Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #22:
Blue Rose blogger, lounge singer wannabe, and author/illustrator Meghan McCarthy

h1 April 26th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

This week we continue our series of blogger interviews with The Blue Rose Girls (on — surprise! — a day you might have least expected it) by talking to author/illustrator Meghan McCarthy. Just like it did when we chatted with bloggers Robin Brande, Anna Alter, and several other folks, it feels a bit awkward to ask the first blogger interview question — “What do you do for a living?” — when chatting with Meghan. If you keep up with picture books today, you’ve likely heard of Meghan and so you very well know what she does: she creates energetic, spirited, rather spastic (that’s a compliment) picture books — both fiction and nonfiction — with bold colors and animated characters and with much humor that is, as Publishers Weekly put it, “right on target for mischievous younger readers.”

We think it’s safe to say that Meghan is a large part of the spunk and feist (We just made up that word. She’s feisty is what we mean — the good kind of feisty; not the troublesome kind) and dynamic energy of The Blue Rose Girls. We think this — from Meghan’s Aliens Are Coming! site — says it all. This is under “About Me” on the “About the Author” page of the site:

I’m hyperactive sometimes, inside my head all the time, I like pizza and chicken fajitas mainly, health food never, I’m a workaholic, work hard/ play hard, I like to paint, I like lawn ornaments, I don’t like garden gnomes though, I love photographing abandoned spaces, I like sunny day not rainy ones, I am a decorating fanatic, love flea markets and junky antique stores, I secretly want to be a lounge singer and a detective, I hate walking anywhere but I don’t mind running or driving, I like metal things, I like rust, I don’t like white cars, I like fancy trash cans where you can lift up the lid with your foot, I don’t like fake people, I don’t like cats that bite, I like cats that don’t bite, I hate the smell of fish but I love the smell of skunk, I am creating a website but it’s growing too big to care for, oh speaking of caring for things, I like mowed lawns, rivers, trees…where are the lawns in Brooklyn? where? I’m going to find some, would anyone like join?

Another reason we think of Meghan as the feisty BRG is that she’s not afraid to reveal the less-than-glamorous side of being an author/illustrator in her blog posts. Author photos, bad reviews, writer’s block, trolls… no topic is off-limits. She kind of does for the children’s author/illustrator profession what Tiny Little Librarian does for ours – blows all those sweet little “Ooh, you must have the best job, just sitting around painting all day!” myths out the window. One of our favorite examples is this post listing many of the joys, traumas and worries of being a children’s book creator. And Eisha, a chronic procrastinator since kindergarten, thinks this post on the insurmountable dread that comes before starting a new project is utterly dead-on.

Meghan’s first picture book was George Upside Down (Viking, 2003) about — you guessed it — a child who loves to do everything upside-down (read books, play the trumpet, master the yo-yo). Eventually, his parents, teacher, tutor, school nurse, and principal attempt a little intervention with the principal hitting upon a rather unconventional technique that eventually does the trick. The following year, Meghan brought us Show Dog (Penguin), which was named an International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice for 2005. Critics found both books to be, on the whole, child-centered, fun, and quirky, Meghan quickly making her mark on the picture book scene. About Show Dog, Booklist wrote, “McCarthy’s bold images . . . and her goofy-looking characters are several steps above the usual cartoon folk, more varied, and more richly colored.” an image from 'Patty,' courtesy of the authorThe Adventures of Patty and the Big Red Bus followed in 2005 (Random House), a story that Meghan tells us (below) is autobiographical (her family once owned a big red bus just like Patty’s) and is about two young sisters who take imaginary adventures in the titular big, red vehicle (an illustration from the book is pictured here, and Meghan’s site can take you on Patty’s journey if you just visit here). It’s action-packed (they put out fires, dive for sunken treasure, visit the circus, soar to the moon . . . you name it), and it was another title for Meghan that was met with favorable reviews. Last year, Meghan released two titles. Aliens Are Coming!: The True Account Of The 1938 War Of The Worlds Radio Broadcast (Knopf Books for Young Readers) is, arguably, Meghan’s most well-known title, having been named a 2007 Notable Children’s Book by The American Library Association, one of School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2006, a 2006 Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice, one of the New York Public Library’s One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing for 2006, and a handful of other honors. Kirkus Reviews called it “a lighthearted but well-researched glimpse into one of our country’s quirkier collective moments.” Steal Back the Mona Lisa! was published by Harcourt Children’s Books and features none other than a young boy on the heels of international art thieves. Brave Jack tries to stop the criminals from painting a moustache on the famous painting.

Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas, Meghan’s newest title, will be released this June (Knopf Books for Young Readers). It’s another nonfiction title, this one about one of America’s most famous strong men who was, McCarthy will show us, a “97-pound weakling” as a child and who was picked on by bullies. An illustration from it is pictured above, courtesy of Meghan . . .

In the interview below, Meghan also tells us about two other forthcoming titles, City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male, scheduled for a September ’07 release (Simon & Schuster; illustration pictured here), and How to Be an Astronaut. At her Fireside Chat blog, she gives us a bit of a teaser regarding the Astronaut title — or, at least, this is her discussing some of the research that she’s done for the book: “. . . did you know that astronauts put on diapers before trying on the space suit? Yup. That’s because it takes so long to put on/take off. Then there’s the fact that in space they drink their own pee… or rather filtered pee turned into water. Then there’s the good ol’ camera at the bottom of the toilet to help the ‘nauts aim so that the undesirables don’t float off.”

It sounds like it will be a true Meghan McCarthy original, no? We don’t know if those scatalogical fun facts will be included, but — if so — there will be a lot of squealy, happy children (what seven-year-old doesn’t love her scatalogical humor?).

We’d like to thank Meghan for chatting with us and telling us a bit more about her new books. Without further ado, then, here’s Ms. McCarthy . . . {Oh, and the Perfunctory Curse Word Disclaimer in its new abbreviated form: Yadda yadda yadda there’s a curse word below in the Pivot questions. If that type of thing offends you, skip it}.

* * * * * * *
7-Imp: What do you do for a living?

Meghan: I write and illustrate kids’ books and ring people up at a bookstore. My W2 workday phrases are “Do you have the membership card?”, “Will that be debit or credit?”, and “The bathroom is on the second floor . . . Yes, one floor up . . . no . . . not on this floor.” As awful as this sounds, my entire W2 job money for the year goes to the IRS for taxes. Thank you, US Treasury! You are the best.

7-Imp: How long have you been blogging?

Meghan: I’ve been part of The Blue Rose Girls since day one — thanks for the invite, Grace! I started my own blog on my website a few years ago, I think. The first entry was about the New York City blackout, I believe.

7-Imp: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?

Meghan: I started my own blog to keep track of my thoughts. I blog on The BRG to belong. Working freelance most of the week can be a bit isolating. It’s so wonderful to
be able to talk shop with people who are understanding and supportive!

7-Imp: Which blog or site would you take to the prom to show off and you love it so much you could marry it?

Meghan: Oh boy. That’s a tough question. I’d really like to marry Fuse’s blog because it’s intelligent and yet oddly funny. That’s exactly the way I want my man to be! There are a lot of other blogs that I’d marry on the side . . . er . . . cheat with? I love all the BRG’s personal blogs . . . and I like to keep up with my other RISD pals who blog. I really like Drawn!. I also peruse the many blogs written by industry people that give me those naughty little tidbits. My blog reading gets done in clumps. Sometimes I don’t have time to read any blogs, never mind write for one, while at other times I’m in super procrastination mode and read as many as possible.

7-Imp: What are your other favorite things to do, other than reading and blogging?

