by author Catherine Bailey & illustrator Sarita Rich


Thank you for hosting us today, Miss Tara. We are excited to be here, and we are excited to celebrate the release of HYPNOSIS HARRY, and we are excited to talk about each other and, well, we are just really excited. So without further ado, here is us interviewing us.

1. Okay, Sarita, Harry’s expressions are some of my favorite moments in the book. Was he, or any of the characters or images, based on your family or home life?

As much fun as Harry was to draw, I really liked having a sister. In an earlier draft, she was older, but I decided maybe a baby/toddler would be funnier, especially on the last page. And I had a (sometimes) cooperative model at home, so that was helpful. I also liked having a cat in the story. I’ve had my share of overweight cats that could squish themselves into tiny cardboard boxes and fall asleep.

HH character sketches

2. I love that background info – especially the bits about the sister and the cat. (I have both.) So what was the most challenging aspect of illustrating Harry, and how did you overcome it?

Timing. I received the manuscript late September 2014 and had to submit a sample spread before October 10. I was pregnant with an October 23 due date and thought I had plenty of time to finish the spread. At my 38-week appointment, my doctor said I could go into labor any day, possibly that very night. “But I can’t! I haven’t finished the spread!” I thought. I sent the file on October 9, and Stella was born October 12. Sky Pony offered the contract shortly afterward, and I had to figure out how to be a mom and an illustrator at the same time. I was a little sleep deprived until June, but when an opportunity to work with editors from like Sky Pony, and an author like Catherine comes along, you say YES and sleep later.

HH sample spread

3. I had NO CLUE you were birthing babies during all this. You win the amazing illustrator ward of the year for sure! And you have been equally amazing with the promotional / post-publication support. What unique skills/opportunities do you think an illustrator can provide to/for the marketing of a picture book?

Illustrators have a chance to bring a book to life in many different ways. When you invited me to collaborate on launch party ideas, I learned an illustrator can extend the life of the book way beyond the reading. For HYPNOSIS HARRY, I helped create fun extras like coloring pages, drawing activities, and a craft demonstration. Since we both love giveaways, I suggested that since we couldn’t attend the other’s launch party, that we each donate an item to give away at our respective parties. And one thing I love most about illustrators is seeing a preview of process—a drawing demo, for example–because usually all we get to see is the finished product. When I find a book I admire, one of the first things I wonder is, “How did the illustrator do this?!” Seeing what goes into the creation of a book makes you appreciate the work so much more.

4. I do love giveaways. And your genius craft ideas. And Nutella. But I digress. What part of marketing HYPNOSIS HARRY are you most looking forward to doing?

I have some school visits lined up on April 8th, which happens to be during reading week at this particular school. I’m looking forward to reading to kids and drawing with them and giving them free stuff (bookmarks!).

5. Okay one last deep and insightful question. What was one NO from your parents that you wish had been a YES?

I’m from a treeless part of northern Alaska, and therefore my sister and I could never have a tree house. We had to settle for a ground level clubhouse. One summer we devised the perfect set up of old pallets and scrap plywood, complete with a clandestine hole in the ground in which I deposited empty candy wrappers. At one point, I tried to build a fire inside the clubhouse to destroy evidence of said candy consumption. I made sure to put the fire out completely, etc. but Dad found out and said NO to unsupervised backyard fires. He was especially furious because I had overlooked the fact that our clubhouse was built right next to the 50-gallon oil tank that contained our winter fuel…

That’s hilarious. And also dangerous. I am very glad you did not blow yourself up Sarita. And I am very, VERY glad you are my illustrator. Thank you! Okay, my turn in the hot seat.

1. In hindsight, I’m also grateful for parents who tempered the pyromaniac within so that I could live to meet Harry. What made you want to tell his story?

I read some little online blurb somewhere about a hypnosis demonstration gone wrong – the performer couldn’t snap his audience out of their trance. So I added hypnosis to my list of picture book ideas and forgot about it. A few weeks later I was trying to explain to my three-year-old why she couldn’t wear my wedding dress to school and it hit me – what if she were in charge? What if she hypnotized me and her dad? What would she do?! It would be terrifying, but also funny. Also, when I was a kid, I had a book called something like How To Get Your Parents To Give You Everything You Ever Wanted. That book was definitely a big inspiration too.

2. I love this insight into the inspiration behind the book. Speaking of others being in charge, how do you strike the balance between including too many illo notes and trusting the illustrator?

How do I strike the balance? Um, I don’t. I’m awful. LOL! My early drafts include dozens of art notes. I guess it is just part of my writing process to visualize every image and page turn. Fortunately I have great critique partners, and a wonderagent, who save me from myself. They help me to cut most of the art notes, which is a good thing. It is critical to trust the illustrator, art director, and publisher. They know so much more and do a much better job at that side of things. Let’s just say that if you and I both drew a stick figure, your stick figure would be way prettier.

HH sketch 1

3. I can see my stick figure getting carried away with clothes and eyelashes but the important point is that YOU are a marketing genius whose marketing plans should be SCBWI conference presentations. So what are the 3 most important things you keep in mind when developing a marketing plan for your picture books?

Audience, Budget, and Feasibility.

Defining your Audience makes you focus your efforts, which makes everything you do – calls, emails, school visits, signings, tweets, etc. – more effective. For example, I know my audience likes books, so bookmarks are a good giveaway (thank you Sarita for those!). Hairy poisonous spiders on the other hand, are not.

I hate to say Budget – but books are a business, like it or not, and I can’t spend a lot of money on items that don’t have a healthy return (even if I really, really want to!).

Feasibility means “Will Catherine actually do this thing or will she wimp out because she’s tired / doesn’t understand it / ran out of time?” For example, I would love to drive to every library within 200 miles and show them HYPNOSIS HARRY and convince them to add it to their collection. But unless I win some sort of babysitting and gas lottery, I can’t. So I’ll tone it down and just drive to every one within 30 miles 🙂 And I will do a lot of outreach online.

4. Those tips are sure to help us maintain sanity. Moving on: what major differences do you see in your marketing strategies for this book vs. MIND YOUR MONSTERS?

The biggest difference is that I can market HYPNOSIS HARRY towards schools because it came out during the school year. Also I now have dozens of school visits under my belt from my first book, MIND YOUR MONSTERS, so I can go back to those contacts. Overall marketing the second book is easier because I have at least some clue as to what I’m doing. But there’s always more to learn!

5. And finally, because I have to know, what was one NO from your parents that you wish had been a YES?

My grandparents had a farm, and on that farm was Molly. Molly was a horse and she belonged to my older sister Sarah Helen. Eventually I wanted a horse too (they really should have seen that coming), but my parents responded with a firm No. Instead my sister was instructed to share Molly with me. You can just imagine how that went. I spent a lot of time trying to ride the barn cats.

HH sketch 2

Thank you for reading. And there’s more! A giveaway (wheee)! Just leave a note in the comments below and you will be entered to win a Skype consult with author Catherine Bailey and illustrator Sarita Rich. Consider it a tag team critique where we will take a look at your picture book manuscript, and then chat about it with you in person. Well, in “digital-person.” You know what we mean.