Thank you for hosting me and my Dragon on your blog. It’s both an honor and a thrill to be here. You’re such an inspiration, and a wealth of knowledge, to all of us who write, read and love books!
See, guys?! Didn't I tell you she was sweet? Thanks, Jodi!
When you wrote When a Dragon Moves In, did you intend on it becoming a series?
Not even in my wildest dreams! Can I gush gratitude for just a moment? I’m so thankful to everyone who has been so supportive of me and Dragon: my incredibly supportive family and friends; my extraordinary editor, Shari Dash Greenspan and the entire Flashlight Press family; my brilliant editor, Howard McWilliam; and the amazing booksellers, librarians, teachers, bloggers and readers who give loving homes to books everywhere.
Without the love – and admittedly, the sales! – the second book never would have been possible.
The idea OF a sequel initially materialized as a question during one of my first school visits for WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN.
I remember smiling at that child, desperately trying to contain myself from having a heart-squishy Sally Field-inspired burst of “They like Dragon! They really like Dragon!”
A couple of years later, when my editor introduced the possibility, I Tigger-danced a hole in my carpet.
However, the idea FOR the sequel proved more difficult than I ever could have imagined.
I soon learned that a sequel has to echo the first, without being redundant. It has to share a voice, but offer a new conflict. What’s more, Shari wanted the new one to be able to stand on its own, to be more of a companion than a sequel. After three attempts at a new manuscript, and three rejections, I began to wonder if I could pull it off.
(That’s a mild description. Tears and depths of despair may or may not have been involved.)
Then I realized I was trying too hard. I was obsessed to the point of sheer panic, focused on writing a sequel, instead of a story. When I reset my brain – and heart – on creating a story, featuring characters I loved, I began to relax and listen to their voices once gain.
I knew my Boy loved being center stage. What kind of something could impact his life and draw his family’s attention elsewhere…including his beloved Dragon?
What had impacted the boys I loved most?
I wrote the story keeping my boys in mind, their trials, tribulations and jubilations of being both big – and little – brothers. As luck would have it, Howard McWilliam and his lovely wife had just had their second son too. It’s like it was meant to be.
Thankfully, Big Brother decided “this baby” could stay.
*crosses fingers, eyes and toes* I so hope so. Dragon, the boy and his family have so many adventures still to be shared.
What do you feel is the secret to finding your voice as a writer? When did you realize that you had “found” yours?
What a great, yet complex, question. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve really found mine yet. I live with an ever-changing array of characters in my head and I tend to channel whichever is speaking the loudest. I’m still exploring and honing my voice. It’s still changing. (I guess you could say I’m going through writer puberty, lol.)
That being said, I’m always so delighted when my critique partners come back to me and say, “This is such a Jodi story; it’s so full of heart.” There’s no better compliment than that. That’s something I will forever strive for.
I agree! (Since HEART seems to define your personality, too!)
Do you think visually when you write? If so, were you surprised by Howard McWilliams’s illustrations when you saw them for the first time?
I do…and I was beyond delighted when I saw the artwork, both with the original and the sequel. My stories tend to play like little movies in my head. If I’m lucky, I can find the right words to capture the scene. And if I’m extremely fortunate, I get paired with brilliant professionals (like Flashlight editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, and illustrator, Howard McWilliam) who not only embrace my vision, they manage to elevate it to a level I couldn’t even have imagined!
Some people don’t realize that, in most cases, an author has no contact with the illustrator while he/she is creating the artwork. When I finally saw the book, and was allowed to let Howard know how much I love, love, LOVED his work , I believe I gushed something like, “Your illustrations are so perfect, the book doesn’t even need my words.” And he answered, “But it was your words that inspired my illustrations.”
*heart squish* For obvious reasons, that meant the world to me on a personal level. But it also struck a chord deep in my professional soul.
We tend to think of our jobs as writers to find those perfect words to engage, enchant and inspire our readers. But as picture book authors, it’s also our mission to select the words that will ignite the passion and creativity of our illustrators. They are the ones we must entrust to tell the other half of the story, the ones to whom we pass the baton in order to get to the finish line.
And with the right editor guiding the way, it’s a magical journey indeed.
What do you personally look for in an agent or editor when researching?
I originally subbed to Flashlight Press on my own because I don’t have an agent. Yet.
Yes, I’m looking. Hoping. Working on it. Because an agent opens up so many possibilities, not only with respect to offering manuscripts to houses that are closed to unagented submissions, but also helping you to hone your craft and navigate the complex world of publishing.
I’m looking for an editorial agent/editor who has a heart for stories and a head for business. One who gets the weirdness that is me.
And Jodi has some more just right advice for you in Part Two of this interview: Jodi Moore Talks Mentor Texts. See you there!