I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Luke about his debut picture book – Bedtime Blastoff, life with two young boys, and how being a dad has changed what and how he writes. But first, a bit about Bedtime Blastoff.
For little kids who love construction vehicles, race cars, and fire trucks, this is the perfect bedtime story to get them strapped in and ready to blast off to bedtime!
Author Luke Reynolds captures this bedtime adventure with perfectly simple but poignant text, while debut illustrator and animator Mike Yamada brings it to life with his awesome ability to transform a bed into a rocket, a plane, and even a pirate ship!
Now to my chat.
You have 2 boys, right?
Our oldest, Tyler, is seven and our youngest, Benjamin, is two, and they both love anything that invokes imagination!
Has being a dad changed how and what you write?
Before I became a dad, I thought the literary rainbow’s journey always ended in the genre of adult literary fiction—that was where the great stuff was at! But when we had Tyler, and I began reading thousands and thousands of picture books to him, I remember thinking, Man, these are amazing. The more I researched, I heard these incredible stories about long hours and months and years authors and illustrators put into these books—the love, dedication, and energy that imbued them. And when I watched my first son positively fall in love with the way a page turns, the reader-listener dance that happens with each new sequence, and the caesuras in action and pacing that allow for these beautiful moments of insights and joy, I was fully hooked. At the time, I had also switched from teaching in a high school to a middle school, and so my desire to write for middle-graders and younger kids skyrocketed because that’s what I saw in front of me all day—and that was the audience I wanted to inspire and connect with in everything I tried to write. I also find that I now write—like many parents—in bursts of creative energy either late at night or early in the morning or during a nap time on a weekend or…whenever there is time rather than anything close to resembling discipline! J
What was the inspiration for this book?
My wife, Jennifer, created this game with Tyler when he was little where he’d climb into a laundry basket and she’d zoom him all around the apartment. I loved it, and we would take turns pushing him around so each of us could rest. One night, I was putting Tyler to bed, and he saw the laundry basket in the corner of the room. I swear he got this spark in his eye, grinned, and then raced over to the basket and climbed in. To be honest, I didn’t really want to put him to bed yet, and I was still going on way too much coffee from the day, so I kind of asked him “Bedtime?” to which he jovially sputtered, “Not yet!”
And that night we started pretending the laundry basket was a helicopter, a digger, a race car, a jet—and we both just basically played until we collapsed. Much later that night, during a nighttime writing session, I stopped the novel I was working on because this poem just kept yelling at me that it had to get out. And that was the first draft of Bedtime Blastoff!
On teaching, what do you love most?
I love the way kids have these beautifully open minds. The world is so fresh to them—they see everything as though it has just been uncovered deep down in the dirt, like a treasure. And seeing them look at life that way energizes me. It makes me feel this deep sense of possibility in life, and I don’t want to squander it for myself or for them. Teaching reminds me that everything is worth it—every tiny smile, every little word we write, every glance, every hello, every high-five and every question. Nothing is wasted. Ever. It all matters.
PB or book your boys love most right now?
One of Tyler’s all-time favorites is The Sunflower Sword by Mark Sperring and Miriam Latimer, and he and Jen created this amazing real-life rendition of the book: http://asparagusforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2012_02_01_archive.html
Recently, though, Tyler is loving every single Magic Tree House book and anything that has the words STAR and WARS anywhere on it. Ben absolutely adores On the Night You Were Born because it’s an audio version of my parents reading it aloud and he is mesmerized. They also both loved Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (which I read to my 7th graders and they also adored).
So garlic bread and cereal – 2 main food groups, what would be your 3rd?
I’d have to go with mangoes, preferable with a large side of garlic bread and cereal for dessert!
Oddest job you’ve ever had?
32-year old morning Paperboy!
Character in a book you identify most with?
Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov because he struggles with doubt but tries so desperately to hold onto hope and love and has to talk himself through so much fear and into love! Also, I kept seeing myself in Gary D. Schmidt’s character of Doug in Okay for Now. I wept through that whole book. (And when I wasn’t weeping, I was laughing hysterically—incredible reading experience!)
What’s next? Another PB? Any hints you are willing to share?
In July Surviving Middle School comes out—a book close to my heart because it is for my 7th graders and it is what I desperately want them to always remember.
So, that’s a wrap. Thanks, Luke, for talking with me about being a writer, a teacher and a father!
You can get Luke’s BEDTIME BLASTOFF anywhere books are sold.
Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, is coming out October, 2016 (FSG). It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.