We’re not afraid to say how absolutely delighted we are to feature Brooke Boynton-Hughes today! BRAVE MOLLY is her debut book as both author and illustrator, and that is pretty…brave, don’t you think? ;)
So, the $64,000 question, Brooke: where did the idea for BRAVE MOLLY come from?
Brooke: The seed of the idea for BRAVE MOLLY came to me while I was attending the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles. SCBWI conferences are full of inspiration, learning, and friendship, but they can also be overwhelming and tend to exacerbate my social anxiety.
While taking notes in my sketchbook (which for me consists mostly of doodling) during the 2013 conference, I drew a girl walking along, looking a bit discouraged, which was really just a visual marker of how I felt at the time. I imagined that the girl was being followed by a monster who was the embodiment of her feelings about herself and I wondered what happened next.
After five years, LOTS of different drafts, several rejections, and many revisions, BRAVE MOLLY grew from a doodle born of frustration into a 48-page picture book about bravery.
Notable19: Love how the book was born of sketches you did at the conference! When not at a posh hotel in L.A., where do you like to write and draw?
Brooke: Where I work depends on where I am in the process of creating a story. If I’m working on final illustrations or polishing a final draft I work in my studio (which is a smallish, coldish room in the basement of my house). If I’m at the very beginning stages of working out a story idea, which usually involves lots of scribbling of notes and quick, loose sketches, I like to work at a coffee shop. I guess getting out of my house gives my brain more room to feel out a story. Although, as a mom to two toddlers I mostly just have to work in little snippets wherever and whenever I can.
Notable19: It is so hard to work around little ones. On the other hand, they can give you ideas for stories, as can your own childhood memories. What is a moment from your childhood that is crystal clear?
Brooke: When I was a kid, my mom was a swim teacher. She got me to put my face in the water by telling me that if I looked at the bottom of the pool, I might be able to spot the friendly sea creatures that lived there, in particular, a purple octopus named Ollie.
One winter when I was around three, my family was driving home from somewhere or other when my parents decided to stop at the park where people were ice skating on the frozen pond. We didn’t have skates, but we had on our snow boots, and we slid around on the ice and watched people skating.
My older brother, Christopher (who would have been 7 or 8), and I wandered to one end of the pond where we discovered that a large section of ice had broken away, exposing the murky water beneath. Chris and I stood at the edge of the opening and looked into the dark water.
With a bit of a dare in his voice, Chris said, “I bet I can dive in there.” Without hesitation I replied, “No, I can!” and I flung myself into the icy water. I was mid-air when I realized my error (mostly because my brother called out a panicked "NOOO!" which seemed to come at me in slow motion). I splashed into the water and for a moment I mostly just felt a bit embarrassed (I was a good swimmer and wasn’t afraid of the water). However, I quickly realized that if sea creatures lived on the bottom of the pool, they must also live on the bottom of the pond. And while the creatures that lived in the clear, blue water of the pool were friendly, the creatures that lived in the murky, frigid water of the pond may not be. I felt certain that octopus tentacles were winding their way up through the water towards my ankles and I started to panic and cry.
My dad ran/slid over and pulled me out. My parents took off my wet clothes, wrapped me in a blanket and took me home. A few years ago I created a portfolio piece inspired by that memory. (Also, for years my anxiety dreams have involved floating in dark water while surrounded by malicious creatures hiding in the murk).
Notable19: Yikes! That is both horrific and hilarious at the same time. It was really brave of you to just dive right in. Is that how Molly is, too? How is the main character of your book like you?
Brooke: Molly is an introvert and so am I. Molly’s experience of being followed by unrelenting, multiplying monsters is directly based on my frustration with my own shyness, social anxiety, and self-doubt. Hopefully, the moments of the story in which Molly is brave will serve as a buoy for readers who can relate to Molly’s struggle.
Notable19: Oh, most people can probably relate to Molly’s struggle. Some people find the strength deep inside, but others might have to go farther to find their courage. Speaking of going far, if you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
There are so many places I'd like to travel to! I'd love to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I'd like to go to Norway and see where my ancestors are from. It would be amazing to go to the Lake District in England and see where Beatrix Potter lived and worked. I've wanted to visit Mongolia for many years. In 2015 my husband and I spent most of the year traveling around the U.S. in an RV. We hope to do the same thing in Australia someday. There are too many amazing places to choose just one!
