May 7, 2011

Author Interviews: Broomsticks by Sean McHugh and Katie McHugh Parker

Today The O.W.L. is excited to welcome Sean McHugh and Katie McHugh Parker authors of the cute tween book Broomsticks.

A bit about the book
Pocky McGuire has no idea why she is different. No one else in her family can levitate books or freeze and angry dog in his tracks. She felt alone in the world until one day she met a strange boy with a goatee. Unlike Pocky, Stamp had no doubt who he was. He was raised by witches and he was a witch. Upon meeting Stamp, Pocky hoped to befriend her magical counterpart and learn a few tricks of the trade. Stamp, however, wanted no part of anything or anyone mortal, including Pocky. Will it take magic to bring these two kindred spirits together?

Welcome! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

1.  For your most current book - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
Katie's Answer: I'm really happy that I could help develop Sean's characters - Stamp, Pocky, and Blevins.  These were characters that he created on his own, years before I ever got involved in the project.  They were originally the main characters in a comic strip he had developed.  I am just as excited about the sidekicks, though.  I feel like I had a lot more input in their development since they came along later.  All of them are so neat and unique.  I'd love to hang out with them!  The one I am most proud of, though, is Mrs. Wheeler.  Mrs. Wheeler is one of the main adult influences who will appear in all of the Broomsticks books.  Her character is based on and named after a local lady who was a librarian in town when Sean and I were younger.  I don't remember her as much as Sean does, but what really tugs at my heart is that we have had a few of the "real" Mrs. Wheeler's family members come up to us at book signings and introduce themselves.  They have responded so warmly, even bringing us pictures of Mrs. Wheeler.  We can just tell how genuinely honored they are to have had her represented in our books.  I feel we have done her justice.  That makes me happy.  

Sean's Answer: I'm just excited that the characters that have been such a major part of my life for the past 10 years are out there for the world to see.  I'm a proud papa!

2.  Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!
Katie's Answer:  The writing process....well, it was so long ago and once we started, it was kind of like a whirlwind so it's kind of hard for me to remember.  I remember the day Sean asked me to collaborate with him.  I was in my apartment, on the phone with him when he asked me if I wanted to help turn it into a children's book.  I probably didn't even let him finish the question before I gave him a gigantic yes!  I had seen some of his Broomsticks comic strips and loved them.  With those characters and a basic idea of the adventures they would have....I was ready to go!  We worked on it through email, phone, and snail mail.  Sean's writing style was more dialogue-focused.  He has so many great ideas running through his head about what the characters would say in certain situations.  So, then I would kind of take that dialogue and work the narrative around it.  He would send me handwritten scripts, basically.  I would rework it with narrative and add some of my own dialogue or change some things around (with permission of course) and then retype it.  We didn't really do a whole lot of revision.  Sometimes, I'd sit at the computer and type while we discussed it on the phone.  We never had a set method on how to write it as a duo.  We'd switch it up all the time.  Still do.  Like with the 2nd book in the series, we'd even alternate chapters.  In the third book, my main assignment is the sub-plot.  So, it's different all the time.  But, it works.  

Sean's Answer:  It really didn't take too long at all.  Stamp & Pocky were already established in the comic strip.  So, once we decided on a plot & storyline, we finished the first draft in about 2-3 months.  The revising mostly consisted of the dialogue.  "Would a nine-year-old say that?" 

3.  Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
Katie's Answer: Yes, the characters' personalities are great combinations of friends and family.  They are named after them too.  It's kind of funny, because in our second book, we introduce a new character, a little girl who was originally named Katie, after me.  But, the first draft was written before I had any children and I have since been blessed with a daughter named Sophia.  Sophia had not yet appeared in any of the storylines, so we decided to change Katie to Sophia.

Sean's Answer:  Oh, yes! Most of the characters are named after friends or family members. Pocky is my sister's nickname.  Stamp's attitude and personality is directly taken from my friend, Keith Blevins and we named Stamp's familiar Blevins. By the way, Blevins often appears as an OWL!!!  Whoooooo!!!  

4.  How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
Katie's Answer:  Sean had originally designed the artwork that would be used for the cover.  We did not have control over the logo/lettering.  Diversion Press made a great cover!

Sean's Answer:  I had control over the artwork, but we had no control over anything else like the logo/typestyle or look of the cover. But we are very happy with it.  Diversion Press did a great job.  We especially like how they arranged the type on the back cover in the shape of a witch's hat!

5.  What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
Katie's Answer:  Oh my goodness, yes! Yes! Yes! I was a good student and I have always loved English.  I have been writing since I learned how!  I can relate to our character Pocky in that way!  Even if I am writing a note to someone, or writing in a diary, I get a little wordy!  I used to write stories all the time, when I was younger.  I have even had a poem published.  I was the co-editor of my high-school newspaper.  I was so proud of my term paper comparing/contrasting L. Frank Baum to Lewis Carroll, that I kept it!  Now I enjoy teaching English!  I guess my students think it's pretty cool to have a published author as their English teacher!  LOL!

Sean's Answer:  I was a pretty good student except for math.  I HATED math and still do!  I loved English and I loved writing when I was young.  I was usually making up superheroes and coming up with their origins, etc.  The first children's story I wrote was "Katie & The Jack O' Lantern" when I was 12 years old.  I wrote it for Katie because she wanted to hear a Halloween story that wasn't scary.  Little did we know where it would lead us.

6. And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
Katie's Answer:   I do love children's books still.  I love reading to my 6 year-old daughter every night.  I enjoy reading to my students.  For years, I have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to them.  It never gets old.  I do enjoy C.S. Lewis.  I have always loved L. Frank Baum, a man who really knew how to use his imagination and create a great fantasy.  He did not forget what it was like to be a child and that is very important, whether you are a writer, a teacher, or a parent.  When I was in grade school, I enjoyed Judy Blume books.  These days, I probably still read more children's books than anything else!  Regarding the grown-up books, I would have to say my favorites are Nora Roberts, Dan Brown, and Gregory McGuire.

Sean's Answer:  Most of the books I read now are "How to" and " Promoting Children's Books for Dummies"  type books.  I still love the books I loved as a child.  I love the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers and the original Raggedy Ann & Andy books by Johnny Gruelle.  I was so excited to learn just a few years ago that Gruelle was originally a cartoonist who turned his comic strip idea into a children's book series.  I loved The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew books,and Encyclopedia Brown.  As I got older I also loved Chris Van Allsburg, Marcia Jones, Debbie Dadey, and I love Henry Winkler's Hank Zipzer books.  And, of course, I love l. Frank Baum, the man who made "good witch" a household phrase!
Thank you Katie and Sean for visiting!  I'll be posting my review later today, but I'll give you a hint: C.U.T.E!


  1. Hi Sean and Katie! You two have such great excitement for your book. It makes me smile.

    As an influence on Stamp's character, I just want to say it's not surprising that you're both codependent. Mortals.

  2. Great interview Sean and Katie. If you had to write the first book over again, would you change anything in the story or change some chapters around? Happy Derby Day.

  3. Good question, Mr. Clooney. The only thing I can think of, since our hometown embraced the book so, I wish we included more Maysville references. We'll make up for that in the second book. The setting will pay tribute to two Maysville landmark and the story showcases a true Maysville legend!
    Happy Derby Day to you too!

  4. Awesome question!!!! Thanks for asking it and thanks to Sean for letting us know.