About the Author
An Interview with the Author – Debbie Glade
What is your background?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University. I was a freelance writer and fell into researching and travel writing for upscale cruise lines. I did this type of work for over 13 years. I used to call myself an “armchair traveler,” which means reading, researching and writing without always traveling. Most of the work I did was before the internet, so I had to use the library to do my research. I am now a member of the Florida Publishers Association, and a sponsor of the Association of Booksellers for Children.
How did you get the idea for this book?
Each member of my family is an avid reader, and we spend a lot of time in libraries and bookstores. My husband and I have always bought our daughter lots of books. She had a libary card when she was 1 week old! When she was very young we found that the quality of some of the children’s pictures books was disappointing. There are no doubt many excellent books too, but there is definitely a need for more creative original book ideas for the large number of young, smart readers who would love to experience something completely different. This got me motivated to start thinking of a unique idea for a new book. I thought about how my travel writing background could help children get interested in reading more and learning about geography at a young age. I wanted it to be very entertaining, so I used my silly cartoon voices to narrate it, set it all to music and record it on CD. It really brings the story to life.
So how is this book any different than other children’s books?
A travel adventure is not uncommon, however this one is presented in a unique manner. There are many children’s picture books about scary monsters, kids who are longing to be liked and tots learning to go potty. These are important subjects. But I wanted to write a book that curious children would certainly enjoy, without talking down to them. The hero of this book is a child millipede with a brilliant mind. It is her intellect and creativity that get her family out of a sticky situation. I like that the book does not focus on being pretty, athletic or popular. Lilly teaches us about working through our fears and about the world around us. More importantly she teaches us how to have the confidence to solve our biggest problems. Having the story recorded on CD with music really makes it unique. There aren’t many fiction books for young readers recorded on CD. What really makes me smile is when I hear how much parents and grandparents enjoy listening to it.
What was your inspiration for the characters?
Lilly is in most ways my fifteen-year-old daughter
Rachel. Rachel is a book lover and an excellent student. She is skilled at solving problems calmly and methodically. She is an encyclopedia of information, and she gives me amazing advice! She is also a excellent pianist and loves music of all types. A few of Lilly’s traits are similar to mine (like her fear of elevators). My brother, Eric, always called my daughter, “Silly Badilly.” Lilly P. Badilly is the character I eventually came up with. The grandparents in the book were inspired by my paternal grandparents, Grandma Nell and Grandpa Joe. They were both such unique and interesting people and were so good to me growing up. I spent a lot of time with them. Grandma Nell loved to travel, and Grandpa Joe was always reluctant to go anywhere. Some of fictitious Grandma Nellie’s traits are similar to mine in real life too. And some of Grandpa Willie’s traits were inspired by my husband, John. Although they never met, my husband and my grandfather had a lot of similarities.
How did you get interested in writing?
I used to write a lot of rhyming poetry as a young child. In fact, my Grandma Nellie kept a book of all my poems. Some of them were so silly. I still read them occasionally and laugh hysterically. I also adored all the Dr. Seuss books as a kid, as did most everyone else my age. I remember sitting and reading them over and over again and looking at the pictures. When I started college and took English 101 class, I realized that writing came natural for me. And I really got a kick out of reading Shakespeare and taking a play writing class.
How did you learn to draw?
I always loved art and started drawing at an early age. In high school I took art lessons, but I really got discouraged. The teacher would say, “Draw it like you see it.” And then she would say, “That’s not how you see it,” and lean over my work and change it herself. Most of what I learned, I did on my own. I really love all types of arts and crafts, especially making quilts.
What is your favorite book of all time?
I’d have to say that it is The Catcher in the Rye, because I was a lot like Holden Caufield growing up - an adolescent with a bad attitude! I also love Ayn Rand’s two classics, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. The best book I’ve read recently is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Why did you choose to write about Costa Rica?
With all the years of experience I had as a travel writer, I enjoyed learning about the plants and animals of Costa Rica the best. It is truly one of the world’s greatest wonders, with its fertile rainforests and
seemingly endless species of plants and animals.
Why did you record the book on CD?
I really wanted the characters to come to life, and the only way to do that was with a recording. I also wanted to use my daughter’s and husband’s musical talents to pull it all together. Plus my goal was to have every child be able to enjoy the book, regardless of his or her reading ability.
How did you come up with those character voices?
As a child I loved being silly (that hasn’t changed!) and I used to talk to my baby brother in my cartoon voice. I use that voice usually when I am very happy and to talk to my dog. I noticed years ago that kids and animals seem to respond to it very favorably. (I once stopped an angry German shepherd from attacking me by using that voice.) As I was writing the book I started to practice making up other voices for the other characters. This took some time to get it all right. But I sure enjoyed the process! My daughter had to constantly listen to me try out different ideas. Needless to say she laughed a lot.
How did your daughter write all that original music?
Rachel started to play a toy piano when she was about 3 1/2. Her Dad and I noticed she was playing some of the music from TV commercials she would listen to. She started to take lessons when she was six, and she was very dedicated to piano from day one. She often plays 2-4 hours each day, sometimes more. Her piano teacher was brilliant at teaching her how to master reading any and all music and exposing her to all types of music. She used all these years of lessons to help her come up with original songs. Her Dad helped to make the score sound even better.
I am extremely proud of what they accomplished! I am not a musician, so naturally I could not have done this without them.
Where did your husband get his musical talent?
My husband and his twin sister, Jayne,were the youngest in a family with seven kids. One of John’s older sisters, Donna, had a friend who played the guitar. John was very interested in learning how to play, so the friend taught him. What is so funny is that his sister and the friend are 11 years older than him, so the folk music he learned was way beyond his years. Each of John’s siblings can sing well, and when they sing together in harmony they sound like the Von Trapp family! John taught himself to pay the harmonica, and he wrote some original songs.
What was it like working with your family on the recording of the book?
I’ve never had so much fun in my life! We laughed non stop. When you enjoy what you are doing, the end result is a guaranteed success whether you sell one copy or one million.
How long did it take you to record it?
I had practiced the narration and voices so much at home that we recorded it in one day. We did a straight run through the script with the narration, music and songs and then went back and changed a few things. It really went smoothly. The time to practice is before you get to the studio, because it can get expensive to record over and over again!
What advice do you have for others who aspire to write a children’s book?
Anyone who wants to be a writer of any kind must be an avid reader first. There is an assumption out there that writing books for children is easy, but it is not. I have read so many children’s books to see what’s out there. Some are incredibly wonderful, while others seem to be formulaic. If an adult does not enjoy reading it, a child will not enjoy reading it. It is very challenging to come up with a new idea and make it work without patronizing young readers. If you can remember what it feels like to be a child and think like one, you’ll be on the right track. The most important advice is just get started! And then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until you get it right.