I asked my friend Gisele to interview me for this article, so I could be like my main character, Footer Davis. Gisele rolled her eyes a lot, but in the end, she surrendered. I knew she would.
Why am I interviewing you?
Because interviews are fun. And because my latest book has a lot of interviews in it.
I’m only doing this for brownies. You know that, right?
Yes, I know.
Brownies and cake.
What do you do for a living?
By day, I’m a neuropsychologist who works in a haunted monolith I call the Old Asylum. By evening and night and wee hours of the morning, I make up worlds and people and all manner of chaos. I try to paint with words. I live and write in that strange hinterland between psychology and creativity, between seeing patterns and laboring to describe them.
Did being a psychologist help you write your latest book?
Sometimes my two lives intersect, and my stories include characters who have mental health issues. That’s definitely the case in Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, coming in March, 2015 from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. Footer’s mom struggles with Bipolar Disorder, and Footer lives with the fear that she’ll wind up battling the same illness. That doesn’t stop her from exploring a big mystery, trying to save some missing kids, and working on her upcoming career as a journalist. She’s decided she can’t be an artist since she can’t draw–not that lack of talent stops her from illustrating her own story, especially when she wants to annoy a stodgy teacher, show somebody what snake guts look like, or explain her walrus phobia. Some things, like mutant alien rock monsters and mysterious sneakers, just work better in pictures.
I was able to ask Jennifer Black Reinhardt, the book’s illustrator, a few questions, so, bonus!
Me: What does it feel like to be able to draw something other than a stick figure? Because I’m way envious. Even my stick figures stink.
Jennifer: I’m not sure if I’ve always loved to draw because I was good at it? Or, if I got good at it because I loved to draw? I think it might be the latter. I can remember being very little and having an idea and being absolutely consumed with hurrying to finish my bath so I could go draw. I would spend hours drawing different noses on a person in profile and was mesmerized by how just that one line could transform a darling little girl into an evil witch. But I did have that love and passion for it at a very early age.
Me: I panicked when I heard they were getting a real artist to draw Footer’s sketches, because like me, Footer can’t really draw! You did such an awesome job of making wonderful pictures that weren’t perfect–and yet were, in every way. How hard was it to draw like Footer?
Jennifer: I did have to think about how to do them, but it was really fun! Are you sure Footer can’t draw? Because the fact that she liked to document some rather odd/difficult things with her drawings seemed to indicate to me that she thought she could succeed? I looked through some of my daughter’s old sketchbooks from about that time to get a feel for what Footer might do. I thought Footer would spend some time on them. So, I didn’t want to make them as quick as single line. I kind of wanted Footer to think she did a good job.
Now back to our regularly scheduled questions.
Are you afraid of walruses?
No. That’s Footer.
Suuuuure it is.
Really. I’m not afraid of walruses.
I want oatmeal raisin cookies, too.
Have you ever written a middle grade book before?
Footer’s tale is my first published middle grade story, after years of writing for adults and young adults. Writing middle grade fiction is something I’ve always wanted to do . . . well, that and picture books, but the whole picture book thing—yeah. Still working on that (see above re: stick figures). Despite my issues with drawing anything other than ugly blobs, I started this story by sketching a really awful doodlebug, and labeling its parts and looking up its scientific classification. Footer researches doodlebugs as part of a paper where she’s supposed to explore the origins of her town, Bugtussle. Bugtussle got its name from its surplus of doodlebugs, and Footer thinks that’s pretty freaky, but not as freaky as her mom shooting a snake off the pond in their backyard with her dad’s elephant gun. That’s how Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy begins, and it’s how my third grade summer began, too. My mom really did that. I don’t think the elephant gun left any permanent scars on Mom’s shoulder, but it definitely left its mark on the snake. The snake Mom shot was a copperhead, just like the one Footer’s mom removes from the land of the living. The snake ended up on the book’s wonderful cover. I really love the cover, and all the little bits of Footer’s story tucked into it.
So, how did you get “the call” about this book?
This book sold at auction, so I got several calls from Erin Murphy across the day. When she told me Footer had a home with Sylvie Frank at Simon and Schuster, I was thrilled.
Does your new editor know you’re scared of walruses?
I AM NOT SCARED OF WALRUSES! Besides, Sylvie is completely wonderful and she wouldn’t care.
When you’re not writing or working at the Old Asylum, what do you do with your time?
I spend time with my family, including my adorable new grandson Anthony. I also spend time with my pets–too many dogs, a few cats, some chickens, a peacock, and a parrot.
No walruses, eh? I rest my case. Are the brownies ready yet?
Time to end the interview…
Thanks so much, Susan!! Susan is giving away THREE copies of Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, leave a comment and be entered to win!
You can also purchase Susan’s book here: