Waffles With Writers: Robin Newman (And A Giveaway!)

Waffle-icious!

Waffle-icious!

Welcome to the fifth installment of my bloggy interview show, Waffles with Writers, where I chat with a working writer over a nice, waffle-centric meal.

Today’s guest is the lovely and talented Robin Newman. Her first book, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake (featuring intrepid mouse detectives Wilcox and Griswold) hit shelves last year to rave reviews and brisk sales. Her new (and similarly lauded) book, Hilde Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, is out now.

Robin also, apparently, likes hats.

Robin incognitoHi, Robin! Come on in. I just finished making breakfast. What do you like on your waffles?

Aside from the kitchen sink, Nutella. Everything is better with Nutella — pasta, pizza, artichokes, etc. you name it. At one point, I believe it was even being marketed as a breakfast health food. So one can eat Nutella guilt free!

Fine. Just stop saying Nutella. Also you can take off your comical hat now.

I don’t know what your issue is – among many, many other issues, I might add – with hats. I think it’s important to be one with you characters. Don’t you feel that way? I have photographic evidence that you do…

Sarah Josepha Hale

Sarah Josepha Hale

Michael Josepha Hale

Michael Josepha Hale

Hey!

Where did you –

Listen, what I wear in the privacy of my home is none of your business!

Let’s get started. In addition to being a prolific children’s book writer, you’re also a lawyer. Which fictional movie lawyer would you consider to be your soulmate?

What an interesting question! It would be the feisty, bulldog of an attorney, Amanda Bonner, hands down. In the movie, Adam’s Rib, Katherine Hepburn (Amanda Bonner) and Spencer Tracy (Adam Bonner) play a happily married couple, who end up as opposing counsel in a highly controversial case. My husband is also  an attorney, and I could see the two of us on opposite sides of a case — which I would, of course, win.

Wilcox and Griswold are modeled after the greatest TV cops of all time: Dragnet’s Joe Friday and Frank Smith. What drew you to these characters as a source of inspiration?

Carrot cakeWhile I was writing Wilcox and Griswold, my critique group kept telling me that my characters needed to be more detective-y. They needed that deadpan monologue of “give me the facts and just the facts.” As a result, I spent a lot of time watching cop shows—not just Dragnet, although as you can tell, I am a huge fan of the show.

Which TV cop would be the worst inspiration for a children’s book?

I guess it would be the bumbling, corrupt Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard.

Part of the reason I like Wilcox and Griswold is because I’m a big fan of rodents. Your dog, on the other hand, is not. Do you plan to send her to obedience school so you can get a few mice as pets?

doggieI think there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding. My darling, Madeleine, doesn’t hate mice. Au contraire mon frère, she loves them to death! Nothing would make her happier than playing with a mouse, squirrel, or rabbit. But for some odd reason, they don’t seem to stick around when she’s in the neighborhood. Perhaps it’s the rodents who could benefit from a class on etiquette.

I beg your pardon! Rodents have perfect etiquette. Even Pizza Rat took dainty little bites.

Your new book, Hilde Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, is about a young witch who is forced to cope with a bunch of noisy fairy tale neighbors. Which fairy tale characters would you want to live next door to?

This is an easy one. I’ve been a bit obsessed with the big bad wolf and the three little pigs for as long as I can remember. I would love to have them as neighbors. We could grab cappuccinos and discuss how I could incorporate them into one of my stories. We could do a spin class together at the gym. Hey, I wonder if they do babysitting.

HildieCoverFINALAs a children’s book writer, I’m sure you peruse the shelves at Barnes and Noble to see what else is out there. Which picture book dazzled you to the point where you heard yourself say, “I wish I had written that!”

There are many, many books I wish I had written, but if I had to narrow it down to a recent selection, I would have to say, Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. Hysterical.

For the past several years, you’ve used your blog to write open letters to Santa Claus. Has he given you what you wanted? What’s still on your Christmas list?

Santa has been very generous with me over the last few years. But like I always say to my husband, there’s room for improvement. This past Christmas I asked Santa for 10 publishing contracts, and he said I was asking for too many. Can you believe that? You don’t think that’s too many, do you?

