CAROL GORDON EKSTER: Your debut picture book, JET THE CAT (IS NOT A CAT) Barefoot Books, comes out May 1, 2021. I was lucky enough to be one of your critique buddies on an early draft. It’s a hilarious story that teaches us to celebrate our differences and embrace our unique identities.
Please tell us the story behind this story.
Jet and her love of swimming was inspired by my mom’s cat Eddie, who is obsessed with baths. Since loving water usually goes against everything cats stand for, I tried to imagine what other cats might think if they caught Eddie happily splashing around. I figured another cat (named Tom in the story) would look down on Jet, maybe even tell her she wasn’t a real cat if she liked water.
When I was writing about Jet’s journey, I realized I was also writing about my own. I’d always loved to write but because I have dyslexia, writing was always a struggle. Somewhere along the way I had internalized that “real writers don’t have dyslexia”. I grew out of that idea when I was in my late 20s, but thought it applied perfectly to Jet’s dilemma.
CGE: The art is so adorable, so perfect. How did you feel when you saw the first sketches? Did you have any correspondence with the illustrator, Terry Runyan?
PC: I agree! Terry’s Jet is better than I could have ever imagined. When I first saw the sketches I’m sure I shed a few tears. She was so perfect! Terry and I didn’t speak at all during the process but we’re good friends now!
CGE: Tell us your journey into becoming a children’s author.
PC: I started my creative journey as a stand-up and sketch comedian. I learned eventually that performing was not for me, but I still loved that short-form comedy story structure. Once I started reading picture books to my son Harvey, I realized how similar they were to comedy sketches. You find a quirky character and throw challenges at them! That started me down the road to being obsessed with picture books and trying to write my own.
CGE: Do you only write picture books and if so, what draws you to that genre?
PC: I do only write picture books (for now)! But I believe I always will because pictures books are the perfect story telling medium. An entire story in 32 or 40 pages! What a bargain! And they are for everyone! They connect generations with each other through reading times. They are beautiful. And they smell great! The picture books I read when I was a kid still live in my heart and probably made me who I am today.
CGE: Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule and process?
PC: I am a morning writer and try to get up before my kids are awake. When I have a new idea, I write it down and then try to read as many books as I can that might be similar. Then I analyze those books. From there I like to make lists of different versions of a character and different ways the story could play out. When I’m happy with that, I write a “terrible first draft” and try to empty my brain onto the page, ignoring grammar or good writing. Then I revise with the help of my critique group!
CGE: Have there been any unexpected or surprising aspects of having your first book published?
PC: How much better manuscripts get when you work with an editor. Editors are story geniuses and I’m so grateful when I get to work with one!
CGE: How are you dealing with the marketing side of becoming an author?
PC: It’s been such a joy because of my awesome promo group 21 for the Books! Sometimes I worry I’m not doing enough, but Barefoot Books has been amazing and I think Jet will have a very warm welcome to the world on publication day!
CGE: What advice would you give new writers that helped you break into children’s publishing?
PC: Read 40-50 picture books a month! Also, remember that publishing is a business and not personal. As long as you keep improving your craft and learning more about the industry, you’ll make it!
CGE: What does the future hold for Phaea Crede?
PC: The pandemic has been a killer for both writing time and creativity. That being said, I do have a brand-new project to announce soon. I’m also hoping to write some really weird stories soon about sea monsters. Crossing my fingers and tentacles that I can pull it off.
CGE: Thanks, Phaea! Can’t wait to see your next book.
You can connect with Phaea here: