Blog: Of Tea and Mermaids
|Posted by Jena Benton on September 11, 2016 at 10:25 PM|
Today I’m happy to introduce my readers to author Josh Funk. His books are hysterically funny AND rhyme. How funny? Well, his self-written bio says it all.
“Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books - such as the Award-Winning LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST, PIRASAURS!, DEAR DRAGON, the forthcoming Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Sequel: THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH, and more. Josh is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences. Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts. Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.”
You can learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on twitter @joshfunkbooks.
Today, I get to talk with him about one of his latest books (he had TWO picture books released within a week of each other): “Pirasaurs!” That’s right, dear readers! DINOSAUR PIRATES!!!!
Me: From racing breakfast fare to pirate dinosaurs, I have to ask the dreaded question: where did you get your inspiration for “Pirasaurs!”?
Josh: I’ve always liked to think about what I want to see illustrated. Something I’ve never seen before or that would entertain me (and hopefully kids). And that sort of seeps into everything I write. I wanted to see a pancake and French toast race through the fridge causing catastrophic culinary chaos. I wanted see a boy and a dragon as pen pals. And I wanted to see a Pirate-Dinosaur adventure.
For this one, though, the story is sort of boring. In the wee hours of the morning on February 27th, 2013 I woke up (at 2:53 to be exact). I had the word ‘pirasaurs’ stuck in my head. So I texted it to myself (hence the time stamp) and went back to sleep. Two days later, I had a full draft.
Me: The Scholastic video trailer on your website is fantastic. They took your words and jumbled them up, but you’ve got a very catchy song! When you wrote this story in rhyme, did you imagine it in song? Or was it more a matter of the rhyme lending itself to a sea shanty naturally?
Josh: I’m so glad you like the trailer. I actually made it all myself. I recorded the song using the GarageBand app (entirely on my phone) - that’s me on guitar, tambourine, and all the vocals - with a little synth strings and keyboard. Then I used iMovie to create a slideshow-style video to go along with it.
I didn’t write the story as a song, but as PIRASAURS! is written in verse, I came up with a melody pretty early on (probably in the summer of 2013) that stuck with me. It was just about seeing how much I could fit in the 45 second trailer.
There’s so much you can do with computers on your own. I even created a ‘Which Pirasaur Are YOU?!’ Personality Quiz. https://www.boombox.com/c/quiz/256474/which-pirasaur-are-you
In case it wasn’t clear, I kind of like the promotion stuff.
Me: The illustrations by Michael Slack are quite fun in “Pirasaurs!” (and quite fitting). Did you collaborate with him at all? Did you include any illustrations notes? No spoilers, but did you envision a “bad guy” in your storyline leading a mutiny, as Michael did? How about a peg-leg tail?
Josh: The answer is no to everything! There were no illustration notes. I didn’t speak to Michael until it was done. And the peg-tail is all his brilliance. Most importantly, Michael added the entire plot about the mutiny - which frankly, I can’t imagine the book without it. I’m a little embarrassed even, because without the ‘bad guy’ and his plot, the book doesn’t make much sense.
I even had to cut a character for pagination purposes (Dreaded Steg originally had her own stanza). But Michael, who never saw a thing about that character, still added a stegosaurus to the crew. I asked Michael about this and he claims it was because of the line ‘With spiky tails we raise the sails’ and none of the others had spiky tails, but I still think it’s sort of amazing that he added back the exact character I had to cut without knowing.
PIRASAURS! is truly an example of both the words and pictures being needed to complete a book - but amazingly, we didn’t collaborate directly on any of it.
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing “Pirasaurs!”?
Josh: I was surprised at how fast I could write a whole story given a personally imposed deadline.
I’ll explain. The PIRASAURS! you see in front of you is not actually the first version that I wrote. My editor at Scholastic took a version that was more of a concept book to acquisitions over the summer of 2013 and they ultimately passed on it. But my editor asked for a revision - or more like a rewrite. A story about pirasaurs, but with a plot.
Being unagented and unpublished at the time, I didn’t want to lose the attention of an editor at a big house, so I wrote a nearly entirely new draft in under 2 weeks (I kept about a stanza and a half. And now, that’s often how I write (which leads perfectly to your next question).
Me: What does your writing process look like?
Josh: I don’t really have a consistent process. I’m more of a ‘when the muse strikes’ type of writer. I usually get my best idea either in the shower … or in that period where I’m half asleep but not quite there yet (or when I’m woken up at 2:53am).
When I get an idea I’m excited about, I’ll probably write a first draft in a few days. And then spend the next few weeks/months(/years) revising.
Me: I read your guest blog in ReFoReMo not too long ago and was surprised to find a book I’d never read before (“Under a Pig Tree” by Margie Palatini). I had to track it down and read it. I was laughing out loud so hard, my husband insisted (I swear he did) on hearing parts of it read aloud. I won’t ask “what’s your favorite funny book of all time” (because it’s too hard to choose just one favorite!). But you ARE a funny book writer, so I must ask what other favorite funny books have you read and enjoyed?
Josh: UNDER A PIG TREE cracks me up. I borrowed it from the library and loved it so much that I went out and bought it the next day!
Right now I’m really into the TIMMY FAILURE Series by Stephan Pastis (reading with my kids). I love that style of absurd humor. And the MR. PANTS Series by Scott McCormick and R. H. Lazell. I can hear my kids laughing two floors away when they’re reading MR. PANTS (and should be sleeping!).
As far as picture books, CHICKEN CHEEKS by Michael Ian Black is a family favorite. Jess Keating’s PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH is not only hilarious, but it’s also Non-Fiction. Anna Staniszewski’s POWER DOWN LITTLE ROBOT is great. MOTHER BRUCE by Ryan T. Higgins is seriously funny. Pretty much anything by Samantha Berger, Kelly DiPucchio, Bob Shea - they’re all pretty hilarious!
Me: You have another story coming out this month with another cold-blooded creature (“Dear Dragon”). Dinosaurs. Dragons. Is there a love of reptiles? Or is there another favorite animal we might see make an appearance in future stories?
Josh: Yeah, that’s just a coincidence that PIRASAURS! and DEAR DRAGON were released a week apart. I’ve never really thought of myself as a huge reptile fan. DEAR DRAGON is a very different style than PIRASAURS! It’s about a boy and a dragon who are pen pals, but don’t know they’re writing to a different species. The illustrations show all the assumptions they’re making and misunderstandings they have throughout the year of writing letters until they eventually meet in person/dragon at the pen pal picnic.
I don’t know about any other animals or creatures you’ll see … but I guarantee they’ll be an appearance by Inspector Croissant in LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST: THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH - he’s Sir French Toast’s nephew. Together they all seek to find the source of a mysterious odor before the fridge is destroyed by … no, I’m not gonna say. No spoilers here (other than spoiled food, that is).
Thanks so much for inviting me to be interviewed! Happy Reading!
I can’t wait to read some of those recommendations! Though I have read a few of them and love them already as well. I admit that I ran around like a lunatic sharing Ryan T. Higgins’ “Mother Bruce” with coworkers, friends and family.
And guys, if you haven’t already checked out any of Josh’s books, you’ve got to! They are great reads full of laughter. Check out the video trailer he created (nice work Josh!) on the front page of his website. The song will stick in your head! And definitely give the book a read too! Hilarious stuff! Thanks for stopping by my blog Josh.