Finley: A Moose on the Caboose
Story by Candace Spizzirri
Art by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne
Gnome Road Publishing (April, 2023)
Thanks for joining us today for this special author interview. With that, we’ll jump right in.
I’m pleased to introduce Candace Spizzirri, author of Finley: A Moose on the Caboose, which just celebrated its book birthday in April. I first met Candace (author) through my critique partner, Beverly Love Warren (illustrator), when they had a had a book come out, Fishing with Grandpa and Skye (Spork, 2022).
Welcome, Candace! Let’s get to it and learn more about your newest book, Finley: A Moose on the Caboose. Congratulations!
Thanks so much, Angie, for having me on your blog again! I’m delighted to be here.
It’s always fun when an author makes a return visit to my blog!
Tell us how you came up with your idea for Finley.
The idea for FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE came to me while visiting the gorgeous town of Talkeetna, Alaska. The scenery was spectacular in every direction! During my stay, an enormous moose appeared in the town center, wandered about a bit, then disappeared into the woods next to the railroad tracks. I was delighted to see this big-eyed moose up close (but not too close as they are extremely dangerous) as I’d never seen one before. Later that day, I came across a little shop called Once in a Blue Moose and it sparked an idea for a picture book about a friendly moose who longs to ride the rails.
This is the perfect “where did your story come from” story! I love adventures!
How long did it take you from idea to publication? What happened during the process?
I came up with the idea for FINLEY in June of 2019 and wrote my first draft shortly thereafter. After I write a new story, I like to put it away for a while as was the case with FINLEY. Then, I did a bit of revising and sent it off to my critique partners. (I am a member of several groups and don’t know what I would do without them!) After each person had weighed in, I carefully considered their comments/suggestions while staying true to the vision for my story. FINLEY did require a lot of tightening and cutting of darlings.
After FINLEY was “ready”, I participated in the Twitter Pitch Party in March 2021 and got a like from Sandra Sutter at Gnome Road Publishing. Most of the heavy lifting/editing was done during the “revise and resubmit” process with Sandra and I signed my contract in April 2021. After FINLEY was acquired, Sandra and I tightened the text a bit more and worked on line edits until we both were happy with the story. Then, Chantelle and Burgen worked their magic with the illustrations!
So, from idea to publication was just under three years.
Wow, amazing! It’s so interesting to read about the process from idea to book.
I see that Chantelle and Burgen Thorne illustrated your picture book. The illustrations are fabulous! Did you have any input for the illustrations?
I agree! I couldn’t be more thrilled with Chantelle and Burgen’s illustrations for FINLEY! I saw character sketches and thumbnails of the spreads along the way. I loved it at every step of the way. I must admit that when I saw the final art, I cried tears of joy. It was everything I had hoped for and so much more.
Sandra Sutter, at Gnome Road Publishing, already had Chantelle and Burgen in mind when she acquired FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE. And my input was YAY! How lucky am I?!!
All I can say is wow!
Did anything unexpected happen during your writing of Finley?
While I was still working on some final edits for FINLEY (revising, revising, always revising) I decided to participate in the Twitter Pitch Party I mentioned above.
At that time, Sandra Sutter and the acquisitions team for Gnome Road were considering another one of my stories for publication. After Sandra liked the pitch for FINLEY. I sent in my manuscript, it joined my other story in acquisitions, and came back with a revise and resubmit. The team felt that the ending wasn’t strong enough. Oh no! But I was thankful for the R&R and worked at it until I was happy with the new ending.
I resubmitted, waited, and wondered about both stories. I was thrilled when Sandra contacted me saying the acquisitions team had fallen in love with Finley Moose. She added, “Finley has stolen our hearts, and he won’t let go.” What an unexpected delight!
That’s the best kind of feedback!
How did you celebrate the April release of Finley: A Moose on the Caboose?
I celebrated FINLEY’S book birthday on April 18th with a festive family dinner. I also had a book launch on April 22nd at my local Barnes & Noble with a story time, kids’ craft, (handprint moose with wobbly eyes) and special homemade FINLEY cookies. (Thanks to my bff, Susan, and daughters, Lauren, and Katharine!) Yum! It turned into a party!
So much fun!
What advice would you give to new picture book writers and illustrators?
Never give up!
Take classes, attend conferences, find critique partners, join writing groups, and connect with the kidlit community. What an amazing, supportive group they are!
Try to relax and enjoy the process. Publishing is a slow go. There will be ups and downs along the way. Patience and persistence are the names of the game. I have trouble with the patience part. Persistence comes much more naturally.
You’ve got this!
All true. Thank you for the advice AND encouragement!
What surprises are you working on now?
I always have lots of stories I’m revising and new ideas rumbling around my brain. Right now, I’m excited about several manuscripts I’ve worked on for the past couple of years. I also have something in the works that I can’t talk about just yet but will share as soon as I’m able.
Congratulations on the “something in the works!”
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you check out Candace’s books! Enjoy!