Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Author Spotlight: Megan Padalecki

Today, I’m thrilled to have Megan Padalecki on my blog.

Megan loves lines - in her job as an architect, she drew a lot of them.

Raised in San Antonio, TX, she honed her writing skills under the watchful eye of her English teacher mother. In school, she was an "art kid" and editor of the literary magazine. She received her degree in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin, then headed west.

Megan once led a mob of fifth graders to sculpt a 20', Sendak-inspired "wild thing" out of sand on a California beach. She is a passionate wanderer and avid sketcher of the natural and built world. She has lived in Copenhagen and has traveled to six of the seven continents. She dreams of seeing Antarctica before it's swallowed by a giant iguana.

Extending beyond her practice in architecture, she applies the same design process to creating children's stories. Her first children's book, Big Mo, was self-published with the approval of her young nieces and nephews.

Megan lives in San Francisco, where she regularly sleeps through earthquakes.

JET: Can you tell us about Big Mo?
Big Mo is my first children’s picture book, which I wrote, illustrated and published after departing from a career in architecture. The plot follows a pet iguana who grows enormous through his consumption run amok, and who learns the importance of environmental responsibility. His name is short for ‘momentum’, which he represents at a global scale.

JET: What drew you to children’s books?
Children’s books can distill incredibly complicated concepts into a story that can be digested in a 5-10 minute sitting. There’s something remarkable about that, or the fact that some of our earliest memories and impressions actually come from books we read as children. There’s a fun challenge to writing a book that must appeal to young and old alike, and I’m a visual person, so picture books in particular have always appealed to me.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?
Because I chose to self-publish, there have been many unique challenges. Logistically, I had to form a business entity (with all the associated legal obligations), work out financial, warehousing and distribution plans, and seek out the proper folks to critique my progress objectively. I also went through a lengthy process of finding a printing house to print high-quality copies domestically, and I fully formatted the “look and feel” of the book.

Despite all this, my greatest challenge was revising the text to a point that satisfied me, while also reaching a certain mass appeal. I’ll admit that my original drafts of the story had a much heavier ending, until enough people advised against loose ends in children’s lit.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?
The first time that a young reader sent their doodled interpretation of Mo was magical! It was a big moment for me, because I had been killing myself to complete the story on a self-imposed deadline, and even thought it could have gone through much more revision (of course, that is ALWAYS the case). When I received the first fan mail, I thought, “maybe it’s actually okay after all – I mean, this kid loves it!” That was true reward.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?
I was an obsessive Dr. Seuss reader, and even based the meter in Big Mo’s rhyme scheme off of a classic Seuss tale. Few, if any, of his books can be taken at face value and he was a true pioneer of the picture book genre. His book, The Lorax, taught me about the perils of capitalism before I knew what the word even meant.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?
My mother was an English teacher, so reading and writing were always important in my household. I even edited my high school literary magazine (technically, an annual book) for a couple years. After I completed my undergrad education, and had worked for several years as an architect, I started to notice that “going to the bookstore” meant “sneaking into the children’s section at the bookstore to browse and admire”. I thought of creating picture books as a dream job. After several more years of architecture, my life perspective really changed and I knew that I had to go for it.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?
Much of my research for Big Mo came from nonfiction books and environmental documentaries. I read two incredibly dense books cover-to-cover over a two week jury duty stint, Paul Ehrlich’s One With Nineveh and Gary Cross’s An All-Consuming Century. I promise I was being an attentive juror, but I was also engaged in some intense storyboarding at the time, inspired by concepts from these two books. Verdict: guilty.

JET: Any advice for the novice writers out there?
I learned the phrase, “throw away your darlings”, in architecture school, and it certainly applies to writing. We often favor certain concepts (or lines of text, or character traits, etc) so much that we force them to fit into the overall story arc. Sometimes, an early idea just doesn’t work, and needs to be thrown out or flagged for another story.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten...starting with Paper or Digital?
For children’s books especially – paper! Though, I admit I use a Kindle for travel.

JET: Steak or Tofu?
Steak, on rare occasions. Pun intended.

JET: Beach or Mountains?
My pale skin tells me ‘mountains’.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?
Raised on Rock and Grunge.

JET: Spring or Fall?
Spring, minus the rain.

JET: Cat or Dog?
If my landlord would allow, I’d have the biggest, slobbering dog possible! I tend to love cats only if I am their chosen human.

JET: Salty or Sweet?
Sweet, topped with sea salt.

JET: Comic Books or Anime?
Calvin and Hobbes! Or Option C: graphic novels like Asterios Polyp.

JET: Chocolate bar or Ice Cream?
A Frankenstein combo of both seems doable.

JET: Coffee or Tea?
I somehow managed architectural training sans coffee, so I choose decaf tea.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?
I am sharing and promoting Big Mo at schools in my native Texas this month, as well as presenting my process at a design event in San Francisco. Because I self-published, the burden of promotion is squarely on my shoulders, but I’m happy to participate! Beyond that, I have a second “Mo” story brewing, though it is still in embryo form. I think he’ll become a great advocate for environmental awareness in future iterations!

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Megan Padalecki and her work at the following places:

Until next time,


1 comment:

Debbie Herbert said...

So interesting! The book sounds fun.