Q&A with How They Croaked author Georgia Bragg
July 14, 2012 | Catnip | Comments (0)
Georgia Bragg comes from a family of artists and is an artist herself. On her website, she says she has changed careers five times - among other things she has been a printmaker, a painter and a storyboard artist. Georgia is now an author and talks about her non-fiction book How They Croaked - The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous below! Here's more about the fascinating Georgia.
We asked Georgia some questions, here are her interesting answers!
How long did it take you to write this book?
It took eons. Just the proposal and the first three sample chapters took over a year and a half. Idea to finished product took about three years. Getting the right tone for the subject matter was challenging. It was hard to know if I was
What part (s) of the book did you find the most challenging to write?
The hardest part was encapsulating the history of the era and a person’s accomplishments into a couple of paragraphs. Knowing what to leave out is just as important as what to include. It was like writing a history haiku. I went with my instincts, if a fact resonated to me, it got in the book. Also, trying to tap into why a kid would care at all about these long ago dead people took some thinking. Just because teachers tell them these people are important doesn’t mean that they’ll really care or connect. Every kid can relate to being sick or having something hurt so How They Croaked had that going for it at the start.
Did you find yourself liking any of the historical figures more than another?
You bet. I despised Charles Dickens, Henry VIII, and Napoleon. I was outraged by the treatment of Pocahontas. I’d like to have a couple of drinks with Poe, Cleopatra, and Galileo. Dinner with Beethoven would be nice.
Who is your favorite author?
There’s no way I could pick just one. I’m a big fan of Jack Gantos, John Green, Gary D. Schmidt, and Sherman Alexie. As far as authors that write for adults, I like Jim Shepard, Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Will Cuppy, and Flannery O’Connor.
How did you become an author (I read somewhere that you have changed careers 5 times)?
I’m an accidental author. I was an artist and I had an idea for a picture book that I wanted to illustrate. I took a class at UCLA to get some tips. An assignment one week was to write the first page of a middle-grade novel. There was no way I would be able to do that. But I sat down, and just started writing. A whole story came to me in a minute, and I eventually finished it. I didn’t dare show it to anyone, but I did submit it at an SCBWI event and I won most-promising manuscript. I sat in my car and cried. And that was the beginning of my writing career. I had no idea it would lead me to writing non-fiction too.
I feel that the illustrations really complement the text – was Kevin O’Malley your choice of illustrator?
My editor chose Kevin O’Malley. His work adds just the right touch of humor and cheek. I just loved what he added to the book. And listen to this small world thing, my father is the well-known artist, Charles Bragg, and Kevin used to practice drawing by copying my dad’s artwork. So Kevin was quite the perfect match in style and sensibilities.
Did you find it difficult or depressing writing so extensively about such a difficult topic?
I didn’t find it difficult it was mostly fascinating. Though, maybe my natural instinct to add humor was some kind of self-medication. It became difficult and depressing later; the stars aligned in a way that I couldn’t have predicted. Just when the book came out, my mother was dying of cancer. I was lucky enough to be interviewed on NPR Weekend Edition, but I was distracted and distraught during the whole thing. I kept looking at my watch because I didn’t want to be late taking my mom to her chemotherapy appointment. She died a few weeks later. It was a cruel twist of fate.
What will your next book be about?
I’m writing two additional books in the How They Croaked series. More juicy history is on the way! The first one will be How They Choked, about famous people and their failures.
What message would you like your readers to take from this book?
I’ve been asked this a lot. I’m not sure I intended anything more than providing a good read with some cool facts. I mostly didn’t want to write a boring non-fiction book that kids didn’t want to read. But, in retrospect, it’s a rounding out of history that was sort of needed. Nothing makes me happier than to hear how teachers are using the book in the classroom. For me, that’s like winning the lottery.