July 15, 2016
Today we feature talented author, Diana Murray to the KidLit411 Spotlight!
Be sure to enter the giveaway for three of her books- CITY SHAPES, illustrated by Bryan Collier, GRIMELDA THE VERY MESSY WITCH, illustrated by Heather Ross, and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, illustrated by Leslie Lammle!
Tell us about background and how you came to write for children.
In college, I studied psychology with an emphasis on child psychology. I also minored in art. I worked as an art director in graphic design for many years. When my first daughter was born, I left work to stay home with her. We started reading loads of picture books together. That’s when I started to fall in love with the genre, as well as the experience of reading together with a child. There’s something so warm and special about it. I joined SCBWI in 2007 and began writing every day. I signed with my agent in 2012.
You will have gone from a debut picture book author to a multiply-published (four books!) author within a six month period: CITY SHAPES (June 2016), GRIMELDA THE VERY MESSY WITCH (July 2016), NED THE KNITTING PIRATE (Aug 2016) and GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE (Jan. 2017). Can you give us the behind-the-scenes story about how all these came to be published so close together?
GRIMELDA and NED both sold simultaneously to different publishers as soon as I signed with my agent. But both titles got delayed by two years. And yes, the wait was agonizing! Meanwhile, we sold CITY SHAPES. Even though that sold later, it ended up being my first release. GROGGLE sold even later, but because Sky Pony Press is a smaller publisher, they tend to work faster.
Your stories seem very different. How do you decide what to write?
Yes. Most of my books are wacky, character-driven stories. But a few are a bit more lyrical, like CITY SHAPES, which released in June, and SUMMER COLORS, which is another title coming from Little, Brown. Each story came about in a different way so it’s hard to answer that question. CITY SHAPES was inspired by my time living in midtown Manhattan and the long walks I used to take downtown.
SUMMER COLORS was inspired by listening to the rain on my patio. NED THE KNITTING PIRATE was inspired by an episode of Anthony Bourdain.
GRIMELDA was inspired by my constantly losing things around the house. And GROGGLE was inspired by an illustration in the illustrator’s (Bats Langley’s) portfolio.
What projects are you working on?
I’m working on some revisions and reviewing illustrations for books I have coming out in 2017 and 2018. Also doing some freelance work writing content for an educational software company. And I’m always subbing poems to magazines, as well. Oh, and I just saw the color interiors for DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS illustrated by Yuyi Chen (Imprint/Macmillan), and boy, am I excited about that!
I also have an early reader (PIZZA! PIZZA!) coming out with Random House’s Step-Into-Reading. That’s a new genre for me and I have ALWAYS wanted to do one of those. So that’s exciting for me, too. And of course, I’m also working on some brand new picture book manuscripts that I hope to submit soon.
What is the hardest part about writing picture books?
Getting the story arc right, making the concept unique, and having a good hook.
What is the easiest part?
Hmmm. I guess jotting down ideas. Because anything can have potential. Best not to edit yourself at the idea stage.
What are the one or two things you did that most helped your publishing career?
Signing with my agent definitely changed everything. That was a mixture of determination and luck. Also, it’s extremely important to find some good critique partners. And doing critiques is just as important as getting them. Joining SCBWI helped me make a lot of connections so I guess that’s how I ultimately found my main crit partners. That was huge.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I had low self esteem when I was younger. So I guess I would say, you’re just as you should be.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m obsessed with romcoms, Masterpiece Theater, and Jane Austen movies.
Where can we find you online?
Diana Murray is an author of picture books and early readers including, CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown, June 2016), GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, July 2016), and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, August 2016). Her award-winning poems have appeared in magazines such as Highlights, High Five, Hello, Spider, and Ladybug. Diana grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle.