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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions (x 2) with Laura Brown & Elly Kramer

Trillium Sisters is co-written by educational television veterans, Laura Brown and Elly Kramer. They have also crafted original stories for Osmo’s Reading Adventure and Nick Jr.’s Corn and Peg. Laura, an educational psychologist, has served as Content Expert or Curriculum Director on children’s television series for Netflix, Mattel, Nick Jr., Disney Junior, DreamWorks Animation Television, Warner Brothers Discovery, Spin Master Entertainment and many others worldwide. Elly is a senior creative executive with more than 20 years of experience leading the development of innovative content. She was most recently Head of Animation for Imagine Entertainment’s Kids and Family division.

Instagram: @laurabrownauthor, @ellykramerauthor

X: @laurabrownbooks 


1. Did you have a favorite teacher when you were a child? What made them so special?

Laura: I was lucky to have wonderful teachers throughout school, but my choir director, Mr. Trautwein, holds a special place in my heart. He was passionate about the arts, supported every student, and expected excellence in a way that made everyone better. When I hit a roadblock, I still hear him encouraging us to keep moving forward: “We go on!”

 

2. Who was your favorite author as a child and why?

Elly: I don’t know that I had just one favorite author as a child. I do remember my love of reading beginning around the time I started consuming chapter book series like Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown and The Baby-sitters Club. I would go to the library every Friday afternoon and the librarian, Mr. Daniels, would have the newest books in the series waiting for me on his desk. I loved knowing I would be the first person to read the book. It was heaven. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I wrote Ann M. Martin, the author of The Baby-sitters Club, a letter and she wrote me back. She definitely holds a special place in my heart!

3. What kind of student were you and what were your favorite subjects?

Elly: Speaking of Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, I have distinct memories of sneaking those books in my desk and reading them during class. If I wasn’t interested in what was being taught, I tuned it out and read instead! That being said, I’ve always loved getting lost in stories and other worlds, so English and History were my favorite subjects.  


4. Do you ever get stuck creatively? How do you get unstuck?

Elly: All the time. It’s why I love collaborating. I am so much better when I have someone to bounce around ideas. As Laura said, we get each other unstuck and it’s a gift.  I’m lucky in that I have some mentors and colleagues I share things with (Laura very much being one of these people!) and their feedback always unlocks something and makes it better. When I’m really stuck, I give myself some time off from thinking so hard and trust that the answer or inspiration will come when I least expect it.


5. What are some of the best and hardest parts of creating books for kids?

Laura: There’s nothing more exciting than seeing that my stories help or inspire a reader. That’s one of the reasons why Elly and I love school visits so much. Trillium Sisters is set in a lush, natural world. It was a treat to explore and build that world for the reader. I get very attached to my characters, so editing a character that isn’t working is hard. It feels a little bit like silencing a friend.


6. Do you ever feel lonely being a writer ? How do you deal with that?

Laura: Definitely. I think that’s why co-writing was so appealing to Elly and me. Our process is equal parts ideating and writing alone and brainstorming and editing together. We like to say we get each other unstuck and it’s true! I’m beyond grateful to have Elly as a partner. I’m also lucky to be part of a wonderful critique group and great organizations like 12x12 Picture Book Challenge and SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). These communities keep me going and provide a lot of support.


7. Where did you get the idea for this book? What was your inspiration?

Elly: I had always wanted to tell a story with a family at the center. Everyone can relate to having a family and it felt as though there were unlimited stories to tell.  Laura had just come back from a ski trip around that time and felt incredibly inspired by the setting. I remember her telling me how she spent a lot of time looking up at the trees and all the nature surrounding her and wondering what it would be like to live on the mountain in a treehouse. We also both liked the idea of incorporating environmental respect and activism into the series.

 

8. Was this always the title for this project? If not, what other titles did you consider and how did you land on this one?

Elly: The backstory around the series title always comes up at school visits. We ask students to guess whether Trillium Sisters was the original title (spoiler alert, it was not!) and then run through a series of titles as kids guess which were real previous titles.  The students love it. Laura and I always knew we wanted the title to capture that this was a book about sisters and nature, but some ideas, like The Strong Sisters, felt a little too on the nose. We also considered The Clovers, but that was nixed since the most famous clover has four leaves, but there are only three sisters. Laura is great at doing research and discovered a three petaled flower and voila, we had the name, Trillium Sisters.

 

9. How was the editorial process? Did you have revisions? Did you collaborate with illustrator?

Elly: Laura and I both come from the world of TV so while we knew what went into a great story, there was a learning curve when it came to writing books instead of TV scripts. I loved getting revision notes, because it taught me so much. Our editors, Bethany Buck along with Alison Weiss, were incredibly helpful. Every note they gave made the book better. As for the illustrator, we gave notes on the illustrations and were excited by how collaborative the process was (Sarah Mensinga did interior illustrations while Erwin Madrid did the covers . They were both fabulous, capturing the world and sisters as we imagined them).

 

10. What’s a particularly striking or memorable reaction someone has had to this book?

Laura: Readers have sent us pictures of themselves dressed up as the sisters. We LOVE seeing how children express the character’s personalities through their clothing choices. Readers have also told us the books inspired them to take better care of the planet. That’s music to our ears. We wanted nature to feel like a fourth main character in the books and for children to leave the series inspired to protect nature.

 

11. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?

Laura: We hope Trillium Sisters helps children fall in love with nature and see how everything on the planet is interconnected. Our actions ripple beyond ourselves. Of course, it’s no mistake that the books are about sisters. We want girls to see themselves as heroes of their own stories. But we intentionally included strong male characters too, because strength is infinite and we all rise together.  Finally, we purposefully crafted high octane adventures so kids would leave a book itching to keep reading, regardless of what specific story they chose to read next. 

 

12. If you could tell readers one secret about this book, what would it be?

Laura: Everyone wants to know who the Trillium sister’s mother is….Elly and I know but we haven’t revealed it yet.  We hope one day to write more of the series so we can share this secret with our readers and explain the sister’s incredible background!

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