Meghan: Ha, I actually don’t like to read. How about that for a shocker? I read because I think I should and because I’d like to publish my own novel some day but I don’t LOVE to read. My attention span prevents total enjoyment. What I do love doing lately is making music. If I could figure out a way to create my own drum tracks, then I’d be good to go. I’m also a compulsive fitness freak as of late. I work out five days a week for two hours at a time. I run three miles and then hit the gym. I’m a big sports fan — to play, NOT to watch. Watching is boring! I love anything to do with decorating — looking at decorating books, picking out paint swatches, going pillow shopping . . . you name it. Fleamarkets and antique stores are favorite places to stop. I also really enjoy a good beer at the local bar. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a party girl. I have a million more interests but I won’t list them all here — that could take all day!

7-Imp: What’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately?

Meghan: The Sounds, The Roots (their live album), Lily Allen, El Perro Del Mar, Frou Frou, Luisa mandou um beijo, Nick Drake, The Thrills, The Whitest Boy Alive, and my terribly wonderfully bad early ’90s mix that contains such songs as “Real Love” and “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Yeah. Good stuff. I’ve also been listening to myself.

7-Imp: If you could have three (living) authors and/or illustrators over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

Meghan: Myself in 20 years. I want to know if this all works out. I know that didn’t answer the question.

7-Imp: What’s one thing not many people know about you?

Meghan: Oh, there’s probably a lot people don’t know about me. Do you want a serious factoid or a non-serious one? For non-serious, I admit I pick my nose when no one is looking. I also sometimes get sick of looking at all my arm hair and am tempted to shave it off. For serious . . . well, let’s not go there.

7-Imp: Okay, how about a few more questions that are specifically about your work as an author/illustrator . . .

Your web site is great. There seems to be some work-in-development going on in spots. Can you tell us more about that?

Meghan: The work in development is because I’m ADD and hyperactive and obsessive all rolled into one. I come up with ideas, start them, and then don’t finish them. I intend to, though! Really! I would really love to redesign the home page and give the whole thing a revamp. I’d also like to give my nonfiction books their own section. I want to brand myself like Kleenex did for tissues.

7-Imp: We know this must be a maddening question for authors and illustrators, but it’s still fun to ask: Do you have an absolute favorite title out of all the books you’ve created? We also love to find out what authors’ and illustrators’ favorite picture books are (oddly enough, that tells you a lot about them, just as someone’s responses to those weird Pivot questions do, too). So, what are some of your all-time favorite picture books?

Meghan: All of my books are my special children. George was my first. Show Dog is a great read-aloud and I always find it amusing. Patty is autobiographical, so of course it’s important. Besides, who doesn’t love buses? Mona Lisa is the spy book I never had growing up. Right now, though, Aliens is most on my mind because it was my first book into the arena of nonfiction. It’s also in its second printing! I won’t comment about the others, because they’re not born yet.

A few of my favorite PBs from my childhood are Sendak’s early creations — In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are. Van Allsburg’s early stuff is also great and quite magical. I also love One Monster After Another. I’ve seen too many picture books in the past five years, because I worked in the kids’ dept. at a very large bookstore (still do). I get a headache just trying to think of my favorites. There’s a lot of great stuff out there! Unfortunately . . . there’s a lot of bad stuff, too.

7-Imp: Can you tell us all about your forthcoming projects/titles — Strong Man, City Hawk, and How to Be an Astronaut? Can you say just a bit more than what you already say on your site about them and how they are coming along?

Meghan: Strong Man is coming out this June! I’m hoping to throw a little book party — it was my editor’s idea . . . I hope she doesn’t take it back. Actually, I want to make it a really BIG book party. I want to rock NYC! We’ll see. Stay tuned . . .

City Hawk is about Pale Male, the hawk in NYC. I hope there will be an article showing up about that soon. In the meantime, I will say that it’s an important book about survival and perseverance. New York can be a harsh place for an outsider but can also be welcoming if you give it a chance. I think Pale Male has experienced that first hand.

Astronauts is almost past the sketch phase. I just gessoed the paper to start on the cover. I’ve got to get going! The book will not be like any space book out there for kids thus far . . . hopefully. I haven’t seen a book that tells kids what astronauts actually go through to become one. That’s what my book will explain.

