The Picture Buzz - Interview with D.K. Brantley and Review of Every Mummy Has a Mommy
D.K. Brantley is a writer of poems, short stories, news pieces, middle-grade books, and picture books. His books are typically sweet and a bit quirky—like him. He’s the author of the picture books Plain Old Frankie (2019), Sarah Has Surgery (2019), and the middle grade novels I'm 13 Years Old And I Changed The World (2019), The Only Magic Book You'll Never Need (2019), and I'm 12 Years Old And I Saved The World (2015).
When he is not writing books, he’s busy playing music (ukulele, drums, guitar, bass, and mandolin), reading, fishing for crappie and sunfish, and working with his wife (Jessica) who also writes and edits. They live together in Cleveland, Tennessee, with their daughters, Esther and Leah, and half a dozen chickens (who remain nameless).
His newest picture book, Every Mummy Has a Mommy, released October 6th.
Welcome D.K. thank you for stopping by.
Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? How did you get started? What is your favorite type of book to write?)
I’m a writer and editor by trade. Before writing my first book, I was a sportswriter, news reporter, newspaper editor, and copywriter. While it sounds glamorous, it’s not as impressive as it sounds. It’s work. Hard work. But I love it. Whenever I think about it, I’m awestruck by the fact that I get paid to put words together into sentences and sentences into paragraphs.
After attempting several serious books without finding a way to get to the end, I finally happened on an idea I thought I could finish. I was given more confidence after talking with my friend Lurlene McDaniel. She told me to stop sweating the 60,000-word mark of novels. I had a kids’ book on my hands, so the goal should be closer to 20,000 words.
Well, that was very doable. Sometime later, I finished the middle-grade book, I’m 12 Years Old and I Saved the World. It deals with marital and financial issues from a 12-year-old’s perspective.
Since then, I’ve published a couple other middle-grade and YA books before my first picture book, Plain Old Frankie. And, well, I’ve fallen in love with picture books. I love the ability to capture an idea in just a few pages, and collaborating with artists to bring the story to life is fantastic!
That said, the writing and editing process for a picture book is incredibly difficult. Because there are so few words, every word counts, and the cadence has to be perfect. Getting a picture book to this point takes months of writing and editing. Once I’m comfy with a manuscript, it goes to a couple of trusted editors (my wife being one of them), and then the editing and writing process continues for a few more months. But it’s worth it!
You've really had quite a varied writing life. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I give Dum Dums to kids at church. As a result, I’m known as the sucker man. Obviously, this makes me the target of some easy jokes. Hahaha…There is also a video of a song I wrote about myself as the Sucker Man. It felt bizarre until I realized millions of songs are written by people about themselves.
Oh my! I can definitely say that's an unusual tidbit for me. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
Like most kids, I was into Dr. Seuss. For a few years, my parents subscribed to a service that delivered another Seuss book to our house every month or so. I still dig Dr. Seuss, though the books written by other people under the Dr. Seuss brand always bother me.
As I got older, I started getting into the Scary Stories series. Those pictures were something else!
So, you grew up on rhyming and monsters. This book is a perfect fit. Where did the idea for Every Mummy Has a Mommy come from?
While writing my first monster-based picture book, Plain Old Frankie, I knew there would be at least two more monster books. There is always something magical about books of three or more, right?
Well, this meant I had to think of other book ideas, so I let the monsters bounce around in my head quite a bit. Then one day, I was at the kitchen table and said, “Every mummy has a mommy.” I don’t know what I was talking about, but that came out. I laughed, said it again, then typed it into my phone so I wouldn’t forget it. I knew I had the idea for my second monster book, and I love how it turned out.
It's funny how those sparks of ideas come at the strangest times and places. How many drafts, or revisions, did Every Mummy Has a Mommy take? What was the hardest part?
Oh, wow! That’s a tough question.
As with every book, this one went through countless drafts and revisions. Actually, it may have taken more revisions than any other because it rhymes. When I first started writing, it was easy. The rhymes came naturally and it all made sense. Then I let it sit for a while. When I came back to it, I realized how weak and generic some of the rhymes were. So, I had to scrap some of the book to make it better.
Writing picture books is a unique experience. These are written to be read out loud, so they have to make sense to the reader and the listener. The cadence should be fairly obvious on first read, and it needs to make sense. This is no easy task, and the writing of Every Mummy Has a Mommy proved that.
You're brave to tackle it in rhyme. What was the most rewarding part of the publishing process for Every Mummy Has a Mommy?
Any writer will tell you the best part of publishing is reader response.
When parents tell me how their kids beg to read Every Mummy Has a Mommy or Plain Old Frankie over and over before bedtime, I know I’ve done something right. It makes me want to do even better the next time.
The picture book market is flooded with great books, and with so many classic books out there, it’s hard to find space on a child’s bookshelf for books by a newcomer like myself. With that in mind, I don’t take any readers for granted. It is a real gift when parents welcome my books into their homes.
That said, thanks to all the folks who have bought my li’l books for their li’l folks!
Well said. By the way, that is such a fun cover! Did anything surprise you when you first saw the illustrations? What is your favorite spread in the book?
Thanks so much for the kind words. I love the cover as well! When I saw it, I knew the rest of the book was going to be amazing. Picking a favorite spread is no easy task. There are some really great ones with some really special touches I could not have envisioned on my own. So, props to Rodrigo Paulo for knocking it out of the park.
Text © D.K. Brantley, 2020. Image © Rodrigo Paulo, 2020.
If I had to pick a favorite spread, it would have to be the one featuring all the young monsters, researching and reading books in a library. There are other spreads that feature all the monster moms and all the monster dads. I think those are my other favorites. Guess I like to see lots of monsters at once!
I agree with you; Rodrigo did such a great job. What's something you want your readers to know about or gain from Every Mummy Has a Mommy?
