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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Sarah Hovorka

Sarah Hovorka is the author of picture books, novels, and short stories for children.

Author photo of Sarah Hovorka.

In addition to writing, Sarah works in the public sector and spends her free time reading, homeschooling, and playing video and board games with her husband and three sons in California.

 

For more information on Sarah, see our previous interview (here).

Collage of the covers of Sarah's 3 published picture books.

She’s the author of Unicycle Dad, illustrated by Alicia Schwab (2024), Same Love, Different Hug, illustrated by Abbey Bryant (2023) and Hattie Hates Hugs, illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee (2022).

 

Her newest picture book, Camouflage Mom, releases July 1st.


Welcome back Sarah,

 

What was the inspiration or spark of interest for Camouflage Mom?

 

I knew I wanted to write a picture book inspired by my mother, so I thought about the biggest thing that comes to mind when I think about who she is and what influenced me the most as her child. That big thing is her military experience, and it all started when she went to boot camp. I began the story there and let the emotions I remembered from my childhood lead the rest of the story.

 

As a military brat, I think you do a great job of capturing the emotions of many military children. If you could meet anyone alive, dead, or fictional, who would that be and why?

 

I feel like every time I’m asked this question, I pick a different person. Right now, I’d love to meet the fictional character Lazarus Long from the imagination of science fiction author Robert Heinlein. He’s such an interesting character with an unnaturally long life full of thought-provoking stories, plus he has access to amazing future technology that would be super fun to partake in.

 

Great answer! How long did Camouflage Mom take from the first draft to publication? 

Book cover - girl holding dad's hand looking between a row of camouflaged legs and a black hiking boots.

It took around two years, most of which was the publication process. This story poured out of me easily and I am so happy that the publisher of this book, Cardinal Rule Press, really connected with the story and was eager to acquire it.

 

Nice! What's something you want your readers to know about Camouflage Mom?

 

While the story is centered around a military family, there are general themes of connectedness, loss, and acceptance that non-military family readers would relate to.

 

I agree this has a wider applicability and could be helpful in many other situations. Did anything surprise or amaze you when you first got to see Elif Balta Parks’ illustrations? What is your favorite spread?

Internal spread - on the left, spot illustrations of Mom in a tank, jumping out of a helicopter, and hiding in bushes. On the right,  girl sitting on the edge of her bed trying on the boots Mom left her that are just like Mom's.

Text © Sarah Hovorka, 2024. Image © Elif Balta Parks, 2024.


It was amazing how much her illustrations reflected what I saw in my head, plus even more! My favorite spread is one in which the mom is seen training in several ways, then there’s a bird’s eye view of Sarah alone in her room. It captures the feeling of separation between the two characters.

 

Her illustrations are powerful and thought provoking. What was the toughest part of writing Camouflage Mom? How did this compare to writing Unicycle Dad?  What was the most fun?

 

The toughest part of writing Camouflage Mom was creating a balance between feelings of loss and hopelessness with feelings of fortitude and empathy. Unicycle Dad was a bit more of a celebration, although both stories contain difficult emotions and situations. The most fun thing for me was revisiting my childhood and talking to my parents about things I didn’t quite remember from that time period.

 

Or perhaps remembered through the lens of a young child - which can be a bit fuzzy & myopic. Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

 

I have two projects I’m working on that I’m really excited about. One is a realistic science fiction chapter book that takes place on the first moon colony with the first moon kids. The other is a contemporary-feeling, light horror about a girl haunted by a wayward nursery rhyme. I hope both get picked up some day.

 

Ooh, interesting. Good luck with these projects. Last question, is there a plant or flower you love growing, or wish you could grow, in your yard or garden?

 

I love the look and smell of evergreen trees. I wish I had space in my yard for a redwood, but I might try a smaller plant like a cypress or a boxwood or yew shrub.


Thank you, Sarah, for stopping back by to share with us your newest picture book.

Book cover - girl holding dad's hand looking between a row of camouflaged legs and a black hiking boots.

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Camouflage Mom.


To find out more about Sarah Hovorka, or to contact her:

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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