We loooove books. In fact, we love books so much, we recently created our own Goldie Blox chapter book series with Random House! Two books and several STEMy adventures later, we caught up with author Stacy McAnulty over e-mail. Find out what inspired the latest book, Goldie Blox and the Best! Pet! Ever!, what advice she has for young creatives-in-the-making and why her pets rule the roost!
Can you share a little bit about yourself?
I’m a mechanical engineer turned children’s book author. I’m also a mom of three kids and three dogs, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Green Bay Packers fan, a North Carolinian but originally from New York, an amateur photographer, a two-fingered typist, a concerned citizen, a travel nut, a coffee enthusiast, an avid reader, a fan of algebra, a reluctant exerciser, a baker of triple-chocolate cupcakes, an eater of triple chocolate-cupcakes, and a person who loves to be creative.
That’s cool you were a mechanical engineer! What led you to become a writer?
I actually didn’t read much as a kid, so when my children were born the whole world of children’s literature was new to me. And I fell hard. Reading became a big part of our lives. I started thinking, “I can do this. I can write for kids.” And yes, previously, I worked as a mechanical engineer. People often think writing and engineering are totally different–opposites even. But what draws me to both is the creativity.
What are some of your favorite authors/books? Why?
I loved Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, Wonder by RJ Palacio, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. All have great stories, but my heart belongs to the characters.
What first drew you to the create the Goldie Blox chapter book series?
As I mentioned, I’m drawn to amazing characters, and Goldie certainly fits that profile. She’s creative, confident, and not afraid to mess up. But she’s more than a great engineer; she’s a great friend. Goldie always puts family and friends first.
What inspired you to write them?
I don’t feel there’s another character like Goldie Blox out there. She gets messy. She makes mistakes. She competes in burping contests. She doesn’t live by other people’s rules. That is fun to write!
Tell us a little about the latest book. What inspired Goldie Blox and the Best! Pet! Ever!?
In Goldie Blox and the Best! Pet! Ever!, Goldie’s dog, Nacho wants to prove his worth. She enters him a pet talent show, and he’s determined to make her proud. But he doesn’t need to. Goldie loves him, period. This theme of self-worth and belonging has come up in my other non-Goldie titles as well. All kids ask themselves Am I good enough? And adults do it too, especially now that we can compare ourselves to others on social media. Sometimes, we need the reminder that we are enough just as we are. (Also, I just love dogs. Goldie and I are dog people.)
What was your favorite part(s) of the book to write?
My favorite parts to write are when all the Gearheads–Goldie, Li, Val, and Ruby–are together and trying to come up with solutions to problems. Each of these kids has a strength and a fun personality. They argue and joke, but they also lift each other up. When these four are together, I hear their conversations in my head and try to type it as fast as I can so I don’t miss any of their banter.
Do your kids like the Goldie Blox chapter book series? What character do they like best?
My girls are teenagers, and they read all the books before my editor even sees them. Teenagers are the most critically honest people. My middle daughter wants to design video games and costumes for Broadway when she grows up. So she connects with Ruby. My oldest daughter likes Val and all the wisecracks.
My son, who is nine, refuses to read them until the art is attached. Basically, he waits until we get ‘the real book’. He loves the humor and the hijinx in the books. He’ll burst out laughing while reading them and I’ll run over and say, “What part? What part?” A kid’s laugh is the best sound. My son was also inspired by the second book, and he wants to make his own Big Book of Dares.
You mentioned you have three pets. Tell us a little about them!
I have three dogs. Pepper is a German Shepherd, Jack is a big mutt, and Munchkin is the puppy. Pepper and Jack (the cheesy naming was not intentional) have been with us for years. But in January, I decided I needed a little dog. Something that would curl up on my lap as I write. Munchkin was four-pounds when we got her. Perfect! I thought. But she’s not much of a cuddler. She’d rather chase the big dogs, chew up everything, and terrorize flies on the windowsill. Now she’s twenty-two pounds, still a ball of puppy energy, and she doesn’t fit on my lap. But I love her. I only need about three seconds to fall in love with a dog.
Tell us something about you that most people would be surprised to know!
My favorite way to unwind is playing Plants vs Zombies 2 on my iPad. There’s a new level every day, and I try not to miss it. The Repeater is my favorite plant. (I don’t have a favorite zombie because they are the enemy. They must be destroyed!)
What do you like to do when not writing?
I’m trying my hand at photography. I bought a fancy camera years ago, and I’m finally learning how to use it. It’s another way to create!
What advice do you have for young girls looking to become writers?
To be a writer, you need to put words on paper. The stories, the ideas, and the characters are always going to sound better in your head. Getting them out is the hard part. And try to write and read every day. Creating is a skill that gets stronger with use.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
Every day I get to do what I love, and that’s writing stories for kids. Find what you love (and you don’t even have to be good at) and go for it!