Deborah Underwood is the author of numerous children’s books, including INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA, HERE COMES THE TOOTH FAIRY CAT, and the New York Times bestsellers HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT, THE QUIET BOOK, and THE LOUD BOOK! She has written more than 25 nonfiction books on topics ranging from smallpox to ballroom dancing, and has written for National Geographic Kids, Highlights, Ladybug, and Spider magazines.
Tell us about your latest book.
My most recent books are INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA, illustrated by Meg Hunt (Chronicle) and the HERE COMES THE TOOTH FAIRY CAT, illustrated by Claudia Rueda (Dial).
INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA is a twist on the familiar story: Cinderella dreams of a career in rocket repair, so she desperately wants to attend the Royal Space Parade to see all the ships. Despite her stepmother’s sabotage attempt, she makes it to the parade (with the help of her fairy godrobot) and comes to the prince’s rescue when his ship breaks down.
HERE COMES THE TOOTH FAIRY CAT is the third book in the Cat series. Cat tries to trick the Tooth Fairy into paying a visit. But the Tooth Fairy turns out to be just as tricky as Cat!
Henry: I’ve read both those books. I loved how INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA reminded me of the Kaylee character from Firefly, and teaches that smart is the new pretty. I enjoy seeing innovative writing techniques, and loved how the cat wordlessly answers the Tooth Fairy narrator’s questions.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
One of the most challenging aspects of a writing career is juggling all the non-writing things: website updates, promotional work, speechwriting, responding to emails—all the things that pull time and energy away from writing.
But in terms of the actual writing, the first draft is usually the hardest part for me. Once something’s on paper, I feel like I have the tools to start fixing it, but writing that initial draft can be daunting.
Henry: And answering interview questions and caring for one’s cat! Bella is upset you failed to mention her. I completely agree that the first draft is the most difficult.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
This is an ongoing experience: being part of the children’s writing and illustrating community has become an important part of my life. In general, people drawn to this work are not only funny, smart, authentic, and talented, but also tremendously supportive of each other. I feel lucky to be a member of the tribe.
Henry: The humorous Facebook exchanges alone are worth it.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read a lot of books in the genre that interests you. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (scbwi.org) and a critique group or two. Go to conferences and learn. It’s a tough field, so doing your homework—understanding the publication process and the market, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and continuing to hone your skills—is important.
Henry: I completely concur. Critique groups, I’ve found, are especially valuable to honing one’s writing.
Read the rest of this interview at Henry’s blog on KidLit, Fantasy & Science Fiction.