Notable19: That is for sure. Traveling is so great for many reasons…though you might want to avoid the ocean voyages that sail over the murky depths with tentacle critters lurking beneath…LOL! It was such fun getting to know more about you, Brooke!
Be sure to follow Brooke on Instagram and Twitter and check out our Books page to see where you can preorder BRAVE MOLLY!
Spring time is the perfect time for us to feature the next #Notable19s member, Lisa Anchin! Full of fresh and feisty flora, THE LITTLE GREEN GIRL, Lisa's debut author-illustrator book, is the story of a topiary child and Mr. Aster, her gardener. The title girl is a curious little plant with big dreams and hopes to see the world beyond the garden walls. Mr. Aster, however, doesn’t like having his routine disrupted, and the Little Green Girl changes his life forever. It’s ultimately a story about growing up, branching out, and exploring with someone you love.
Notable19: Lisa, the garden in your book is simply beautiful; most people--probably you as well--would want to hang out there all the time. But since it's fictional and we can't go there, where is your favorite place to write (or draw)?
Lisa: I don’t have just one. I love working in my studio, but there are days when a change of scenery is necessary. I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I enjoy finding a good cafe to work in, but I’m also particularly fond of writing/drawing outside when the weather permits. Favorite places include New York City’s Highline (an old elevated train track that has since been turned into a park), down by the water in Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Prospect Park, Central Park, and Madison Square Park. It’s no wonder that my first book is about a garden.
Notable19: Great studio and NYC has such wonderful outdoor spaces! But what about when the weather is bad? What is your favorite rainy day activity?
Lisa: Rainy days are the best days. They’re perfect for imagining new stories. I love spending them near a window with a cup of tea, a cookie, and my sketchbook.
Notable19: Mmmm, tea and cookies! Speaking of eating, what is a food you couldn’t live without?
Lisa: It’s not technically a food, but I don’t think I could live without tea.
Notable19: LOL! Of course; we should have guessed.
Lisa: I always have a warm cuppa on my desk when I’m working. In the morning, it’s earl gray or a rose black tea. Later on rooibos chai or ginger or lemon or something floral or minty. Loose tea, bagged tea, herbal, black, green, red… I love it all.
Notable19: Tea complements just about any food and meal. Now, if you could choose 3 fictional characters to have a meal with, who would they be?
Lisa: I would love to have dinner with Anne Shirley (of Green Gables), Matilda Wormwood, and Luna Lovegood. Some of my best book memories are of middle grade fiction. Matilda and Anne of Green Gables were formative books for me, and Matilda and Anne felt like friends. The Harry Potter books came out when I was an older teen, but like so many others, I fell in love with JK Rowling’s characters and a certain quirky Ravenclaw in particular. Luna is the perfect combination of weird and honest and smart and wholly herself. I would love to spend time with the tween/teen versions of all of these characters, but it would be even more fun to have a dinner party for the mid-30s versions of them.
Notable19: It would be so neat to meet up with our favorite kid characters as adults, wouldn't it? You could find out how their childhood experiences that you read about had shaped their adult lives and down what life paths, like whether they ended up with weird jobs. LOL! What about you? What’s the weirdest job you've ever had?
Lisa: I worked at an open-air historical museum called Old Bethpage Village Restoration (OBVR). OBVR is a recreated mid-19th-century, rural American farm village on 200+ acres on Long Island. I worked in costume as a historical interpreter, teaching visitors about the history of the homes and the people who lived and worked there. Later, I also helped run OBVR’s children’s summer program for 9-12 year olds. The kids spent a week in costume learning about the daily life of a 19th century child through hands-on activities.
It was a really fun job. Each day brought with it something new and different. There were “normal” days teaching in the one-room schoolhouse or carding wool or arriving early in the morning to warm up the brick oven for baking (it might take 2-3 hours of feeding a fire to bring it to temperature). But then I might spend an afternoon chasing chickens out of the general store or staging a historical wedding or finding half a dozen escaped piglets on the doorstep of the house I happened to be working in.
Notable19: Oh, what a blast that sounds like! Living fictional lives is as cool as writing about, or illustrating, them. But we had better let you get back to living your very busy real life. Thank you for sharing these fun facts about yourself, Lisa!
We are a group of writers and illustrators who have debut books (actual debuts , debuts as author-illustrators, or debuts with medium/large publishers) forthcoming in 2019. Thank you for joining us on our exciting journey!