Uncategorized, Waffles With Writers

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!

Family and/or Autobiography

Crime Doesn’t Take a Holiday

Even this guy has his limits.
Even this guy has his limits.

The people at the end of our street still have their Christmas decorations up and even the decorations are resentful. The centerpiece of the display, a large, light-up Cookie Monster dressed as Santa, fell over last week, passed out face first in the mud.

“See what Cookie Monster is doing?” I told my son. “They did that a lot in the 1960s. It’s called passive resistance.”

“I thought it was called ‘drunk,’” the boy replied.

How can you not love this kid?

And he was right! The furry blue fellow did look like he was on the tail end of a bender. You couldn’t blame Cookie Monster for his transgression, either; his holiday ended three months ago.

There is little that offends me more than the sight of Christmas decorations up past the third week of January. I just can’t comprehend how something so obvious — so on display — could be ignored for so long.

I love Christmas, but once it’s over, it’s over. I make sure of it. When New Year’s Day rolls around, the Allegra house is abuzz with Christmas purging. Boxes are pulled out of the attic, promptly filled, and shoved back in. The tree is denuded and dragged to the curb. Within hours, my house returns to its simpler, un-tinseled self.

I don’t expect this level of discipline from everyone – sadly, we all can’t be persnickety, anal-retentive neatnicks – but I do expect everybody to pack up their outdoor mangers before Easter arrives. Whenever they don’t, it takes all of my willpower to not roll down the car window and bellow, “Jesus isn’t a baby anymore, doofus! He’s in his thirties and about to be murdered!”

My wife, Ellen, agrees with me in principle. She does not, however, share my passion. When I discuss our neighbors’ crimes against the neighborhood, she tries not to roll her eyes too often.

Alex, on the other hand, has reached an age where he likes to stir me up. He takes pleasure in parroting my outrage. When I drive him to school in the morning and we pass The Christmas House, he is the one to get the ball rolling.

“They have their candy cane lights out!” he shouted, aghast, as if seeing this eyesore for the first time. “When are they going to put them away? It’s March!”

“I know!” I shouted back as if this conversation hasn’t happened at least 30 times before. “Those people should be arrested!”

“They should!” Alex shouted again.

He then grew thoughtful. At that moment, I spotted a glimmer in the boy’s eye.

A few weeks before before this particular conversation, I borrowed a set of DVDs from my parents. It was the first season of an old TV show I was certain my son would love — and I was right. Hardly a night went by when Alex and I didn’t watch an episode.

I soon heard the show’s iconic opening line.

“This is the city,” Alex said in a gruff monotone. For what it’s worth, no eight year old on earth does a better Jack Webb impression. “Los Angeles, California.”

“Or New Jersey.” I interjected in my own Jack Webb voice.

“Or New Jersey,” he said. “People live here. They go to work. They go to school.”

“They put up Christmas decorations,” I added. “When they stay up too long, that’s when I come in. I carry a badge.”

“Dum Da Dum Dum!” we boomed in unison. “Dum Da Dum Dum DUMMM!”

My outrage was replaced with unbridled joy. I couldn’t help but weave a wonderful fantasy in my mind: My son and I were partners — Dragnet Holiday Decoration Detectives — running people downtown to answer for their long ignored twinkling lights and loitering Santas.

How awesome would that be? And what a great father/son bonding thing!

“We could maybe even send them to Guantanamo,” I heard myself say aloud.

“What?” Alex asked.

“Oh, nothing,” I replied absently. Then a smile crept across my face as the bombast of our theme song echoed in my brain.