Monday, July 30, 2018

An Interview with Myself to Celebrate Wonderland

Author Cynthia Surrisi has hijacked my blog today and is forcing me to answer hard questions. Because she has promised me many fish tacos, penny candy, and trinkets, I am going along with this crazy scheme.

Cynthia, take it away.

Cynthia: Ah, such POWER!!! I am delighted to be commandeering Barbara’s blog for the issue leading up to the publication of her newest middle grade novel, Wonderland

For those of you who are her fans and followers, I promise you will adore this new book. I wondered whether this adorable author could pull off yet another super winner, and sure enough, she has. See, this is why I am doing this. Barbara is useless at tooting her own horn. 

So, let's get started.

On sale 8/28/18

Cynthia: Here's an easy one: What five words best describe Wonderland?

Barbara: Friendship, confidence, dog-love, funny, heartfelt

Cynthia: What is one question you’ve never been asked at a school visit that you would like to be asked, and what is the answer to that question?

Barbara: What do you want young readers to learn from your books?

The answer: I write books to entertain young readers, not to teach them. But, I'd like to think that readers either come away with a better understanding of a character or situation they weren't familiar with - or - relate to a character or situation and find some degree of comfort or hope. 

Cynthia: Which of your books do you most like to read aloud? What part and why?

Barbara: The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, especially the scenes with Starletta and Elvis. Starletta is so strange and funny and who wouldn't want to hear about Elvis's Spit and Swear Club? 

Cynthia: What is your writing process? Do you write every day?

Barbara: Call me weird, but every story starts with a title. From there, I spend a lot of time thinking about and getting to know my characters. When I have a hazy idea about the story, I just jump on in. I wish I could outline. I'd love that. But I rarely know where the story is going until the act of writing, which can feel like torture sometimes. I write by hand. I love the freedom of that. I revise constantly as I go along, never leaving anything too messy behind me.

I don't write every day unless I'm on a deadline. Some days I'd rather be walking my dogs. But that gives me good thinking time, which is an important part of any writer's process. 

Cynthia: What were the best and worst moments of your publishing journey so far?

Barbara: The best moments have been the times I've won a state book award voted on by children. That's the best validation there is for a children's writer. 

Another moment was when I found myself on a panel at a conference with Sharon Creech. I had adored her books for many years and felt so honored to actually be on that panel with her. A "pinch me" moment.

As for the worst moments, I'll fill you in over a glass of wine some time.

Sharon Creech (left) and me

Cynthia: Tell us about a book you wrote a long, long time ago that was so bad that it didn't get published.

Barbara: I wrote a book called Surf's Up, Nicky Weaver. It was my first attempt at writing for children - long before I discovered my voice. So, of course, it had no voice. It was bland and blah. The only good thing any editor had to say about it came from editor Richard Jackson, who liked that the dog in the story was named Jackson.

Cynthia: Show us a picture of your dogs and tell us what each one would say about the other: something positive and something gripe-y.

Barbara: Here are Ruby and Rocket.

Ruby (left) and Rocket

Ruby would say that Rocket annoys her by wanting to play all the time but also that she loves playing with Rocket (just not all the time).

Rocket would say that Ruby gets more attention than he does and won't play with her all the time.

Cynthia: I heard that an artist made a sculpture of one of the characters in one of your books. Can you tell us about it and show us a picture?

Barbara: A fabulous artist named Karen Hawkins made this amazing sculpture of Bird from Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia. I love it.

Cynthia: What's your favorite herb and how do you use it?

Barbara: Ha! I have no sense of smell so not a very sharp sense of taste. Herbs are just useless little specks of green to me.


Cynthia: Well, there you have it, friends. We’ve gotten the inside scoop from Barbara O’Connor. 

I hope it encourages you to get a copy of Wonderland from your favorite bookstore. I guarantee you’ll love it. 


Cynthia Surrisi is the author of a fabulous series of middle grade mysteries set in Maine: The Quinnie Boyd Mysteries (The Maypop Kidnapping, Vampires on the Run, and A Side of Sabotage) - as well as the hilarious picture book, The Best Mother, illustrated by Diane Goode.  You can learn more about her at her website.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Constance Lombardo is in the House!

It's a Book Birthday!!

 Today I'm celebrating the publication of

 Mr. Puffball: Escape from Castaway Island
Constance Lombardo

Being on Celebrity Birthday Cake Wars as El Gato was okay, but now Mr. Puffball is going on reality TV as himself! 

