CAROL: How did you get the idea for your book? Was there a real event in your family which inspired the story?
NIKI: Like most parents, I tucked my little one in and spouted the old bedbug adage. She immediately asked, “What are bedbugs?” I hesitated. Did I really want to tell my 3-year-old about bugs who suck your blood at night while you’re sleeping? Instead, I told her they were bugs that lived long ago and there was no such thing as bedbugs anymore. I thought I was telling the truth!
I decided to write a book about bedbugs to make the adage less scary. To my dismay it came out like a poem! My writer's group thought my little poem would make a great picture book and suggested I beef up the conflict. I read this story during open mic at our chapter’s 2009 SCBWI Conference and sold it a month later to Shenanigan Books.
CAROL: How many rewrites/revisions did you go through? How did editorial input shape the story?
NIKI: Bedbugs went through numerous revisions. As you know, since the sale of this manuscript, the bedbugs I had thought were eradicated have made a comeback. Add to that a new series on Animal Planet called INFESTED! and Bedbugs was almost history.
Thankfully my publisher at Shenanigans said she loved the story and didn’t want to drop it. She wondered if we could somehow make my “bedbug” a beneficial bug caught up in a case of mistaken identity. She thought it could be a stink bug, but I couldn’t imagine a child wanting a stink bug in their bed either, so I had to come up with something more cheerful. A bug everyone likes. A bug that is adorable. Not an easy task as most bugs are pretty creepy. But then I remembered a bug my grandmother used to say was the only bug she would allow in her garden and one she said represented good luck. (You’ll have to read the book to find out what bug I’m talking about.)
I went back and forth with new lines and ideas with my editor for a few months. It was actually quite fun and Bedbugs is a better book now. However, I wasn’t the only one caught up in revisions, because of these changes, the illustrator, John Wes Thomas also had to redo some scenes.
CAROL: How did you find your publisher?
NIKI: I’m always researching publishers. While reviewing books for http://www.curledupkids.com, I received a beautiful picture book they had published. The story was a bit longer than what most publishers were doing at the time and was very cute. But what really caught my eye was the book itself. It was well made and the colors and artwork popped. After looking at their list, I sent them another picture book, which they quickly rejected but commented that they’d like to see more of my work. Before they forgot my name, I emailed them the manuscript for Bedbugs and they loved it!
CAROL: You were smart, Niki, to keep persevering! Now, about the illustrations. They really pull the reader into the story. What do you think of your illustrator?
NIKI: John Wes Thomas did a great job on the illustrations. In fact, when Shenanigan sent me the cover image I almost cried! It was a book I would definitely pick up randomly off a bookshelf for my own child. After that, I got a few sneak peeks of some illustrations here and there, but I didn’t get to see all of them until I actually held the book in my hands. The funniest thing is that the wallpaper in the little girl’s room is very similar to the paper in my own daughter’s room. Also, his vision of my little “bedbug” is awful cute!
CAROL: How long did the entire process take?
NIKI: There is nothing about this business that is fast. Especially when it comes to picture books. I received the offer on my book in Early October, 2009 and then signed the actual contract in early December. I think it was originally scheduled to be part of Shenanigan’s 2011 list. I’m not exactly clear on what happened, but I think it took them a few tries before they found an illustrator they thought was just right. Then, of course, there was that whole bedbug epidemic going on which halted production for a while, but hey, no worries.
CAROL: What's next? Another book with them?
NIKI: Well I certainly won’t frown at working with the folks at Shenanigan again but alas, the last manuscript I sent was kindly rejected. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t receive more from me in the future. It just goes to show that even when you think you’ve made it, the rejection pile is never far away. But for now, my submissions are handled by my agent, Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Agency. She’s got a few of my picture books she’s focusing on and hopefully we’ll be celebrating the next sale together. Fingers crossed. (Toes & eyes too!)
CAROL: Anything else you would like to share with my readers?
NIKI: It has been a long journey. I’m not new at this. And although I’ve had some successes, the struggle continues. It isn’t an easy career choice and if I were the main breadwinner, my family would starve. But writing is in my blood. It is part of me and I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. My best advice is to keep going. Keep writing. Keep submitting. You will never see your work in print if you stop producing!
Before I go, I’d like to use my final comments for a shameless plug: Buy DON’T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE! Your kids will love it!!!
I bought a copy for one of my granddaughters, now here is your turn to win a copy yourself:
To enter this giveaway:
1. Please share this on your social media site of your choice and/or become a follower of this blog.
2. Leave me a comment, with your email address, indicating which you did.
3. Winner's name will be drawn October 3 after 6 PM.
STAY TUNED-- MORE GIVEAWAYS COMING UP SOON!