7-Imp: Apropos to nothing, how’s your ’80s/’90s cheesy hip hop mix coming
along {mentioned here at Meghan’s personal blog}? Did you ever make the cheesy metal/rock mix? Did your mix really inspire you to make a children’s book about hip hop?

Meghan: Ha, the mix is done. I also made a Volume Two that’s even better! They will soon be ready for the public once I make some nice covers for them. I do want to
make a book about hip-hop. Someday . . . someday.

* * * * * * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * * * * * *

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Meghan: I’m not sure I have one. Can I say “Ho”? Is that word off limits now?

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Meghan: Don’t have one of those either. Every word is special in its own way. Aw.

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Meghan: People creating things of genius. I also appreciate it when my own brain comes up with things of genius. Nothing turns me on more than my own self. Why, I could turn myself on all day. Hmmm. That came out wrong.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Meghan: Annoying and stupid people.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Meghan: “Fuck.” (Don’t let the kids see that!)

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Meghan: Water dripping, birds singing, the hum of cars driving into the night air, lawn mowers in the distance, cicadas, a low deep rhythmic bass.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Meghan: Jackhammers, farts, a cell phone ringing that isn’t my own, my very annoying landlady yelling my name and pounding on the door when she KNOWS I’m in the shower only to tell me that I can’t keep my umbrella in the hallway, my out-of shape-neighbor huffing and blowing with each step of the staircase, my alarm when I don’t want to get up.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Meghan: Ha ha. I was just saying that I’d like to try out McDonald’s for a day . . . or maybe just a half hour. I want to know if anyone’s spitting on my hamburger. I’d love to be a homicide detective. I want to drive a racecar. I’d like to be in a band and make money doing it . . . or maybe a lounge singer. I’d like to try pole dancing for ten minutes if I was promised at least one thousand dollars.

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Meghan: Anything to do with math. I also never want to be an astronaut. Oddly enough, I’m writing a book about how to be an astronaut!

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Meghan: “Don’t worry, this is just like earth only better.”





7 comments to “Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #22:
Blue Rose blogger, lounge singer wannabe, and author/illustrator Meghan McCarthy”

  1. There are probably lots more intelligent things to say on the nature of this interview, but what I most want to say is “What a freakin’ great picture!” Really striking.

    Also that annoying and stupid people are my turn off too, and yet both of us have to answer their questions all the time. Crazy, huh?


  2. MotherReader, if you only knew: She sent us a whole slew of great photos to choose from. They were all really interesting and gaw-jus. It was hard to choose. But, yeah, I love that one, too. Those Blue Rose Girls always have some great photos on hand. Linda, whose interview will be Monday, even sent us a beautiful mug shot, though that sounds oxymoronic, along with a whole bunch of other cool photos, too. They’re all so photogenic, huh? (Uh, I guess I should add it’s not a real mug shot!) . . .

    Speaking of the “moronic” after the “oxy,” yeah, I could do without stupid questions, too. I liked Meghan’s answer to that one. But my favorite answer just has to be what turns her on creatively, spiritually, emotionally. Heh. She’s fun. I just wanna go out and have a drink with her. Don’t you? Why does everyone have to live UP NORTH? Where’s the author/illustrator love in Nashville?? (but I digress) . . .

    :)


  3. another great interview! i’ve never heard of that author, yet i feel like i know her now. the book about the hawk looks great and what she said about ny was right on. i was a california-fish-out-of-water there for 4-years, but gradually figured it out. ps. the lovely jenn from nymbc created a lj for me, so you don’t have to huff around my website to get to my blog. i’d be honored if you’d visit me there! lj site above.


  4. Great interview, y’all. Can’t wait to see City Hawk.


  5. I agree. The picture of Meghan is stunning. Her work is so cool and I always love to read what’s on her mind over at the BRG. Thanks for another cool interview.


  6. [...] when Meghan stopped by in ‘07 (back when our images were tragically small)? I’m glad she hasn’t opted for [...]


  7. Really insightful thank you, It appears like your readers would probably want a good deal more blog posts along these lines carry around the good material.


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