Myra Wolfe is the author of a new picture book, Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime, about a little pirate girl who refuses to go to sleep. It’s a wonderful book, with beautiful illustrations by Maria Monescillo, and it’s a familiar scenario for almost every parent. I spoke with Wolfe at Wordstock about her book, baking muffins, and not sleeping.
Check out my review of Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime after the interview.
GeekDad: Is this your first book? Congratulations!
Myra Wolfe: Thank you! Yes, this is my first book.
GD: What was the inspiration for this book? Do you have a daughter?
MW: I have a daughter and two sons. Actually I first wrote the book about nine years ago. My daughter was really little and my son was a baby, and neither of them wanted to sleep, so …
MW: Shocking, right? I think I was just taken with the idea that everybody has something really special about them — especially if you’re a parent, you can think of something really incredibly special about your own children — and that’s sort of my idea of what “oomph” is. So, that just got me started one night when I couldn’t sleep.
GD: You couldn’t sleep. So you wrote a book!
MW: I didn’t wanna go to bed either! So I stayed up to write.
GD: Did you tell this story to your kids before now when it was published?
MW: Yeah, I think I did.
GD: How old is your daughter now, and what does she think about the book?
MW: Thirteen. Yeah, you’d think that she’d be way too cool for it, but she’s totally not. She’s pretty excited.
GD: Ok, about those pirates. Do you just love pirates, or is it just how this book happened to come together?
MW: I do like pirates. Portland has this awesome Portland Pirate Festival that we try to go to. It’s definitely very fun. But the first draft of the story really only had a tiny bit of pirate stuff: pirate swashbuckling was only one of the many things that this character liked to do. When I sent it to my current editor, she asked me if I would be able to make it more pirate-y. She thought it would be more fun if it was more pirate-y.
GD: Well, everything’s more fun if it’s more pirate-y! Or more ninjas. That would be good, too.
MW: Exactly! Hmmm, yeah, isn’t there stuff about pirates vs. ninjas? Actually, I was thinking of Zombies vs. Unicorns.
GD: Oh, that’s also fantastic. What was it like getting it published and getting it illustrated? Did you work with the illustrator at all, or did you just send it off and it came back with pictures?
MW: Yeah, it was like that. I haven’t actually even spoken to [Maria Monescillo]. She’s just amazing, though. I’m sure you saw her illustrations — they’re incredible. The publisher accepted the book five years ago, and then started slowly sending it around to illustrators. I think it ended up being about three years before they found somebody who could do it. They sent me a sample, and I was just blown away, because it was so beautiful. Of course, I was thrilled, and they went forward from there.
GD: Did you get any input? Did they say: here’s this illustrator we found, what do you think? Or did they just tell you “We’re using this artist”?
MW: Yeah, they did ask for my okay. I don’t think they have to, but they can. From what I understand, they don’t always ask the author, but they did ask my opinion and I really liked it.
GD: Do you have any plans for more picture books?
MW: Always, yeah. Definitely have several stories going. We’ll see what happens, but I’m still writing, still trying to create picture books.
GD: Do you have a day job?
MW: My parents have a coffee shop here in town, and I bake there at night. I’m at home during the day with my little ones — I also have a one-year-old. I’m a mom/baker. It’s actually kind of a break. I go to work and listen to audio books while I bake muffins, so it’s not bad at all.
GD: How long have you been baking?
MW: I’ve been baking for the shop about five or six years. I didn’t take any courses or anything. But I’ve always been kind of a dilettante, always baking a lot. Yes. I’ve been baking and eating for many years.
GD: I’ve been eating for many years.
MW: You don’t bake?
GD: No, I don’t bake. Not very much, anyway.
So, How has it been having a book out — have you done any other publicity things besides this?
MW: The reception has been pretty good, I think. I did a little reception book signing party thing, and that’s it so far. I’m not good at that kind of thing — I’m a writer because, I’m kind of an introvert. But I’m trying, and it’s definitely a stretch for me, but that’s good. Learning experiences all over the place. It’s amazing what we can learn, huh?
GD: Have you gotten to do any readings for kids?
MW: Yeah, I did one at the book store, and I’ll do one here at Wordstock. I’m just going to say a very few words and then I’ll read the book. I don’t really have anything to teach anyone at this point. Hopefully the kids will like the story. I’m hoping to do some school readings later, too.
GD: When I first saw the title, I was reminded of a book called Dinosaur vs. Bedtime. It’s a very short book, just dinosaur versus dinner, dinosaur versus a pile of leaves, and so on. Then it’s dinosaur vs. bedtime — he fights and fights, and bedtime wins. But it reminds me of myself: I fought bedtime, I never wanted to sleep. But my younger brother loved to sleep. He’d come home, even from high school, and go take a nap.
MW: My brother was like that too, always sleeping.
GD: Even now I’m finding I still don’t want to go to bed.
MW: Me too!
GD: I mean, I love sleeping.
MW: Right, once I’m there, it’s really hard to get me out again.
GD: But when I awake, there’s just so many things to do.
MW: There’s so much internet out there!
Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime, written by Maria Wolfe and illustrated by Maria Monescillo, is an adorable book. Charlotte Jane the Hearty is an active girl: swashbuckling, hunting treasure, and performing her Fantastic Feats of Daring. She has, as her parents say, formidable oomph. But the one thing Charlotte Jane doesn’t like is sleeping — so one night she finally conquers bedtime by staying up all night. Strangely, though, her oomph has weighed anchor and is nowhere to be found. Her parents search all over for it, to no avail, until Charlotte Jane finally finds it herself … in bed.
If you’re a parent who has dealt with an unsleepy child, then you know Charlotte Jane. I will admit, though, that her parents deal with her refusal to sleep with a bit more grace and charm than I usually do. (My own methods are more along the lines of Go the F*** to Sleep, though not as explicit.) My kids have really enjoyed the book, too, and haven’t complained about the moral of the story — which is, of course, that you need to sleep at night.
The story is brief but very cute, with a good helping of pirate speak (“cackle eggs” for breakfast), and the illustrations go along with it perfectly. Monescillo’s colorful pictures capture Charlotte Jane’s formidable oomph and extend the pirate theme very well. If you like stories about cute little pirates (and particularly if you’ve got a little girl who refuses to sleep), Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime will make a fun story before bed.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of the book.