Lynne Marie is an award-winning, multi-published picture book author of Moldilocks and the Three Scares, The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project, The Palace Rat, The Star in the Christmas Play and more, forthcoming. She’s the Owner/Director of Rate Your Story (a rating and feedback service) and the Picture Book Mechanic (a critique and mentoring service), a Co-Host at #SeasonsOfKidlit, a Cybils Judge since 2016 (NonFiction for 2023), and is currently an Agent Mentee at The Seymour Agency. Visit her website to learn more or connect with her on social media:
1. Do you ever struggle to come up with your next project? Or do you have lots of ideas and find it a challenge to narrow down your ideas?
For me, it’s more of a focus problem - I have so many ideas, it’s hard to know which one to cultivate first! However, over the years, I have learned to put my ideas on trial to see which one can take the heat and prevail so to speak. One of the first ways I do that is to list how many marketable hooks it has. It should have three strong ones and up to 7 more hooks as well (optimally). One of my most popular workshops is “Putting Your Ideas On Trial.”
So basically, I will review my list, narrow it down to five or ten and put them on trial. Then, I’ll brainstorm the plot points before writing it.
2. How do you know your idea will make a good book?
I’m a writer who doesn’t write about an idea until it’s all figured out. So in addition to putting my idea on trial as above (I shared one aspect of that), I also research similar titles. For example, for my picture book THE PALACE RAT, I researched books set in France, books about French History, books about rats, books about moving and variations of the tales City Mouse / Country Mouse and The Prince and the Pauper (all picture book versions). It was important to determine that there was no similar idea out there, and if there was, that mine portrayed a new and different spin AND that quality wise (writing and storytelling), it stood up and out against the rest.
3. What are some of the key ingredients that make a great book for kids?
I think first and foremost, the story should be accessible to the child with a child-like point of view. It should have a likable, but flawed, main character who the child can connect/identify with, an important problem that they can relate to. The main character should have agency over the story problem and should have failures in his attempt to achieve his story goal or solve his story problem and a satisfying resolution. There should be some sort of subtle lesson / takeaway value for the child reader. Hopefully they will be different in some way having read the story, or, have had a lot of fun and laughed – because woven into all that there should be some humor.
4. Regarding your newest book, was this always its title?
YES! The title was always The Palace Rat, even when I first typed it out in 1997! I like the title because the title is a promise and it delivers. What you see is what you get – a pampered rat who is immersed in royalty and riches and is a bit unaware of what is around him. He’s egocentric, like many kids are. Of course, it is a version of City Mouse / Country Mouse, but because my Rat was a combination of the two characters, I did not want to give the ending away in the title. Thankfully, my publisher, Yeehoo Press, kept it as is. I believe it works well.
5. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
Oooh! I love this question! The Palace Rat offers the subtle message that, no matter where life takes you, bloom where you are planted. Through showing, I wanted to show that acclimating isn’t always easy, but once you open yourself to embracing your new life, you may find that you like it even better than your old one.
It’s a bit of an over-the-top way to show the message with a palace and the country and a rat, rather than an old house, new house and kid, but I did want to present a fun way of receiving the message, rather than hitting the reader over the head with it.
6. Where do you get inspiration for your characters? Are you influenced by people you know?
In high school I was a thespian and therefore heavily into the performing arts. I created most roles I played using facets of people I knew that would fit the character. I would like to think I take those facets and create something new out of them. So, I can’t say I’m not influenced, but I do make sure to draw upon the facts and not to follow life and sacrifice the story. Like someone once said, “Just because it happened in real life, doesn’t mean it should make it into your story!” I find this really funny, but true.
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