Fred Koehler claims he was raised by dolphins in the warm waters off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Which would explain why he spends all of his free time fishing, diving, and searching for secluded beaches. He splits his time between a day job in advertising and a nearly full time job as a children’s writer and illustrator.
For what age audience do you write?
I write the stories that come to me, and I let the publishers decide who they’re for. My books range from picture books for 3-5 year-olds all the way up to novels for middle grade readers.
Tell us about your latest book.
SUPER JUMBO continues the story of HOW TO CHEER UP DAD. It’s a tale of a well-intentioned little elephant who, despite his best efforts, can’t seem to save anyone’s day.
Henry: Been there…
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope readers see the value of trying. And trying again. And again. And even if we never get it quite right, that something we did could have a positive impact on someone else.
Henry: Plus, experience is what we get, when we don’t get what we wanted.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
I think ideas are the hardest. A good one is like a gold doubloon in a treasure chest filled with plastic coins. You have to pick up each and every one to examine it and determine which one’s worthy and which ones are only shiny objects.
Henry: Yarrrr, I love a good pirate metaphor, me bucko.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
We stand in the gap for our readers, kids who have not yet learned to tell their own stories. We are their voices and there can be life and death stakes if we don’t communicate truthfully on their behalf.
Henry: Wow. That gives new meaning to the British expression, mind the gap!
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I’m leaving next week to backpack across the United Kingdom with just a pack and a camera. I’ll be shooting reference photography for a book I’ll illustrate in the Fall. It’s the type of thing I’d never have given myself permission to do if I weren’t telling someone else’s story.
Henry: Fun! And, tax deduction!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Stop talking during your critiques. Listen. Listen. Listen. Then go out and be a different writer based on what you learned.
Henry: Good advice, with the implicit bonus advice: join critique groups. We don’t know our own blind spots.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~ Walt Disney
Henry: Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Boy: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I tend to wake up with no alarm at 4:30 in the morning on days that I write. My body just knows that’s when there will be the fewest interruptions.
Henry: Yes, few interruptions, but what about SLEEP!?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I wish I could heal the mentally ill and free others from addiction. Because.
Henry: I was expecting something related to children’s books, but that is a lovely thought.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Sarah McGuire (because she’s cute), CS Lewis (because he was a prankster), and Hemingway (because we’d go fishing after dinner).
Henry: Friends don’t let friends go fishing drunk. Sarah McGuire is the author of VALIANT (and Fred’s girlfriend – smart man!), C.S. Lewis wrote (among other things) the Narnia series, and if I have to tell you who Ernest Hemingway is well, then, words fail me.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Honest politicians. Oh wait, that’s not the kind of answer I was supposed to give, is it? Um… Okay. Dragons.
Henry: The judges rule that “honest politicians” is a valid response. Tell him what he’s won, Bob.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I crank up the country music in my pickup truck and drive till the map turns blue.
Henry: You drive into the ocean?
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“We wish you more stories than stars.” From Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s DAPHNE, WE WISH YOU MORE
Where can readers find your work?
My website – FreddieK.com
Facebook – @superfredd
Twitter – @superfredd
Instagram – Fred_Koehler_
aaaand… ANYWHERE BOOKS ARE SOLD!
Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Fred.