by Diana Hockley
When I first saw this adorable picture book in the library I knew we had to review this book in KRL! Diana also interviewed the author Daniel Kirk and there are instructions on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this post!
Who couldn’t love a mouse, especially elegantly attired in smart red knickerbockers, with a nut shell helmet, wielding a tiny wooden sword? Not only that, we get to see him in gorgeous red-striped PJs, a blue sweat shirt and green trousers! A very handsome little person indeed.
Sam lives in a library where he sleeps all day while the patrons are there, but at night he comes out to play. A well educated mouse, he loves to read biographies, poetry, cookbooks, fiction and ghost stories. His imagination runs riot, but one night he realizes can write a book of his own!
Daniel Kirk’s charming children’s book, Library Mouse, is a delight. Well-written, with gorgeous illustrations, it is a “must” for any youngster’s book collection or for the school library. It is a story for all ages; I loved it and smiled all the way through.
A wonderful birthday or Christmas present for a young person in your life!
Interview with Daniel Kirk
Diana: Did you start writing from a young age and were you a dedicated reader?
Daniel: As a kid I made my own comic books and monster magazines. I always had a crayon or pencil in my hand, and I came to storytelling mostly through my love of making pictures! I was a reader when I was little, but I was also a collector. I saved every comic book I ever bought, and I worked hard to get all the back issues I could find to complete my collections. As a teen, I tried to gather every title I could find of all my favorite fantasy writers. I saw authors as people with special and individual gifts, and I valued the experience of reading a body of work. I still do! When I find an author I like, I try to read everything he or she has ever written.
Diana: Where did you find your inspiration for the plot of Library Mouse?
Daniel: I came up with the Library Mouse books because my editor asked me to write something that took place in a library. At a school visit in New Jersey, I had a close encounter with a real mouse in a library, and it kick-started my imagination. If I were a mouse, I said to myself, I’d love to live in a library and read books all day. One thing led to another, and I started writing the first story in that series.
Diana: How do you plan your books and for how long before you actually start writing?
Daniel: I like to see a complete book in my head before I start to write. It helps to have at least a mental outline before I get started. That makes the writing process go much more quickly!
Diana: What research do you do for your books?
Daniel: For the Library Mouse books, I needed to do a lot of research on what mice really look like—how long are their tails, how many whiskers do they have, is there fur inside their ears, and so on. I wanted to create a character that was a mix of fantasy and reality, but Sam the mouse has to be grounded in real life, at least to some extent. Even if he does wear clothes.
Diana: Do you have a schedule for writing?
Daniel: Some people say a writer is either writing, or has died. I find that I am writing, or thinking about writing, most of the time. It’s an obsession that won’t ever completely go away!
Diana: Do you set yourself a goal of so many words per day?
Daniel: When I am writing novels, I try to get five rough pages down every single day. Of course, most of that work disappears during the editing and revising process, but I try to get something on paper to work with. With picture books, I tend to rewrite the text at least a dozen times, and I have to revisit a story every day until each word is absolutely right. Much of the art is in the editing.
Diana: How do you go about planning your books?
Daniel: For a picture book, I write and illustrate at the same time…or at least I do rough sketches while I am writing. A picture book has 32 pages, so whatever story I am working on has to fit into that format. I go back and forth, writing, sketching, writing, sketching, until it starts to make sense as a whole. Then I go back in and do the detail work.
Diana: How do you cope with writer’s block?
Daniel: I have many different projects going at once. When I reach a stumbling block or obstacle with one, I move on to another. Then I wait for inspiration to come and bail me out, or just give the troubled story some time so I can gain some perspective on whatever is stuck in my path. That works most of the time.
Diana: Do you have a mentor–someone you can ring up and bleat too if necessary?
Daniel: I ask my wife and kids for advice sometimes, though they usually just throw it back at me to solve a problem. Editors are helpful, but really, in the end, it all comes down to me. I always wanted a mentor, but never found anybody with that much spare time!
Diana: Does someone else check your plot as you go along, or do you keep it a secret until you have finished the first draft? Or finished altogether?
Daniel: I like to have a project pretty much complete, according to my own terms, before I share it. Editors are pretty busy and don’t have time to read manuscripts that are a mess.
Diana: How do you keep track of the characters and what is happening at any given time in the story?
