Friday, January 30, 2009

Author Interview: Merrily Kutner

Today I have the privilege of introducing you to an author who is new to me, Merrily Kutner.  Merrily writes books for children and I had the privilege to read two of them, which I loved!  You can read them as well by going to Lookybook.

Down on the Farm is a book all about, you guessed it, animals on the farm.  Follow a baby goat on his day of mischief and adventure on the farm and he'll introduce you to all the other animals and the sounds they make.  Young children will fall in love with this!  The repetitive nature of the text will have them chanting, "Down on the farm, down on the farm," right along with you as you read.  The illustrations are just adorable too!  This is definitely one that I would recommend for the very young reader.  Down on the Farm has recently been released again, as a board book, by Holiday House.

Zombie Night Cafe' is a rollicking good time book, perfect for Halloween or anytime, especially if your child loves monsters as Merrily's did.  A boy and his dog, wander into the cafe' one night as they are out walking.  What they find is monsters of all kinds eating unspeakably gross things that kids will love to read about.  Will they ever get out of Zombie Night Cafe'?  You'll have to find out.  This is a great read aloud as the kids will be able to pick up on the rhymes and read along.

Now, let's sit down with Merrily.  Thank you so much for visiting with us today and sharing your thoughts.

Write For A Reader (WFAR):  Please tell us a little about yourself.

Merrily Kutner (MK):  I’m originally from New York. I received my degree at Columbia University and worked as a dental hygienist. I moved to California and started to take classes in interior design. I’m married and I have a son and an endearing golden retriever, Curly.

WFAR:  When did you start writing?

MK:  I never dreamed I would ever become a writer. So, how did it happen? Well, I believe writing chose me. I started writing picture books quite by accident, after I couldn't find a book for my son. At seven years old, he was definitely a reluctant reader. I spent a lot of time in the library trying to find books for him that would hold his attention. One day, I became frustrated because I knew he liked monsters and rhymes but I couldn't find any book like that in the library. I kept looking at book after book until I thought to myself (half kidding and half serious) “Hey, I can do better than these!” What an epiphany! I suppose that must have stirred something deep inside me. Or, maybe because I loved my son so much, I became inspired to write a book with monsters and rhymes just for him. Whatever the reason, after I began making up stories, I was hooked! The ideas keep flowing and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Writing transports me to a world where I’m suspended in time almost…I’m in fantasyland; I guess you could say…and it’s not a bad way to spend your day.

WFAR:  Do you have writing “mentors?” If so, who are they?

MK:  I was inspired by Dr. Seuss, Jane Yolen, Eve Bunting and I could go on. I aspire to write with the whimsy of Dr. Seuss, the skill of Jane Yolen and the sensitivity of Eve Bunting.

WFAR:  I love Seuss and Bunting!  Those are some great mentors.  What have you written besides Down on the Farm and The Zombie Nite Cafe?

MK:  Z is for Zombie was my first book. It was named an IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Book. After it took 10 years (yep 10 years, count them) to get published, that award validated me. I knew I was on the right path. I sold my second book in 10 months.

WFAR:  Wow, from 10 years to 10 months; that's amazing!  Thank you for not giving up.  How did you come up with the ideas for these 2 stories?

MK:  I was inspired to write Down on the Farm by my young daughter who loved animal sounds so much that she walked around the house saying, “Moo, moo, moo and nay, nay nay” etc. Her spirit lives on in the book.
The Zombie Nite Café was indirectly inspired by my dog, Curly. While out walking him one foggy night, I wondered what would happen if I accidentally walked into a café populated by monsters. The repeated refrain just popped into my head (“In the Zombie Nite Café”) and my mind played the “what if” game all the way home until most of the story was fleshed out.
WFAR:  I love the illustrations in both of the books! Did you get to choose the illustrators?

MK:  No. The editor and/or the art director at the publishing house pick the illustrator. Authors don’t usually have a say. I know a few authors who were asked to suggest an illustrator but that’s never happened to me. I was grateful that I received sketches.

WFAR:  Both books have a sing song feel to them; I think that’s important for young childrens’ books. Do you try to do that in your books? Why or why not?

MK:  I think books that have a lyrical feel (catchy words and phrases) make it easier to pull a child into the writing…so it makes the book more interactive. This also helps the book to hold up to many reads. But, I don’t set out deliberately to do that with every book I write. It depends on the story…how the vision comes to me.

WFAR:  What’s next for you as an author? Do you have anything in the works?

MK:  My next book Alphabet Magic is due out in the fall of 2010 from Neal Porter Books.
Currently I’m working on a few stories with my agent.

WFAR:  What is your favorite piece or book that you have written?

MK:  I usually say I hope I haven’t written it yet. But, I suppose my first book Z is for Zombie holds special meaning for me because it started my writing journey. Although it was written many years ago, I still read it at school visits. And, I love the reactions from the kids. It makes all the years of rejection worth it.

WFAR:  Kids' reactions are priceless!  What do you like to do when you are not writing?

MK:  I take yoga, jazz funk and Zumba dance classes.

WFAR:  That sounds like fun!  Describe your writing atmosphere…where do write, when, etc?

MK:  I write on the desk in my home office by the window. Even while I’m working on the computer, I can look out and see the pool and the palm trees in my backyard. Many times I write in my robe with my dog, Curly under my desk. I write everyday…at different times depending on the day. If I didn’t write…I’d miss it. I’m a night owl…many times I stay up till 2 am writing if I’m hot on something.

WFAR:  How do you feel about book bloggers reviewing your books?

MK:  I think it’s great if a blogger wants to review my books. Any promotion exposure is good exposure. It’s hard for an author to get the word out to promote her books. I always hold my breath before I read a review though.

WFAR:  What are some of your favorites? Author, food, color, book, any others…

MK:  Right now (and it can vary) Fancy Nancy is one of my current favorite books. I still love Dr. Seuss books (he’s timeless). I enjoy the spirit of the book If you give a Mouse a Cookie and its other related books. My favorites: author - Steven King, color- red, food- pizza; although almost anything chocolate calls to me and it’s hard to resist at times!

WFAR:  I understand the "right now" when it comes to favorite books.  Chocolate...mmm!  Is there anything else that you would like readers to know?

MK:  There’s a book for everyone. As a writer, when your work appeals to kids you’re like an ambassador for reading. Since all learning is based on reading, when children read books they’re learning more than they realize. They’re learning how to use their imagination in a way that movies or computer games can’t provide. They’re also learning about life, people, relationships, and how the world works just to name a few things. A book can influence a young child in ways we never know. My son is grown but he still remembers the book The Giving Tree. As an online writing instructor now it’s very gratifying to know that I am helping students to write books that might someday have a great influence on children.

What great thoughts to end on!  Thank you so much, Merrily for stopping by to chat.  I wish you the best of luck with your writing!

1 comment:

Wendi B. - Wendi's Book Corner ~ Rainy Day Reads in Seattle said...

Great interview Shelley! I always love learning more about the author/books through interviews. :)

Wendi

 
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