Really, my hope is that Every Mummy Has a Mommy results in lots of moms getting lots of hugs. I know they get lots of them already—or I hope they do—but if I can increase the number of hugs they get, I’ll be satisfied. Moms are always on the go and give their all every day. I hope this little book serves as a way to remind little people of how much their moms do and helps grow their love for their moms.
Now that this book is published, I feel a little internal pressure to make a book about dads now. Maybe that will happen one day, but I know better than to force an idea.
Extra hugs for Moms is an awesome goal. Moms (and Dads) can always use more hugs! What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (either as a child or now as a writer.)
For a long time, Ray Bradbury was my source of inspiration. His writing enthralled me for years, and I couldn’t get enough. Even now, I enjoy his writing and reread Dandelion Wine over the summer. What gorgeous use of language!
I also pull inspiration from all around me. When kids say funny things, a new author puts out a book I wish I’d written, or I see an act of kindness, I’m inspired!
So, how are you staying creative these days? Is there anything special that you are doing to “prime the well”?
Being attentive as I go about my daily routine is one way I keep the creative juices flowing. Life is full of ideas if you just pay attention.
I also do my best to play a bit of music every day. Playing drums, ukulele, and guitar all do something inside my brain to bring out creativity.
I also enjoy going to the library and grabbing books from different sections. I normally go to the children’s section first. I check out a book there then move to the adult areas to pick up a novel and a nonfiction book. That way I’m ready for whatever mood strikes me. These books always give me something to fall back on when I’m running low on writing energy.
I too love having a diverse number of books to read (or reread). Is there anything you’ve learned about writing, or the publishing process, that you wished you’d known at the beginning?
No matter how difficult it is to write a book, no matter how stressful to get it to press, at the end of the day, it’s fun. When you’re in the throes of the publishing process, it’s easy to get worn out on the process. Sometimes it makes you want to throw up your hands and give up. But I’m so glad I haven’t, because once you reach the finish line, it’s worth it!
Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I currently have a few projects in the works: Tame the Beast, the next monster picture book about what kids should do when they feel angry.
Escape from Sewageland, is my attempt at an R.L. Stine-esque book, and I’m not sure if it’ll see the light of day, but it has been really fun to write. Actually, I take that back. This one will be published eventually. I’ve already seen the cover and it’s hilariously great. So, I feel I owe it to the cover artist to get it to the finish line.
And the final Adam Shannon Dakota Carr book (the first two were I’m 12 Years Old and I Saved the World and I’m 13 Years Old and I Changed the World) is a long time in the making. I actually finished writing it a long time ago. I’ve given it lots of edits, had other people read it, played with it some more, and something still isn’t quite right. So, I think I’m going to start from scratch on that one. Again. Hahaha—that’s the writing life!
Each book seems to have its own path and struggles. Good luck with these. What is your favorite animal? Or one that you are enamored with at the moment. Why?
That depends. Is a werewolf considered an animal? If not, I’ve always been a bird man. I’ve had a lot of parakeets through the years and adore them. A few years ago, I decided it was time to stop cleaning parakeet cages and got some outside birds: chickens. On top of being fun to watch, they’re productive members of the family. It’s nice to have an avian mouth to feed that feeds me back.
Thank you D.K. for stopping by to share about yourself and your newest picture book.
Thanks so much for the opportunity! It was enjoyable and humbling.
To find out more about D.K. Brantley, or get in touch with him:
Review of Every Mummy Has a Mommy
Totally prejudicially of course, it is always fun to find a rhyming picture book which celebrates mommies. This book is a fun ode to all moms do and that special mother-child bond.
Every Mummy Has a Mommy
Author: D.K. Brantley
Illustrator: Rodrigo Paulo
Publisher: Sir Brody Books (2020)
Monsters, mothers, friends, and family.
Every Mummy Has a Mommy celebrates mothers and the heartwarming bond they have with their children.
Featuring child-friendly versions of classic monsters and their mommies, it provides a fun, sing-songy take on an age-old truth: Every mummy has a mommy, but mine is the very best!
For fans of vampires, werewolves, mummies, Frankenstein's monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, mothers, children, and family.
Every Mummy has a mommy,
every vampire has one too -
as does every wet gilled creature
living in a deep lagoon.
What I liked about this book:
It's obvious that D.K. Brantley and Rodrigo Paulo had fun showing a young mummy, werewolf, vampire, monster, and sea creature as childhood friends skinning their knees, getting injured or scared, having tummy aches or bad dreams, and each seeking out their moms for comfort. I really can't say I ever thought of these monsters having mommies, but this is an interesting premise. Though Brantley does note that "dads are fantastic too," he focuses on the loving relationship between a mother and child.
Text © D.K. Brantley, 2020. Image © Rodrigo Paulo, 2020.
This is indeed perfect as a Halloween book, with vampires, bats, and spooky spiders. But it is also much more than that. The succinct, gently rhyming text and fun, animated-like illustrations, especially of the little monsters sharing a reading time at a library, make this book one that could be shared in units on friendship, library visits, and of course, Mother's Day as well. I think Brantley will succeed in his goal of encouraging extra hugs for the awesome Moms.
Text © D.K. Brantley, 2020. Image © Rodrigo Paulo, 2020.
Its gentle, sweet rhythm and tender ending makes it a perfect book for snuggle and bed times. Overall, it's a fun light-hearted look at monster mommies and the kids who love them.
- make your own paper bag mummy family (https://www.simpleeverydaymom.com/paper-bag-mummy-craft/).
- write a poem or draw a picture for your own mom, aunt, grandma, or other special adult.
- think of other monsters (a skeleton, spider, Loch-Ness monster, or even one you make up), can you draw a picture, or make up a story about your monster and their mommy?