Hi, all, and welcome to the KIM NORMAN interview!
I won’t go into all the background on Kim because it’s more fun to read in the interview format but I will say that CROCODADDY (Sterling 2009) came out in time for Father’s Day and people are lovin’ it! Kim also has other books out or about to be published: JACK OF ALL TALES (Dutton 2007), I KNEW A WEE PIGGY WHO WALLOWED IN BROWN (Dutton 2010), and TEN ON THE SLED (Sterling 2010). So, let’s meet Kim!
Kathy: Hi, Kim! Thanks for taking the time from your writing (and dancing!) and everyday life to do this interview. Can you tell us how CROCODADDY came to life?
Kim: Crocodaddy was a pretend game my boys used to play in the backyard pool. (Which means the REAL Crocodaddy lived in our pool!) I can’t remember who made up the word, but it was such fun that I kept thinking there must be a book in it. I played around with several versions, but it wasn’t until I came up with the refrain, (“Crocodaddy, Crocodaddy! can’t get away!…” etc.) that it really came together.
Kathy: Why we should buy this book.
Kim: Because great books about dads are so few and far between — especially these days when the media bombards us with the idea that “Dad is dumb.” I am getting so sick of commercials where the dad is made to look stupid. A father is a very important part of a child’s life. No matter what fashion, (and stupid commercials) may say, that importance shouldn’t be downplayed.
Kathy: I like that. So, Kim, who or what has been the greatest inspiration for your stories?
Kim: Probably other books, and reading them to my kids. I’ll read a truly great picture book and think, “Wow, I wish I’d written that!” One of my favorite idea generators is leafing thru publisher catalogs. The titles themselves give me ideas that often are vastly different from the books being sold in the catalog.
Kathy: Now’s your chance to give one piece of advice to young readers. What is it?
Kim: Cherish this time of your life, as a reader. I remember once agreeing with a writer who said he went back and reread a book he had LOVED as a youth, and he “wept for his lost innocence.” I’ve had that feeling many times. I just don’t seem to fall into books with the abandon I did as a young person… and I really miss that.
Kathy: What’s an important “nugget” that you’d like readers to take away from your book?
Kim: That dad’s are great, and that there’s nothing better than simple, imaginative play. You can take your imagination with you ANYWHERE.
Kathy: Absolutely! Why do you write for young people?
Kim: I simply adore children’s books. When I enter a bookstore, I’m immediately drawn to the children’s section — and this was true even before I became a children’s author. I remember, years ago, reading a book to my then-two-year-old son. The book made him howl with laughter. I was dabbling at children’s writing then, and I thought, “Wow, I’d love to know a child would enjoy one of MY books like that.” I’m delighted to say that dream has come true, because I’ve read reviews and blogs by parents who say their kids love Crocodaddy so much that they take it to bed with them. That’s a wonderful feeling.
Kathy: It IS a hoot! It’s not easy to make things funny, especially in our crazy-busy lives. When do you write, Kim?
Kim: All times. Sometimes early morning, after a walk either outside or on the treadmill, but sometimes in the afternoon, because I’m likely to have the house to myself during that time. Very occasionally at night, but not very often. I’m a morning person, so I’m a sleepy head by evening.
Kathy: Me, too. Where do you write?
Kim: My favorite place is out in my front yard, in the shade of the pecan trees. I’ve got a nice seating area with with lots of flowers.
Kathy: Wow, that sounds like a book title right there: “In the Shade of the Pecan Trees.” How do your ideas come to you?
Kim: Early morning is good. I was lying in bed one day when I came up with the concept for “I know a wee piggy who wallowed in brown.” The phrase popped into my head. I got up and wrote the whole manuscript rather quickly. The same thing happened with “Ten on the Sled,” only I was at my desk when the idea came to me. Crocodaddy and Jack of all Tails came much more slowly, evolving over the course of many drafts.
Kathy: How long have you been writing?
Kim: It has been about 20 years since I started writing light verse. I experimented with several genres of writing until I settled on children’s writing. It’s been 15 years since I finished my first picture book manuscript. I know because my younger son was an infant then. He’ll be 16 this September. (!!!)
Kathy: Time flies. Speaking of trite phrases (!), do you have a favorite quote or bumper sticker?
Kim: I like the phrase “Carpe diem,” (“Seize the day.”) Especially now, when so many public figures near my age have died young. It makes you realize: you never know how much time you have. Better make the most of it.
Kathy: Good one. Now, for a really good one . . . what’s an embarrassing story about yourself that you don’t mind telling?
Kim: How about the unplanned “prat fall” I took during a show once? I’m active in community theater. Years ago, when I was just starting, I was in the chorus of “Once Upon a Mattress.” In one scene, the king was supposed to chase me around the stage. Our theater was in an old “recycled” cotton gin, without a lot of space; the front row came right down to the stage. As I ran from the king, I tripped over the foot of someone in the front row and went sailing! Stayed in character, though. Rolled over, squealed, and ran off with the king chasing me. I think the only ones who knew it wasn’t planned were my fellow actors and the man with the huge feet! (I’ll bet he kept his feet tucked in after that!)
Kathy: Ha! I’ve seen you dance so I KNOW you carried it off beautifully! Tell us, what are you working on now?
Kim: A novel I keep telling myself I’m going to finish… or else!! Also a sticker book for Sterling that I just turned in. That’ll be out next year. Just a fun little book tentatively titled “All Kinds of Kittens.” And, of course, I’m always digging thru old manuscripts, looking for something to revise. It never seems to end, does it?
Kathy: You’re right, there are always more stories out there. Why should kids read books when there are so many other things to do?
Kim: Because it’s FUN! At least, that’s what I always thought. There were PLENTY of fun things to do on the Guantanamo Bay naval base where my dad and our family were stationed when I was a kid — there was a huge pool within walking distance, horseback riding, you name it. (Not much TV, though. We even had to watch the moonwalk a few weeks late.) But even with those fun, tropical choices, I spent most of my time during those two years reading in my room. I plowed through the Little House, Black Stallion, Freddie the Detective and Oz series. I don’t regret it for an instant. (Especially considering how quickly I fry in the tropical sun. No sunscreen back then!)
Kathy: Kim, thanks for all this great–and fun–info! I love your very upbeat, entertaining books. CROCODADDY is a real treat.
Kim: That was fun, Kathy!!
Kathy: You can find Kim’s books at bookstores or online. Her website is http://www.kimnormanbooks.com/ Go visit and enjoy!
Up next, an interview with another fun picture book author, Moira Rose Donohue!