Not at all.

It’s a nice even number. It’s not like I was greedy and asking for 100 contracts, although that too is a very nice even number. I also always ask him to help my friends find agents, get them publishing contracts, and I do my annual plug for world peace and an end to hunger, poverty, and disease. He seems to be working on all of those items. Maybe I should write him now to beat the end of the year letter rush?

Maybe I should put in a letter to Santa, too. Thanks again for visiting, Robin! Don’t forget your hat.

Mike, thanks for the invite and the reminder about my hat. By the way, does your bonnet come in different colors?

No. Only white. White makes me feel pretty.

***

Do you want to win a free copy of Hilde Bitterpickes Needs Her Sleep?

Of course you do.

Leave a comment before Monday, February 22, and you’ll be entered in the drawing! The winner will be announced on Tuesday, February 23.

Good luck and get commenting!

Moxie and Roxie

Meet Moxie

“Gimme a peanut butter cracker.”  Moxie gets comfortable.

December 22, the Sunday before Christmas, was a muggy 70 degrees. This day was preceded by a 50-something-degree Friday and Saturday. Any hope of a white Christmas was dashed.

Normally this would bum me out – I like my winters snowy and bitter cold – but now I welcomed the mild temperatures. I had a pair of comfortably caged field mice that needed to be released. I knew that if I didn’t get these guys out of my house today, I would never let them go.

I liked having them around. Because, well, have you ever looked at a field mouse? They are, I think, the cutest little package ever. Something that cute needs to be named, so I did: Moxie and Roxie.

I already mentioned Moxie in a previous post. By the time that unseasonably warm Sunday rolled around, she had been my guest for 10 days, eating peanut butter crackers, cashews, and dry cereal. She carved out a bedroom underneath her food bowl and I would occasionally peek under to see what she was up to. She never seemed agitated by my intrusion, it was more of a sleepy,  “Oh, hi. What’s going on? Got any extra peanut butter?”

Roxie came later. I caught her about a week after Moxie had settled in. She was smaller and far more timid than Moxie and, for some odd reason, I worried that the two mice might fight.

“You’re out of your mind,” Ellen said. Ellen has a gift for setting me straight when my mind moves in ridiculous directions. “What are they going to fight about? What could they possibly want that you aren’t already giving them?”

She was right, of course. Within a couple of hours, Moxie let Roxie under her bowl and the new visitor soon adapted to the resort lifestyle. When I peeked under the food bowl I found them cuddled together, maxing and relaxing.

Yep. We're BFFs.

Well, isn’t this comfy!

As much as I enjoyed their low-maintenance company, that 70-degree Sunday was a sign – as was the 50-something-degree day predicted for Monday. Forty-eight hours would give Moxie and Roxie plenty of time to build a new nest and/or and break into somebody else’s house.

So, dressed for church, Ellen, Alex and I drove to The Mike Allegra Mouse Preserve, a wooded area about six blocks from our house. I’ve caught about a dozen mice and all of them have been released there. I really should put up a commemorative plaque.

Ellen waited in the car. She was never one for mice. So Alex and I trudged down the muddy path in our church shoes. I tipped the cage on its side and opened the lid. Moxie, the more assertive of the duo, hopped out and scuttled under a pile a leaves.

Timid little Roxie, however, dug deep under the cage’s bedding and refused to move.

“Come on, sweetie.” I reached in and pet her head. This was the first time I had ever pet a field mouse. It was wonderful.

But duty called. I nudged her to the cage opening. Then, like something out of those sappy A-Boy-And-His-Animal stories, Roxie and I exchanged looks. Mice have very large, soulful eyes. Then Roxie, in no particular hurry, turned and followed her new friend into the underbrush.

“Will they be OK?” Alex asked.

“Yes,” I replied. And I was relieved because I so completely believed it.

“I’ll pray for them anyway,” Alex said.

“That’s a good idea.”

And so we headed off to church, perhaps the only two people on earth ready and eager to get down on bended knees to seek Divine Intervention for a couple of wee rodents.

Mice Exploring