Local writer Bridget Heos is the author of Mustache Baby, Mustache Baby Meets His Match, I, Fly, and more than 70 other children's books. Check out our review of the Mustache Baby books, then keep reading to learn all about Bridget and her experience as an author through her responses to our interview questions.
Your writing seems to cover a broad range of topics and styles. How has that come about?
Well, so much of what I write is “work for hire,” meaning the editor gives me a topic, and I write about it. Usually the editor also indicates the style (funny or serious, etc.) Now, I’m starting to write more books that were my own idea, such as Mustache Baby and I, Fly. I think writing for hire gave me the confidence I needed to write picture books and, in nonfiction, explore new topics.
Do you have a favorite—or at least preferred—subject area or style (fiction vs. nonfiction, etc.)? How difficult is it for you to write outside of that preference?
Nonfiction is easier for me. With nonfiction, I at least feel like the project is doable, though it may take a long time. Fiction sometimes doesn’t come together at all. I would compare nonfiction to chipping away at a mountain and fiction to making a mountain. Although it’s possible that they’re just molehills and I’m being dramatic!
Tell us about your path to becoming a writer: When did you decide to pursue that career, what steps did you take to get there, what detours and obstacles did you face?
It was my lifelong dream to be writer, but I had no idea how to become one. I thought that since I didn’t have an idea for a novel, it wouldn’t pan out. It didn’t cross my mind that there were all sorts of writers, not just novelists! I gave up the dream for a while.
I worked as a social worker and substitute teacher. I had two kids. Then one night, I found some old notebooks I’d filled up and remembered what a big part of my life writing had been. And I thought, “I have to do this.”
It made me get real about writing. I had kids, so I had to make a living at this. The idea of being an artist went out the window, and I thought instead about who would pay me to write for them. I started writing for newspapers and magazines.
In the meantime, my oldest son loved nonfiction—we would go to the library and check out 12 books just on turtles. I learned that this was another avenue for freelance writers. I joined a local children’s writing group and started writing children’s books for hire.
I had found my dream job as a children’s writer.
When did you begin to feel like you’d “become” a writer, and the like?
I’ve always felt like a writer. I haven’t always felt like a good one!
What do you like most about being a writer?
Probably jotting down the ideas (The easy part!)
What do you like least about being a writer?
When I can’t think what to write next, or how to fix what I wrote, I get distracted. I think, “Hmm…maybe the answer is on Facebook.” No, bad writer!
For our aspiring authors, can you speak to the editing and publishing experience in regards to picture books: What level of involvement do you have with the illustrator, if any? Do you have any say in who is selected, do you get to communicate, etc?
The editor chooses the illustrator, and is basically the boss of both of you—in a good way! The editor is like a teacher trying to bring out the best in you. The author and illustrator don’t talk while making the book, strange as it may seem. The editor is the go-between if the artist wants to comment on the story, or the author, on the illustrations.
Similarly, what has been your experience working with editors? Is the process different for picture books than text only, for fiction than nonfiction, for children’s books than adult? Have you had disagreements (and how have you resolved them)?
The editor gives you suggestions for each draft. The editor is usually right, though I don’t always like to admit it. After saying to myself, “Well! That would never work,” I end up making most of the changes. If I don’t make the change, I explain why. You can also find the “third way,” which is to change the passage, but not in the way suggested. I love working with editors. They are kindred spirits to writers, and a lot of them are writers themselves.
What role have libraries played in your life (as both reader and a writer)?
My mom always brought my brothers and me to the library to check out stacks of books. I loved choosing my own books—I liked the picture books best. I was a slow reader, and picture books didn’t rush you! My dad once told me that my grandpa read through their whole neighborhood library. I was so amazed. However, now that I’m a writer, I am working my way through some of the nonfiction sections!
As a writer, I’m inspired by how librarians promote reading and books for children. I think you look at a book differently when somebody else says, “I love this book and want to share it with you.” Those books had my attention from the start.
What's your all-time favorite picture book?
I’ll go with a funny book. My kids and I have never laughed harder than during The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.
If you could bring one character to life from a favorite book, who would it be? Why?
The fairy godmother from Cinderella would be nice. Because: wishes!
What's your least favorite word?
“Unfortunately.” It’s in almost every rejection letter!
If you joined the circus, what act would you most want to perform?
Which albums, films, and books are you ashamed to admit you love?
My taste in music is pretty dorky. I like ABBA A LOT. I love musicals. And I’ll never turn the dial on “Party in the U.S.A.”
If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?
Monk—I would want to be Sharona!