Daniel: With picture books, keeping track of characters is pretty easy. You just can’t have too many. With the novels I have written, it’s the outline that saves me. Without a good outline I wouldn’t know where to bring characters in and out of a plot, or where they were headed. Outlines are essential!
Diana: Do you do your own illustrations?
Daniel: I always like to illustrate my own stories. Once in a while I will also illustrate someone else’s written text for a picture book. It keeps my point of view fresh that way.
Diana: If you had a choice–and you may well have–what time of the day do you like to write?
Daniel: I often prefer to write in the morning, draw in the afternoon, and write or edit at night. That seems to work for me.
Diana: What are the titles of your other books?
Daniel: I have written or illustrated 35 picture books and novels. They include the four Library Mouse books, Dogs Rule, Cat Power, Moondogs, Hush Little Alien, Go, three “Elf Realm” novels, Rex Tabby, Cat Detective, Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, My Truck is Stuck, and too many others to mention. I’ve also illustrated books by classic authors like Margaret Wise Brown and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Diana: Do you have a favorite book-signing or fan mail story which you would like to share?
Daniel: Recently a teenage girl made a website based on my “Elf Realm” series, and I was very touched. Another girl, with the help of her dad, made a short movie for YouTube about my visit to her school, and how I had helped to inspire her to write her own stories. Often children send me their drawings of Library Mouse. I’m putting a hundred of them up on my website, because kids have such a fresh perspective on drawing, and their take on my character is both funny and insightful.
Diana: Future books?
Daniel: I have many, many stories that have never been published. I am trying to illustrate a few every year, without the involvement of editors and publishers, that I can release as e-books. As far as traditionally published work goes, I am about to start illustrating another Library Mouse book, due out in Fall 2013. I’m also putting together outlines for a few more novels, and pitching a half a dozen picture book manuscripts to different editors. One never knows what manuscript is going to get published, but it helps to have a lot of them to choose from when an editor gets interested!
Diana: What do you like to read? And do you read your own books after some time has passed and think “Oh no, I could have done that better!!!” and gnash your teeth?
Daniel: These days, my wife tells me I read too much. She says it takes away time from writing, but I feel like I have to stay current and do a lot of reading of kid-oriented literature just so I know what the trends are.
I go to the library and bookstore a couple of times a month, to see what is new in the world of picture books.
As for re-reading my own published work, sometimes I go back and feel very impressed with myself and my talents, and other times I do indeed wish I could go back in time and tweak a few things. But overall, I feel I am on the right track!
Diana: When did you start seriously writing and what did or do you do other than writing?
Daniel: I was writing and drawing and making my own creative work as a child, making comics as a teen, and making fine art paintings in my twenties. I did commercial illustration for a number of years before getting into kid’s books. When my own daughter was very little, I was reading her lots of books and discovering that the process of putting words and pictures together for young people looked very appealing. That’s when I decided to try a new career path, and I’ve been on that road now for twenty-five years.
Diana: Any advice for new writers?
Daniel: Adults who want to write for children should join their local SCBWI chapters, to find a community of like-minded people, and study Harold Underdown’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books. I read it recently and found it very educational and informative. Beyond that, writers must keep writing. You can’t stop after writing one story and think that you’re a writer.
Diana: Where do you see the publishing industry going in the next few years?
Daniel: I am hoping that people begin taking more of an interest in e-books, since I plan on getting into that area myself. As for the publishing industry, I think it will continue to contract, so that fewer authors and fewer titles will get published, and publishers will take fewer chances with projects that aren’t completely commercial. I think actual, physical books are important for sharing with young children, but more and more, as kids get older, their reading will be done on the computer. It’s inevitable. Still, we humans are drawn to stories, and storytelling will never die. The vehicles for telling stories, though, will change. I love the written word, and hope that we humans remain literate. But with advances in computer technology I wonder if in fifty years, people will still be taught to read and write, or if everything will just be spoken through the computer. Already, kids are no longer being taught to write in cursive. The assumption is that we don’t need to know it, as we’ll all be keyboarding from now on. But that’s only a phase, too, leading toward the next stage of social evolution. Maybe before long we’ll all have implants in our brains, and information will be downloaded into our minds with no effort or work to memorize things. It wouldn’t surprise me!
Diana: Where can people find your website?
Daniel: People can learn more about me and my work at www.danielkirk.com.
To enter to win a copy of Library Mouse, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Mouse”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 11, 2012. U.S. residents only.