Bridget Heos is the author of Mustache Baby, illustrated by Joy Ang, (Houghton Mifflin, 2013) and more than 60 nonfiction books for children. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and four children.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for babies up through high school, mainly picture books and nonfiction. Tell us about your latest book. It’s a picture book about Baby Billy, who is born with a mustache, and his family, who must wait to see whether it is a good guy or bad guy mustache.
Henry: That is a hilarious image. But, of course, all babies start off pure and good!
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I think it’s a story the whole family will enjoy. Babies will like the pictures, toddlers will be able to retell the story based on the pictures, and big kids and parents will think it’s funny, too. If it’s one of those books that gets the whole family together to read, that would be a dream come true.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
It’s that point where you’re in the thick of things. You can’t see the layout of the story, and everything looks like a big mess. You’re trying to keep track of too many things at once in hopes of organizing things. I used to waitress and this was called being “in the weeds.” You just have to work your way out of it. The truth is, I kind of like this situation. It’s only hard because I tend to get obsessed with working my way out of it. As a mom, I can’t do that. I have an hour here, a half day there, a full day sometimes. But that’s good. It puts things in perspective.
Henry: Sounds like someone enjoys the drama of being “in the weeds”. Are you an adrenaline junkie?
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
I’ve learned to see real life in terms of stories. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, this is a disaster!” I can now think, “this must be the middle of the story. We have to work our way through to the happy ending.” That’s been a wonderful shift in perspective.
Henry: How handy to be able to switch to third-person omniscient in real life! That is a useful way of looking at a situation. And if someone is a jerk, you can think about them being a literary antagonist. Who gets their just desserts in the end.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I’ve gotten to hold a baby spider goat, see the beautiful mountains of Utah, and hike through a prairie in Kansas. But the best thing has been finding a job that is more like a way of life. My kids and I read a lot together and talk about what we read, and my youngest son helps me come up with story ideas. Children’s books are as big a part of my home as my work. I can’t think of a more fulfilling career.
Henry: Spider goats! I had no idea that Spiderman had a vacation farm. You never want to let spider goats in your house, because it’s hard to get them off the ceiling. In all seriousness, spider goats are fascinating. Spider silk is much stronger than steel per unit weight. But a spider can’t produce that much silk. So, scientists naturally inserted spider DNA into goats. The transgenic goat milk can be processed to yield a much higher volume of spider silk. “Spidergoat, spidergoat, makes a really strong overcoat…”
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“Spread your arms, hold your breath, and always trust your cape.” – Guy Clark
Henry: And then there’s “That wasn’t flying, it was falling with style” – Toy Story
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
Sometimes I read my work in progress aloud with a cowboy accent. I’m trying to hear it as if it’s being read by someone else. A cowboy, I guess.
Henry: I’m reminded of the scene in When Harry Met Sally… “Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash.” Cowboy voices. Spider goats. You are fun!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I just like hanging out with my husband and kids. We have a new baby and the big kids get such a kick out of her. For instance, while my big boys are watching a zombie movie, she turns around and watches them watching the movie. They think that’s so funny.
Henry: The baby is teaching everyone an important lesson – that people are far more interesting than a movie. Hey, I just realized you’re letting a baby watch a zombie movie…
Where can readers find your work?
Mustache Baby is available wherever books are sold, and, of course, at the library! For the full list of books I’ve written, you can visit my Web site, http://www.authorbridgetheos.com. I also share news about my books and recommend lots of other kids’ books on my Facebook page, Author Bridget Heos.
This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.