Today Jess Keating, the author of How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied (Here'e my review!), it's sequel How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel (January, 2015), and Pink is for Blobfish (2016) is here for an interview! For my first ever author interview, I'm very excited to welcome her to the blog today! :)
The writing in bold are the questions I asked, the normal font are her responses, and the italic bold writing is my comments about a few of the answers! :)
1. First off, I love your book! (Though, I think you know that already!) And I think one of the things I love best about it is how easy it is to relate to Ana. (Except for the fact that she lives in a zoo!) How did you go about creating the character of her? And did the premise of the book or the character come to you first?
Thank you so much, Jessica! You know, it's very weird looking back at how Ana came to be. The first thing I ever wrote about this book was the title, along with the image of a little girl dangling from a tree while a crocodile snapped under her feet. But I knew she wasn't actually scared of it, instead she was annoyed because it to her happened all the time!
After this initial snapshot of her popped into my mind, the rest of it came down to figuring out the nitty gritty details. I think when you're creating a character you want people to really relate to, finding out their faults and insecurities can be the quickest way to get somewhere meaningful. What are they afraid of? And what happened in their lives to make them so afraid? Everyone has insecurities, and I knew I wanted a character that kids would look to not only for laughs, but also some strength. In Ana's case, she happens to be a lot like me: she loves teaching people about animals. But, what if she was truly terrified of talking in public? And what if her family were absolutely insane and they lived in a zoo?! That is how the ball got rolling!
2. It says on your website that you have a degree in Zoology, how did that impact writing this book?
Great question! I can see now that I wouldn't have been able to write this series without my zoology background. (It's funny, because people often give me weird looks when I say I do use what I learned in school, even though I'm in the kid's book business!)
I think one of the things that people notice right away about Ana is that she's truly passionate about her life amongst the animals. She views things from a very peculiar perspective, and animals help her figure herself out. By the time I started writing How to Outrun a Croc, I had been in school for what seemed like ages, learning as much as I could about all sorts of animals. Getting to explore a character so deeply entrenched in the world of wildlife was my absolute favorite part of writing this book!
3. I love the animal facts in your book! (And the facts you mention on Twitter!) Just for fun, what's one of the weirdest and/or neatest facts you have learned about an animal?
I'm so glad to hear this! I couldn't stick with just one fact, so I've got the cutest and the grossest for you. The cutest animal fact I know is that penguins 'propose' to each other with pebbles! The male penguin will present the female with a pebble when he wants to be her man (...or rather, her penguin.) If she likes him, she will put the pebble in her nest and the two of them live happily ever after. How adorable is that?!
As for one of the grossest, I have to go with the sea cucumber. They look boring, but when they need to escape from predators, they will actually expel their innards out of their butts! Seriously. And because they're sea cucumbers, when they're done exploding their intestines out of their rears, they just regenerate the missing body parts! It's pretty disgusting, but also awesome.
The penguin fact is adorable, I love it! And I am both interested and grossed out by the sea cucumber fact!
4. The next book in the series, How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel (Love the titles, by the way!) releases in January, is there anything you are able to tell us about it?
Thank you! Hmm... I can say that I had an amazing time writing the second book. When I finished Book #1, I knew I had opened a can of worms. (I won't say any more, to avoid spoilers!) In the second book, we get to learn more about Ana and her friends, as well as a particular someone that might not be exactly who we think she is! *zips mouth shut*
I can also say that How to Outswim a Shark is jam-packed with even more animals, wetsuits (which are always embarrassing), super cute older boys, and a very special pact that causes a lot of problems for poor Ana.
It sounds very good! Looking forward to reading it even more now!
5. If you're able to tell us anything about it, what are you working on now?
There are a few projects currently staring at me from their respective word docs! We just sold the third book in this series (yay!) so I've been lucky to spend even more time with Ana and the gang. I've also just finished up copyedits on my first nonfiction picture book with Knopf, called Pink is for Blobfish!
I'm also working on a project that I'm not allowed to talk about yet, but it might involve a goofy animal or two… (This likely won't surprise you!) *wink*
6. Middle Grade books (And MG authors!) are awesome! Who are a few of your favorite MG authors/books?
There are so many, and my list of favorites gets bigger every day! Some authors I've been loving lately are Lauren Magaziner, Anna Staniszewski, Cece Bell, Lisa Schroeder, Jo Knowles, Wendy Mass, Anne Ursu, Linda Urban, Tom Angleberger, and Nancy Cavanaugh! (Sorry, that was definitely more than a few. But they're all so great!)
I have read and loved many books by a lot of the authors you mentioned! And the ones I haven't read books by, I need to!
7. And for the last question I feel like this MUST be asked. What's your favorite animal? :)
People often think the answer to this is crocodile! But my favorite animal is one that hasn't appeared yet in a book: the wolf!Ooh, the wolf is one of my favorites, too!
Thank you so much for having me, Jessica! Have a wonderful day!You're very welcome! And thank you so much for answering all these questions! I LOVE your answers! :)
If you haven't read Jess Keating's book, I highly encourage you to try it! (And then you can join me in waiting on the next book!) It's very fun! And if you want to find out more about her, here are a bunch of links of places to find her online! :)
Find Her On:
Thank you again to Jess Keating for allowing me to interview her! :)