Jena Benton - Writer and Illustrator

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Blog: Of Tea and Mermaids

Simply 7 interview with Pat Zietlow Miller

Posted by Jena Benton on July 22, 2016 at 1:30 PM

I'm excited to say that the Simply 7 interviews are taking off like hot cakes you guys.  I've been able to ask some very talented authors questions about their books and their writing craft.  There are quite a few lined up in the next few months that you will really enjoy (and I've found them incredibly insightful).


Today's Simply 7 interview is with the wonderful Pat Zietlow Miller.  Her latest book "Sophie's Squash Go to School" is a delightful sequel to the first award winning book (i.e., "Sophie's Squash").  It's a "first day of school" story that hits the mark about the emotional struggle for kids making new friends.  She has several picture books out now, another one due out this year, and many more to come I'm sure!  You can learn more about her here:  http://www.patzietlowmiller.com/


Me: What draws you to writing picture books?


Pat: I’ve said this before, but picture books have an almost magnetic pull for me. They draw me to them like nothing else and compel me to spend time with them, admire them and try to replicate them. Done right, they are perfection in 32 pages.


I like all kinds of books, but picture books will always hold the biggest part of my heart.


Me: This book is a sequel (to “Sophie’s Squash”). How did that come about? Were you asked to write a sequel because the character was so well rounded (or after the book won awards)? Or did you always have a sequel in mind?


Pat: Initially, I did not have a sequel in mind. I thought Sophie would be a stand-alone book. But then, when it did better than anyone expected, my editor and I started talking about other adventures Sophie could have.


Me: This book is just as fun as the first one. How did you feel about writing a sequel? Was it something you wanted to do? Did you enjoy being able to revisit the same character again?


Pat: At my editor’s request, I came up with a few options. We picked the one we liked best, and I started work. It was fun to get into Sophie’s world again. I very much wanted to keep the humor and heart of the first book.


Me: Do you foresee any other sequels to the Sophie stories?


Pat: Right now, I have no other plans for Sophie. But readers know she is strong-willed and persistent. So if she has ideas about what she should be doing, I’m sure she’ll let me know.


Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?


Pat: How much pressure I felt to get it right. The first book did so well so unexpectedly that I didn’t want to let Sophie or Bernice down with a subpar story. I wanted to come up with something that was a worthy follow up. It took some time and a lot of back and forth with my editor.


Me: Any advice for other picture book writers?


Pat: Write stuff that is important to you. Study other books for their structure and style, but stay true to your inspiration. One of the things that made Sophie popular was its very quirkiness. A girl falls in love with a squash and everybody is like, “Sure, that’s completely normal.”


It seems odd, but I’ve heard from so many families wanting to tell me about their kids who formed attachments to squash, watermelon, eggplant, apples, bananas and heads of garlic. There was some universal truth there after all.


Me: Do you like squash? Do you grow it? Eat it? Have a favorite type of squash? Or have you not been able to eat it since writing these stories with Sophie?


Pat: I do like eating squash. Especially butternut squash. I like it roasted. I like it in soup. And I like it in fun things like ravioli. I still do eat it, but now I feel slightly cannibalistic whenever I do. I do not grow it, but I buy it whenever I can.


Thank you Pat for your insight and for joining us today! I'm very excited about your this picture book. Check out her book!  It really is worth a read and a study of how to take a character into a sequel that rings true to the first story.

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2 Comments

Reply Rita
4:04 PM on July 22, 2016 
Congratulations, Jena, on your inaugural interview with Pat! Loved the questions, especially regarding how the Sophie sequel developed.
Reply Jena Benton
8:11 PM on July 23, 2016 
Thank you Rita. It was my first time interviewing Pat, but not my first Simply 7 interview. ;)