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On Illustrators, Advice For Young Writers, Music and more: An Interview With Josh Funk ~ Short & Sweet (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #4) Book Tour

I am super-honored to have Inkygirl be the first stop on Josh Funk’s SHORT & SWEET book tour! Not just because I’m a big fan of his Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast picture book series with Brendan Kearney and his other books, but also because Josh is such a great champion of fellow book creators, educators and indie booksellers. I met Josh through Nerd Camp Michigan years back.

Short & Sweet is the fourth in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series. In this new adventure, Pancake and Toast fear they are going stale and visit Professor Biscotti, whose faulty gadget transforms them into toddlers, sending them on an adventure in the refrigerator. Praises so far include Top 10 Indie Kids Next List, and a *starred* review in School Library Journal! You can attend the virtual book launch party on Sept. 1st hosted by An Unlikely Story.

Josh Funk is a software engineer and the author of books like the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, the ​It’s Not a Fairy Tale series, the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series, the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series, Dear DragonPirasaurs!Albie Newton, and more. For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook at @joshfunkbooks.

Q. You’re always SO great at giving credit to illustrators. What do you like most about Brendan’s illustrations in the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series?

A. Well, to your first point, all I do is write a few hundred words. The illustrator creates 40+ gorgeous drawings and paintings and more for each book. I could write a book while sitting on the toilet or waiting in line for a ride at Disneyworld (that one’s a true story – I’ll tell you about it in a few years). It’s unlikely an illustrator could create the art for an entire book while in that same line.

Regarding Brendan, as soon as I saw the first sketches he sent for the original Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, I was hooked. He created a world with such depth I didn’t imagine possible (again, that’s why I’m not an illustrator – I can’t even picture the vast worlds artists create). It’s hard to pick what I like most about Brendan’s art – there’s so much to love. The detailed background scenery, the brilliant emotion-filled characters’ expressions, the humor with all of the foodie bands and musical performers – they’re all fantastic.

But I think for Short & Sweet in particular, it’s how he made Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast sooooo adorable as little toddlers! I knew he could do it, which is why I wrote it. But once again, he made them cuter than I could have hoped!

Q. How much interaction do you and Brendan having before, during and after the creation of your books together? Have you ever met in person?

A. None, none, almost none, and not yet. I have full trust Brendan will be able to take the characters and the world we’ve created and expand it in any direction – along with the editorial and artistic teams at Sterling, of course. I’ll see the sketches and give feedback if I have any, but it all goes through the publisher. And we’ve emailed a few times over the last five years regarding a little publicity stuff, but we don’t connect all that much outside of social media tagging, etc.

We almost met last fall when Brendan (who lives in the UK) visited NYC and I was heading to the Princeton Children’s Book Festival (from Boston), but we missed each other by about a few hours.

Someday we will meet. Someday …

Q. I love your musical book trailers! Did you do everything yourself? What is your musical background?

A. Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoy them! I wrote and recorded the songs, yes. And my daughter has joined in backing me up on the last few. They’re super fun to create. I use the GarageBand app on my iPhone to create the music – and nothing else. No external microphone or instruments (I use the built-in instruments in GarageBand and compose the music myself). I also made the videos – which are mostly just slideshows of the art from the books (and all of that credit goes to Brendan for creating the images) – using iMovie.

Regarding my background, I took piano lessons for about 5 years in elementary school, but I didn’t practice enough (at all?) between lessons. I was in choir throughout all of middle school and high school and at the end of high school I got a guitar and learned from friends, folks in my college dorm, and with guitar tabs on the internet. I used to write songs in college and in my twenties with dreams of becoming a rock star – and I think all of that is what led me to write picture books in rhyme.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers? 

A. There are only TWO things you need to know if you want to be an author:

1. The alphabet.

2. How to tell a good story.

That’s it.

And the best way to learn how to tell a good story is to read a LOT of stories. Picture books, chapter books, graphic novels. Fiction & non-fiction. Magazines, comic books, biographies, fantasy – any kind of story! The more stories you read, the better you’ll be at telling your own.

Write something to entertain your friends or your family. Something that will make them laugh. Or gross them out. Some people love scary stories – so write something spooky. Some adults like to read books about people falling in love – especially with vampires (Ew. I don’t read or write anything with kissing). In short, try to make people feel some sort of emotion with your writing.

And have fun. TV shows, movies, musicals, poems, songs, even video games – the best ones have good stories. And they all start with a person or a group of friends sitting in a room and writing them down. Disney can’t start filming the next Avengers movie until they have a story. Lin Manuel Miranda can’t start choreographing his next musical until it’s got a story. And Nintendo can’t start animating the next Legend of Zelda game until they have a story. And there’s no difference between the people writing those stories, me writing a picture book, or you writing in your writer’s workshop or at home in your notebook.

They’re all created by people who know two things: The alphabet and how to tell a good story. If you know both of those, you’re just as much a writer as anyone in the world.

Q. What’s next for you?

I’m doing a super special promotion for independent bookstore preorders of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #4: Short & Sweet. Everyone who preorders from one of the 75+ bookstores at joshfunkbooks.com/indiebound will receive four collector cards and a signed bookplate.

And I’ll be virtually launching Short & Sweet with An Unlikely Story bookstore on release day, September 1st at 7pm ET.

Then in October, I have two more sequels/parts of series coming out – both on the same day: October 27th.

The third book in the It’s Not a Fairy Tale series (following It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk and It’s Not Hansel and Gretel), It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, comes out – all illustrated hilariously by Edwardian Taylor. He has an animation background and he’s done a lot of character design – which totally shines through with the characters (and their laugh-out-loud facial expressions) he’s created in this series (he’s also hidden dozens of other fairy tale and fable creatures throughout the books – so be on the lookout). In this edition, Little Red doesn’t follow the storyteller’s instructions as well as they’d like, questioning them every step of the way. Also, the Big Bad Wolf calls in sick, and Captain Hook fills in. Then more chaos happens, hilarity ensues, and of course, they all live happily ever after. Probably.

And then (or maybe beforehand? I don’t know which book comes first when they come out on the same day) there’s the second book in the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series. Where Is Our Library? (the sequel to Lost in the Library) features the two lion statues that guard the steps of the New York Public Library on 5th avenue. In this adventure, Patience and Fortitude venture into the children’s section (as they do every night after the patrons leave – or any time at all during quarantine) only to find that their books are ALL GONE! They travel throughout Manhattan looking for their books, visiting many other NYC kidlit locations (statues, other library branches, places featured in some classic NYC-based picture books). It’s illustrated gloriously once again by Stevie Lewis. She, like Edwardian, also has a background in animation, but hers is more along the lines of set design – which is perfect for someone illustrating a pair of books that features setting so prominently (first the library, and now all of Manhattan).

And after that, there will be more … eventually. But it’s all a secret for now. *wink*

Tomorrow, be sure to visit the next stop on the #ShortSweetTour when Josh visits Picture Book Look!