CHARLIE AND THE CREATURE BY KIRSTIN LENANE
1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about
Charlie is a mouse who lives in a small town and works at the local diner. One day, a creature comes in for a cup of coffee. Needless to say, the regular customers aren’t quite sure what to make of him. But Charlie, being the service professional that he is, tries to make the creature feel at home. The creature explains that he is on his way to see the world and can’t stay long. This comment sets Charlie’s imagination spinning and inspires him to seek out an adventure of his own.
2) What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the day-to-day life in a small-town diner and the pleasure that comes from being part of such a community. To the diner patrons, Charlie is more than just a waiter. He is someone they count on seeing and speaking to every day.
When the creature enters the diner, he throws off the town’s homeostasis: “They weren’t used to outsiders in town. No one ever did much coming or going.” Rather than shutting the creature out, I decided to have Charlie (and the other diner regulars) make the more interesting choice to invite the creature into their lives, to experience the initial discomfort of the unknown, and then to reap the benefits of being open to new people and new ideas.
3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
The title comes from the encounter between the two main characters, Charlie and the creature. This encounter sets the story in motion.
4) Why did you pick this genre?
I used to write short stories for adult readers, but found that I had a lot more fun when I started adding pictures. Combining drawings with writing seems to place me in a more natural place as a writer. The drawings help the writing flow and vice versa.
At this time, I’m a little less clear about how to market an illustrated picture book for “all ages,” so I’ve been trying to write more for children, where there is a clear market. I have a two-year-old son and I work as a counselor at two elementary schools, so this helps me get out of my adult head and into the world of children, but this is not always easy. I think I am still learning who my audience is and how to write for them.
5) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
When I am creating a story, I begin by drawing pictures. Because I am not a professionally trained illustrator by any means, the drawings often come out looking a little funny. For example, a hat on a mouse’s head might end up looking more like a pancake. Why is there a pancake on his head? And so it begins….
If I had my way, I would draw with pencils and markers, and create books using paper, cardboard and glue. However, in today’s “modern age,” I’ve also enjoyed the capacity to reach readers by creating books that can be digital.
6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
As a child, I enjoyed books that didn’t treat me like a child, but as a person. Some of my favorites included, the Frog and Toad books, The Velveteen Rabbit, the Frances books, George and Martha, books by William Steig and Tomi Ungerer.
7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
By putting my human questions into the world of a mouse who lives in a made-up place in the world of a book, I am able to grapple with some serious, difficult things, in a manner that feels less heavy, but is liberating at the same time.
Being an author helps me to take life less seriously, and more seriously at the same time. It’s a way of creating meaning.
8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
Fear can make us very resistant to trying new things or considering new ideas, especially if we seemed to be doing just fine before these new ideas walked into our lives. One of the messages of this book is that it is much more fulfilling to keep learning and to keep growing than it is to try to keep everything the same.
9) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
My favourite book is To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. There is beauty and joy in her characters, but there is also this sense that everyone is alone, as she moves through a scene and through each character’s private thoughts. She captures people’s moments of connection to each other, as well as their inability to truly connect and relate.
10) What are you working on now?
I am writing a children’s book about a character who is obsessed with time and keeping lists. Fortunately, there are three pesky rabbits who live outside and teach him a thing or two about stopping to enjoy the moment.