On Tuesday I posted a review of Otto Grows Down written by Michael Sussman and illustrated Scott Magoon. Go here to read the review. *Hint, hint, it's a great book!
As promised, Michael has stopped by to answer some questions about his writing and his book. Plus, he's giving away a signed copy of Otto Grows Down!(details below) First, the interview:
Michael, how did you come to write OTTO GROWS DOWN?
About five years ago, I was experiencing a bad case of writer’s block as I struggled to start a second novel. My son, Ollie, inspired me to start writing for children. As soon as I switched my intended audience from adults to children, my writer’s block disappeared!
As a child, I would sometimes fantasize about what life would be like in backwards time. This fantasy became the basis for OTTO. In early drafts, time turned around because of a book called “Backwards and Forwards” which Otto received as a present. I wasn’t wild about this aspect of the plot, but struggled to come up with an alternative. Finally, while taking a bath, I had my “Eureka!” moment: Time reverses when Otto makes a birthday wish that his baby sister was never born!
By the way, I chose Otto’s name because it’s a palindrome. All the names in the story—Otto, Anna, Bob, Mom, and Dad—read the same backwards and forwards.
Are there any similarities between you and your main character, Otto?
Having an older and a younger brother, I used to fight for my parents’ attention. Like Otto, I also experienced remorse when I overshadowed my siblings.
What was your road to publication for OTTO GROWS DOWN like?
I received dozens of rejections from editors on an early draft of the story. I revised the manuscript and sent it out again. Once more I received dozens of rejections, but two editors were interested. One editor backed out when her colleagues decided the story was too edgy for a picture book. The other—Frances Gilbert at Sterling Publishing—loved the story and has been a delight to work with.
How many other children’s manuscripts had you written before OTTO GROWS DOWN? What have you done with them?
OTTO was my second attempt at a picture book. The first one never got published, and I haven’t gotten around to revising it.
You’ve published books in the adult world. How does it feel to be able to call yourself a children’s author now?
It’s wonderful. I love reading the story to audiences, and the responses I’ve received from children and parents have been truly heartwarming. There’s no sweeter sound in this world than a child’s laughter.
Do you have any other books in the works? Tell us about your work-in-progress.
I’m currently polishing two picture book manuscripts. One is whimsical adventure story, written in verse. The other is about a girl who develops a superpower that spins out of control.
What are you doing to support the publication of your book?
I’m doing bookstore events with Scott Magoon, the illustrator. I’m also giving readings in schools and libraries. With any luck, the “Otto industry” will thrive without any government bailouts!
Finally, if you could live in any book, which one would it be and why?
I’d say either Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, because I’d never be bored, or Tom Sawyer, because I long for a simpler way of life.
Thanks Michael, for the great interview! It's interesting to know that palindromes, childhood fascination, and writer's block are all a part of Otto Grows Down. Now I have even more stuff to talk with my kids about when we read your book(for the hundredth time!)
Otto Grows Down is published by Sterling Publishing. You can read more about Michael at his website OttoGrowsDown.com
Ready to win a signed copy of OTTO GROWS DOWN? All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. You can just say enter me, but if you want to get it off your chest, you can share what your siblings did to pester you(or what you did to pester them!) I'm told that I used to make my poor little sister sit in the corner all the time. I don't remember doing any such thing. Unfortunately there are photos.
I'll take entries until Tuesday, April 7th at 6 p.m.(PST) when I'll put all of the names in a hat and have my littlest guy, who can't even read yet, pull out a winner. I'll contact you if you leave a link or if I recognize you, otherwise, check back in on Tuesday to see if you've won. U.S. mailing addresses only. Good luck!