another.
Learn more about the book here.
The Author Showcase is a place for authors and illustrators to gain visibility for their works. This interview with Stephen Sperry about “Katie Karalana and … The Mysterious Serious Nose Emergency” was sponsored. Learn more about marketing books and finding an Author Showcase book marketing plan that is right for you …
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