New Year, New Character, New Book: The Backstory

©Probity Publishing

First, I must admit: I use Facebook and Instagram a lot more than I use this website. Hopefully, some day, I’ll have time to figure out my “children’s book author” blogging voice and write more here. For now? Follow Probity Publishing on Facebook or Instagram if you’d like more frequent, yet quick, content.

But today? I have some ‘splainin to do, as it were. Every story has a backstory, and today I want to share the backstory of my upcoming children’s book, Slick Mick the Cool Kid.

I have been working off and on for a couple months on a children’s book based on my father’s experience as a kid with a pet alligator (yes, he really had a pet alligator in an Ohio suburb). In mid-November, I sent my first draft off to my daughter, who has a degree in English and editing, for her to look over. I got a text back saying, “Mickey [her husband] says your next book should be about Slick Mick the Cool kid.”

The conversation went on from there and was entirely meant as a joke.

“He says it could be his Christmas present.”

“He says it will make you the next J.K. Rowling.”

“He says you don’t need to know anything specific about his childhood to write it. The important thing is that Slick Mick is born cool, he stays cool throughout the story, and is still the coolest kid around by the end.”

Obviously, I’m not going to be the next J.K. Rowling, but I hadn’t yet bought a Christmas present for my son-in-law, and the idea of writing a children’s story based on a premise with so little plot was intriguing, so, a day or two later, I decided to give it a try.

I won’t tell you how long it took me to write the first draft (it just brain dumped right out), or how long it took me to create the second draft (as long as it took me to read the first one aloud to one of my 13-year-olds, with pauses here and there to add and switch a few things).

Based on the 13-year-old giggles, I figured I’d nailed it at least enough to make a good Christmas gift. Then I read it to my husband and the rest of my still-at-home brood. More laughter ensued, along with a lot of encouragement to actually publish it, especially since I was going to have to hire an illustrator anyway.

If people laugh at something I write? I’m happy. Seriously happy. Years ago, when I wrote an adoption/mommy blog, my favorite comments were the ones that said something to the effect of, “I just spit my diet Coke out my nose and all over my keyboard.”

Is Slick Mick going to make you or your kids spit your beverage out of your nose and all over the pages of the book? I hope not. That would make it harder for your kids to color the black and white illustrations. Will he make you chuckle and chortle? If my test readers are any indication, I think so.

Hector was hard for me to write because he is, out of necessity, currently too mired down in his own somewhat anxious state to be terribly humorous. Slick Mick the Cool Kid, however, just is. Whereas Hector is on on an emotional journey to find, focus on, and be the good in the world in order to overcome his reticence toward life outside his home, Slick Mick is already there. Hector is a companion for kids on their journey, and Slick Mick is something of an end goal to which they can aspire.

I didn’t plan it that way, I just wrote it, and now? Whaddya know.

Some things to note about Slick Mick the Cool Kid:

It is waaaaaay less wordy than the Hector books so is more appropriate for young elementary children, though, based on my teenagers’ responses, I think it can be enjoyed by older elementary kids as well.

The back matter contains some simple pages to help with and encourage goal setting in a way that is relatable to kids.

I used a different illustrator this time. Erin lives close by, I was on a time crunch to get it done by Christmas, and she was able to do it. I think she brilliantly captured both the humor of the story as well as the importance of the overall theme in her illustrations. Yes, I managed to squeeze a theme out of “he’s born cool, he stays cool, and he’s still cool at the end.”

I originally asked Erin for black and white line drawings because I knew the time factor would make it harder to do full color illustrations and have an actual copy printed in time to put under the tree. So, truly, it was about time. But now? I love that the Slick Mick the Cool Kid can be enjoyed as both a picture book and a coloring book. And? True to the Hector within me, I love the quiet, clean simplicity of it all.

If I had any marketing skill or sense whatsoever, I would probably spend more time trying to promote this book, sending out advance copies, and organizing some kind of virtual launch party before I publish it; but I’m just excited that it’s done (well, almost — we’ll see how the newest proof copy looks when it gets here later this week), that I was able to wrap a copy and put it under the tree for my son-in-law, and that he laughed when he read it.

This means I’m excited to get it published in time for Valentine’s Day, because I think it would make a pretty fun gift for the kids you love, especially if those kids love to read as much as most of mine did (and still do).

Then maybe, though probably not, I’ll be able to introduce you all to a slightly fictionalized and highly alliterized* version of my dad and his alligator by Easter.

*According to Merriam-Webster, I have just pulled a Shakespeare and invented a word. According to a lesser known online dictionary and my spellchecker, I have not. Darn.


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