To continue the launch of Mylisa Larsen’s HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED, I was lucky enough to get to chat with Mylisa’s editor, Jill Davis. We snuggled into our favorite pajamas and e-gabbed about Mylisa, her writing, and God-like cats.
Jason Gallaher: What drew you to Mylisa’s story?
Jill Davis: The voice drew me right in to Mylisa’s story. And that second person POV voice is a large part of the humor. The whole thing was just fantastically funny. Writing in the second person is only common when you’re writing instruction manuals, and that’s what this was—but the funniest one I’d seen. I loved it.
What was the editing process like for this book?
I wish I could remember! Mylisa’s writing is so strong, I imagine the only changes I asked for were the order of things, and small little phrases here and there. But maybe she remembers differently? I know we wondered who was speaking, but we sort of buried the question for as long as we could. Maybe we just thought it was God!! It wasn’t until we’d brought Babette Cole on, and she mentioned that the cat or teddy bear should be the narrator that we realized we actually had to address the question of who is giving the instructions!
On a scale from tired and exhausted parents needing to be put to bed to energetic protagonist ready to take on any challenge, where did Mylisa lie?
She was jumping into bed, face washed, teeth brushed, jammies on! Truly, she was totally mellow and completely cooperative. The manuscript has, what–two hundred words, if that? How much could there even be to squabble about? She was a gem. (Does she remember something different?)
How did you go about picking Babette Cole to illustrate?
I just remember coming home to my apartment where I probably have over 600 picture books, pulling out my copy of Doctor Dog from the “C” section for Cole, and saying to myself: Babette Cole is the one who must do this book. I’d never met or worked with her, but I was a huge fan, and I knew no one could be as funny as she’d be—at least in my eyes! I don’t think I realized it at the time, but I especially love how Babette let’s it all hang out—both for herself and in her paintings of characters, too. Parents are allowed double chins and icky teeth and baggy eyes. She even gave the mom some tacky lingerie! Dare I say she gives it that hilarious lower middle class British BBC sitcom spin? Just makes it funnier to see their dark circles and the mess they’re living in—which makes them seem all the more like children. Meanwhile, the girl is perfectly adorable!
That adorable protagonist is very thorough in putting her parents to bed. Do you have a favorite technique she uses to get her parents ready to fall asleep?
Great question! I see the instructions for putting parents to bed as one long detailed procedure, really—one with lots of build up, setbacks, and a flow. But I think my favorite bit has always been the step about reading books in bed–when the cat warns us about how many books to read. When they say three, they mean three! No surprises! That line always gets a laugh. I also adore the moment when mom and dad get their phones taken away. Genius!!! It gave me the idea to do that to my family, as well!
As a busy editor who I’m sure has ideas and words running through her head at all hours of the day, how do you go about winding down and putting yourself to bed?
Usually I pile everything on my bed, including my little white dog, Kevin; my phone; some books; a magazine or two; and the remote control. Then I watch as much late night TV as I can, while reading manuscripts on my kindle; eating snacks; drinking tea; and of course—checking e-mails and Facebook obsessively until my husband begins snoring. Then I ask him to stop snoring, and shut the TV. Then I lose consciousness. And rarely do I ever do the dishes beforehand!
Big thanks to you, Jill!
Want to see more of Mylisa’s HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED? Go grab a copy today! Or better yet, cozy up in bed and have a pal read it to you!