Charlie and Mouse
The story behind the story
by Laurel Snyder
illustrated by Emily Hughes
I’m almost afraid to share the story of how Charlie and Mouse were born, because honestly, it’s been a fantasy experience. Nothing else I’ve written has been so easy, or broken the “rules” in so many ways.
Rule 1: You think your kids (or grandkids, or nephews/nieces, etc.) are amazing and adorable, but that doesn’t mean they’ll make a good story, or that other people will care about them.The way it happened was this— like many folks, I often posted about my kids to Facebook, when they would do funny or goofy things. And people would comment on those posts often, saying, “You should write a book about this stuff.” Of course, I knew better than to try that (see rule 1), for a long time.
Rule 2: Dreams rarely inspire good books. They don’t make as much sense to other people as they do to you.
Rule 3: You can’t expect a book to just slide out finished. Books take time and effort. Be patient with them. Do NOT send your editor something new, until you’ve had time to sit with it.
Rule 4: Your book won’t look on the page like it does in your head. You rarely get to pick your illustrator, and even if you do, she can’t channel the pictures in your mind.
Rule 5: Don’t expect to pitch a series. Write a good standalone, and see what happens.
And one night shortly after that, I woke up at 3:00 AM, after a dream about my kids, and I JUST KNEW I needed to scribble it down. I got up, went to the couch, and wrote a handful of “Mose and Lew” stories, all in a rush. Which I sent immediately, sleepless at dawn, to my then-new editor at Chronicle (hi, Melissa!)
To my shock, she bought them! And then, when she asked me who I wanted to illustrate, and I said Emily Hughes, that worked out too! So much so that people who know me ask all the time how Emily did such a good job of capturing my actual family.
All the other characters in the book kept their real names. All the kids who live on Woodland are real people—Lilly and Helen and Sam and Max and Jack and Tess and Lottie and Marley and Spenser and Nora Ann and Baby Sylvia. And our grownup neighbors too—Miss Margaret and Mr. Eric and Mr. Michael.
So there you have it—a “path to publication” story to make everyone gnash their teeth! I wrote about my own adorable quirky kids, inspired by a dream, and sent the manuscript, unrevised, to my editor, and now it’s a series, complete with my favorite illustrator! Totally unfair.
If it’s any consolation, I wrote hundreds of rejected manuscripts before this one, and I’ve written a good twenty or thirty failed manuscripts since this one. But I guess every now and then, the universe grants a wish, a dream come true, and Charlie and Mouse has been mine.
Which just goes to show. There really are no rules to publishing. Or rather, sometimes there are rules waiting to be broken…
Charlie & Mouse, Chronicle Books, on Goodreads, ISBN#1452131538