He’ll finally earn the fame and fortune he’s dreamed of since kittenhood. But what happens when the fame wears off and the fortune is spent? What happens to a Hollywood stunt cat has-been? (Hint: tropical island adventure!!)

In this third book in the series, Mr. Puffball and the gang find out just how real reality TV can be. Read all about in Mr. Puffball, Escape from Castaway Island, in stores today! 

Constance is here to answer some questions about her hilarious new book.

Why did you send Mr. Puffball into the world of reality TV?
 My kid and I watch our fair share of reality TV. It’s almost like a ‘get famous quick’ scheme for people (or cats!) Also, reality TV brings out the best and worst in people (and cats!) It was fun to drop Mr. Puffball and the whole gang onto Celebrity Castaway Island (think Survivor – with cats!) and see what happens. 

What was the hardest part about writing this book?
 Mr. Puffball is such a good cat, and a loyal friend, it’s been hard to watch his dream of being a star turn into an obsession that overshadowed all his good qualities. But that’s exactly the kind of thing that happens on Cutthroat Kitchen. I figure if it’s good enough for Alton Brown (whom I love,) then it’s good enough for Mr. Puffball. 

A scene from Celebrity Birthday Cake Wars

 What was the best part?
 So many opportunities to be silly! Baking shows, Feline Ninja Warrior, tropical island weather maps, bug eating, quicksand, etc. Not only do I get to write about all this fun stuff, I draw it. I discovered I like drawing old lizards and monkeys of all ages.

 Any reality TV show fun facts from your own life?
 I’m glad you asked me that. My sister-in-law was on Wife Swap. She’s a belly dancer in New York City, and she traded places with a pig farmer from Wisconsin. With her larger-than-life personality, her episode was amazingly fun and inspiring! 

What kind of reality TV shows would your cat G. G. like to see more of? 
 Well, he’s very into chasing rabbits, so maybe Cats v. Bunnies? And he likes to keep it real, so Real Housecats of Asheville would be very popular at my house. Also, with his competitive nature, I think Cutthroat Kitten would be a hit. 

What’s next for Constance Lombardo?
I’m hard at work on my first picture book (yay!!) Surprisingly, it’s not about cats. It’s about kittens.


Constance Lombardo began drawing when she was 10 years old,
inspired in part by the Illustrators Annuals her dad brought home from the ad agency where he worked, and in part by the fact that
her sister did a drawing and got lots of attention. 

She is the proud author/illustrator of the middle grade Mr. Puffball series (HarperCollins): Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America, and Mr. Puffball: Escape from Castaway Island.

Currently, she’s working on her first picture book, Everybody Says Meow (HarperCollins, 2019.) She is represented by Lori Nowicki of Painted Words. Plus she likes cats. 

Thank you for stopping by, Constance.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Side of Sabotage

Guess what today is?

A book birthday!!

The third Quinnie Boyd Mystery:



hits shelves today!!!

And now, for your viewing pleasure,
the world premiere of the trailer 

About the book:

For decades, Gusty's Café has been a beloved staple in Maiden Rock, Maine. Quinnie Boyd's dad runs the café, just like Quinnie's granddad before him. But the family business has new competition when a bad-boy chef from Boston opens his own place in the small vacation town.

The new restaurant takes fancy dining to the extreme. Still, that's not a crime . . . but when things start to go wrong at Gusty's, Quinnie suspects foul play. Are the people behind Restaurant Hubert trying to squash the Boyds' family café? Quinnie is about to find out if it is a coincidence—or sabotage.


Friday, January 12, 2018


My new book, WONDERLAND

Coming Fall 2018

MAVIS JEETER is fearless and bold, but she has never lived in one place long enough to have a real best friend. Her flighty mother has uprooted them again to another new home and taken a job as a housekeeper for the Tully family. Mavis wants this home to be permanent—which means finding herself a best friend.
ROSE TULLY is a worrier who feels like she doesn’t quite fit in with the other girls in her neighborhood. Her closest friend is Mr. Duffy, but he hasn’t been himself since his dog died. Rose may have to break a few of her mother’s many rules to help Mr. Duffy—and find someone who really understands her.
HENRY has run away from home, but he craves kindness and comfort—and doesn’t know where to look for them.
When Mavis and Rose hatch a scheme to find Mr. Duffy a new dog, their lives and Henry’s intersect—and they all come to find friendship in places they never expected.