Interview with Author Nancy Taiani
Today, I’m interview my friend and fellow author about her new children’s book, The Mushroom’s Other Hat
Besides having a great story, the book has extraordinary art work.
Q. What prompted you to write this book?
I’ve always liked to hike in the woods and have always been fascinated by the variety of mushrooms one sees there, especially in the fall. In my 20’s I used to pick mushrooms and dry them—that doesn’t work for all of them, the Russela, with their red caps came out best—and put them with moss and acorns into bell jars. I called them “Forest Floors.” And I found it especially interesting that fairy-ring mushrooms got their name because people once really believed that their area was sacred to the fairies.
But The Mushroom’s Other Hat is more than just a fairy story. My mushroom protagonist, Amber, wants to express her individuality through her creativity. She discovers she is already special just as she is, and learns to value being part of her community. I hope the book encourages children to discover more about the environment, express themselves creatively and learn to appreciate their communities.
Q. How did you do the pictures? Oil? Water colors? Something else?
The pictures were all painted in watercolors on Arches 140 lb. cold-press fine-grain paper. Then I scanned them into my laptop.
Q. How long did it take you to finish all the pictures?
Many, many months if you count that I had first painted them some years ago in an entirely different size. I originally designed the book to be 8″ wide by 7″ high. At the time that appeared to be the size of a number of children’s books on my shelf. The on-line publisher, Createspace, did not list that as a size. They allow you to create a non-standard size but then it would only be available through Amazon. To make a book available through other platforms, you have to pick a standard size. The closest one to my original design was 8 1/2″ square. So I repainted all the pictures—I spent a few days on each picture—and then spent several days refining each picture on my computer.
Q. How long did it take to write the story?
I wrote the story before my son was born—he is almost 35 now. I painted the pictures and made a book dummy which I mailed around to a few publishers, one each summer when I had a bit more time. It used to take the publishers three to six months to get back to you—even with a form rejection letter! But the story didn’t quite work in the original version.
I was raising two children and working full time so the story just sat. I finally realized that my villain, the Amanita, was a bully who had to insult Amber in order to fully justify Amber’s need to express her individuality. So I edited the story and thought about publishing it.
Q. What came first, the art work or the story?
They pretty much came together. I have a very graphic mind so I pictured scenes in my head to illustrate what was happening as I was writing. Though I did design the pages to be formatted differently—sometimes the is picture on the right, other times on the left or on part of the page, a few double pages and occasionally the words flow around the pictures. The pictures have to make you want to turn the page.
Q. What software packages do you use to put the book together?
I wrote and edited the story in Microsoft Word and used Pixelmator on my Apple laptop to refine the pictures and add the text to each page. Pixelmator is very much like Photoshop, only much cheaper. I saved each picture as a PDF and then strung them together into one large PDF. Then I uploaded the file to Createspace to publish the book. Createspace gives you a virtual file to see how the book will look. When anything important ran off the page or when images didn’t meet correctly in the gutter, I had to refine the pictures. And upload again until it looked right.
The book is available on Amazon.com. I hope parents, grandparents and young readers will enjoy it.
I can attest that this book makes a great gift. If you have or know young children, give them a copy. I’m sure it will become one of the kid’s favorite books.